Study Finds a Majority of U.S. Workers Feel Unsafe Returning to the Office

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Honeywell study finds over 70% of the U.S. workforce does not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number stretches beyond 80% for those working remotely.

There is more potential evidence for integrators that the work from home trend will continue for quite some time. A recent study by Honeywell reveals that 68% of workers would feel unsafe returning to their offices, and an even higher number of remote workers feel similarly.

Conducted by Wakefield Research, the study surveyed 500 workers (Nov. 19-Dec. 1, 2020) who typically work in buildings with 500 or more employees across the United States and was part of a global study in a total of four markets.

The findings show that a staggering majority of the U.S. workforce (71%) does not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number is even higher for those working remotely (82%), who are especially skeptical about the safety of work sites. In fact, nearly 3 in 10 remote workers (29%) would look for a new job rather than return to a site that did not implement necessary safety measures.

“Workers are keenly attuned to the steps employers are taking to make their workspaces safer and healthier, especially when it comes to air quality and adherence to safety guidelines, which wasn’t previously a concern for some people,” says Vimal Kapur, president and CEO of Honeywell Building Technologies. “Air quality, for example, is not something that will be dismissed once we’re on the other side of this pandemic. It will be essential to the occupant experience, and good air quality will help make workers feel more comfortable as they return back to their offices.”

Workers’ Concerns Echo Latest Scientific Research

The surveyed workers’ concerns echo the latest scientific research on the spread of COVID-19, with 59% of those being more concerned about transmission through the air than through contact with a surface.

In terms of what poses a bigger threat to their safety, 64% point to co-workers not following safety guidelines and 36% believe outdated ventilation systems. C-level and executive-level workers are more likely to recognize the threat of poor air quality with nearly half (47%) of those surveyed indicating outdated ventilation as a bigger threat.

Nearly half of U.S. surveyed workers (48%) agree that their building management has not taken the steps necessary to keep them safer on the job, and 61% believe their building is more likely to make short-term changes in response to the pandemic versus long-term investments in building systems.

Surveyed workers are most worried that building management will not consistently enforce health and safety guidelines (49%), followed by worry that they won’t consistently invest in new technology to make working in-person safer (26%).

“Many facilities have made changes to their procedures but have not invested in the building itself and their occupants have noticed,” Kapur says. “Workers are going to demand more from buildings in the future, and we’re even seeing with these survey results that creating a healthier and safer environment will be a differentiator for staff retention and recruiting, and it may also impact long-term real estate value.”

To return to work and feel safer, U.S. surveyed workers view health safety protocols such as social distancing or mandatory masks as most critical (57%), and, in fact, 61% of those working on-site have seen such updates happen. Other top health and safety measures that surveyed workers want include health screening protocols such as temperature checks (49%), enhanced cleaning procedures (45%), updated air quality systems (28%), touchless door entries (28%) and technology for contact tracing (19%).

To view the full report, go here. Registration is required.