What to Know About In-Office Mask and Vaccine Mandates

In May 2021, we published the first installment of our Office Re-Entry Index, where we surveyed 350 Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, and Human Resources and Finance leaders on sentiments and plans for returning to the office.  

With new information and guidelines released by the CDC, we re-surveyed more than 350 company leaders in June 2021 to understand where their re-entry plans stood, and what has shifted. The results were published into the second installment: Office Re-Entry Index: Volume II.  

More businesses have decided against mandating the COVID-19 vaccine since our survey March, with now more than 2/3 reporting they will not require employees to receive the vaccine. When it comes to vaccination policies, there are three primary policies many employers are considering:  

  • Allowing all employees to return to the office regardless of vaccination status and not mandating masks or asking for vaccination status  
  • Allowing everyone to return regardless of vaccination status but requiring those who are unvaccinated to wear masks at all times or in other cases requiring proof of negative COVID-19 tests  
  • Requiring all employees to be vaccinated before returning to the office and keeping those who decide not to be vaccinated working from home 

According to our survey in March, 66% of respondents had not yet communicated vaccine mandate decisions with employees. Now, as re-entry dates get closer, many of these businesses will need to map out and begin communication plans if they have not already. Especially if opting to mandate the vaccine, employers should begin this communication now and consider offering help from the Human Resources and legal departments in finding and scheduling vaccinations for employees. 

At the time of the June 2021 survey, the CDC had recently removed the mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals, which was reflected in the survey results with 46% of respondents stating they will require masks for unvaccinated employees, while masks are optional for those who have been vaccinated. 

Before informing employees of a mask policy, offices should check with their buildings’ policies regarding shared spaces such as the lobby, elevator, hallways or public restrooms, and ensure the company policy includes the building’s code. Communicate clearly with employees the specifics of where and when masks will be required. Consider hanging signage throughout the office to remind employees of these policies, as well. Ensure employees know they are welcome to wear a mask whenever they choose, if they prefer to do so, even if it is not required. 

Continued communication and reminders on mask policies will be important, especially in the case of certain employees having to wear masks while others do not. It is also another way employers can help ease stress for those anxious to be returning to the office.  

If the company policy mandates unvaccinated employees to wear masks while it is optional for vaccinated staff to do so, businesses should be aware this could create an uncomfortable environment for some employees. Because vaccination status could be identifiable by mask-wearing, companies may need to create policies against asking other employees about their vaccine status and reasons for not receiving the vaccine.  

To learn how to address this issue with employees, as well as further plans and considerations to support office-re-entry planning efforts, download the full report here 

 

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