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More than 1 in 5 Workers Afraid to Speak Up About Pandemic Safety Concerns

Tamara E. Holmes
·3 min read
More than 1 in 5 Workers Afraid to Speak Up About Pandemic Safety Concerns
More than 1 in 5 Workers Afraid to Speak Up About Pandemic Safety Concerns

COVID-19-related safety concerns are likely to be top of mind for many employees returning to the office after working from home, yet some are afraid to broach the topic with their bosses.

The good news is a majority of workers (81%) report being confident in the steps their employers are taking to ensure their workplace is safe, according to new research by SafetyCulture, which helps employers track safety issues.

However, some employees who aren’t as confident may end up suffering in silence.

Men less likely to speak up than woman about office concerns

While only 28% of workers expected to return to the workplace this year, according to an earlier survey, 2021 will likely see more employees returning to corporate campuses. Those employees will have to adjust to office life amid a pandemic.

When asked if they would ask a colleague or boss to put on a mask, wash their hands or practice better social distancing, 27% of men and 20% of women said they were unlikely to do so, the SafetyCulture survey found.

On top of that, nearly a quarter of workers (22%) said they were unlikely to say something if they were part of an in-person meeting that included more people than recommended.

Millennials were more likely than other generations to speak up if a safety issue arose. An earlier survey echoed the sentiment that younger Americans were overwhelmingly taking steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In some cases, workers themselves may be reluctant to follow safety protocols, the survey found. In fact:

  • More than 1 in 5 respondents (21%) admitted they weren’t likely to wear a mask for the entire workday.

  • 17% of millennials and 31% of baby boomers said they weren’t likely to wear a mask for the entire workday.

  • 15% of respondents said they weren’t likely to stay socially distant from others in the workplace.

Some workers expressed concern about what precautions their colleagues will take, as 17% said they’re not confident colleagues will stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Employees clear about what they consider safe, with masks and hand sanitizer leading the way

Workers will be looking to see if certain safety protocols are met when they return to the office. When asked which safety measures would increase their trust in their employers’ actions:

  • 63% said having masks and hand sanitizer readily available in all areas of the workplace.

  • 60% said having access to a real-time list of cleaning and disinfecting activities being performed in high-traffic areas of the office.

  • 59% said having social distancing protocols that are monitored and enforced.

  • 55% said having temperature checks conducted when employees enter the building.

Methodology: SafetyCulture surveyed 2,578 adults, 802 of whom were employed and either have returned to their workplace or will be returning to their workplace.The survey was conducted Oct. 23-27, 2020. SafetyCulture defined the generational breakdown as follows:

  • Generation Z: Ages 18-23

  • Millennial: Ages 24-39

  • Generation X: Ages 40-55

  • Baby boomer: Ages 56-74