The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 
Press Release
Employee Readiness Reopening Survey: Only 28 Percent of Workers Expect Return to Workplace by End of 2020
08 October, 2020


 —More anxiety in the lower ranks: Feel least comfortable with returning, yet most pressure to return to keep job—

Remote work gains steam: 33 percent question the wisdom of returning, report high productivity while working remotely—

Women more concerned: Feelmore pressure to return to keep job, more worried co-workers won’t follow safety precautions—

What’s your company’s reopening plan? A plurality says plan remains unknown as of now—

As new COVID-19 cases continue rising, a survey of US employees finds that only 28 percent expect returning to the workplace by the end of 2020.

         The Conference Board survey also reveals that some groups feel more pressure to return than others. To keep their jobs, women feel more pressure to return to the workplace than men. It is an expectation also more greatly felt among more lower-ranking employees: 20 percent of individual contributors feel such pressure, compared to just 4 percent of C-suite executives. And while individual contributors feel the most pressure to return, they also feel the least comfortable with returning.

         Conducted between September 16th–25th, the online survey polled more than 1,100 US workers, representing a cross-section of people across industries. Key findings include:

Only 28 percent expect to return to the workplace by the end of 2020.

  • Another 38 percent expect to return at some point in 2021 or beyond.
  • Widespread vaccination isn’t a guiding factor:Only 7 percent expect to return after a vaccine is widely available.

Only 17 percent feel very comfortable returning – and even want to return.

  • 70 percent indicated they are only moderately comfortable returning, if at all.
    • Moderately comfortable: 39 percent; Not comfortable: 31 percent. 

Lower-ranking employees are more concerned than senior leaders about returning.

  • Returning to preserve their jobs: Individual contributors (20 percent) and front-line managers (21 percent) are most likely to feel pressure to return to keep their jobs. Only 4 percent of C-Suite executives feel the same.
  • Comfort level with returning:While individual contributors feel the most pressure to return to keep their jobs, they also feel the least comfortable with returning (42 percent vs 31 percent overall).

        “These survey results reinforce the need for employers to hear concerns about the pressure that individual contributors and front-line managers, especially, feel to return to the workplace to keep their jobs. These cohorts are less likely to be involved with planning the return. Without a continuous dialogue, and in many cases, the lack of a detailed plan about returning to the workplace, it comes as no surprise that these workers are more apprehensive,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board.   

Women are slightly more concerned than men about various aspects of returning.

  • Compared to male respondents, women said they:
  • Feel more pressure to return to keep their jobs (men: 10 percent; women: 17 percent).
  • More concerned with the risk of personally contracting COVID-19 (men: 61 percent; women: 67 percent).
  • More concerned with a lack of adherence to safety guidelines by colleagues (men: 32 percent; women: 39 percent).

With productivity high at home, many workers question the wisdom of going back.

  • 33 percent believe productivity has remained high while working remotely and question the wisdom of returning.
  • Women are more likely to believe productivity remained high while working remotely (men: 36 percent; women: 46 percent).

Will co-workers take proper precautions when returning? There is a trust gap.

  • 29 percent of respondents have little faith in their colleagues’ ability to adhere to safety protocols and guidelines.

Top employee concerns: contracting COVID-19 personally, exposure to family, and lack of a vaccine.

There is no one-size-fits-all reopening plan. A plurality says a plan remains unknown as of now.

  • Other/please describe: Of the 7 percent who indicated this option, most comments focused around having a phased approach, a rotation model, or different guidelines for different employees.

Note: Whereas this survey gauged employees about their various concerns related to reopening, the previous survey asked respondents about the reopening-related steps that their companies are and plan on taking. Read the results of that previous survey here.

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org

 

For further information contact:

Joseph DiBlasi
781.308.7935
Joseph.DiBlasi@conference-board.org

FILTER BY CENTER

Our Experts

Thought leaders who provide trusted insights for navigating companies and the economy though COVID-19.

BartVanArk1.jpg

Bart van Ark

Senior Advisor

LynnFranco1.jpg

Lynn Franco

Director, Economic Indicators and Surveys

Ataman.jpg

Ataman Ozyildirim

Senior Director, Economics and Global Research Chair

MatteoTonello.jpg

Matteo Tonello

Managing Director, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)

GadLevanon.jpg

Gad Levanon, PhD

Vice President, Labor Markets

DavidHoffman1.jpg

David Hoffman

Senior Vice President Asia and Managing Director of the China Center for Economics & Business

Ray, Rebecca 120 x 120.jpg

Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

Executive Vice President, Human Capital

Schrader, Anke 120x120.jpg

Anke Schrader

Research Director, the China Center for Economics and Business

AmyAbel.jpg

Amy Lui Abel, PhD

Vice President, Human Capital Research

ThomasSinger.jpg

Thomas Singer

Principal Researcher

Uwe-Portrait-120x120.jpg

Dr. Uwe G. Schulte

Leader, Global Sustainability Centre and Program Director

Washington.jpg

Paul Washington

Executive Director, ESG Center

IlariaMaselli.jpg

Ilaria Maselli

Senior Economist

rsz_popiela__amanda.jpg

Amanda Popiela

Researcher, Human Capital

ElizabethCrofoot.jpg

Elizabeth Crofoot

Senior Economist, Labor Markets

JohnForsyth.jpg

John Forsyth

Leader of the Consumer Dynamics Institute

CindyCisneros.jpg

Cindy Cisneros

Vice President of Education Programs

Odland, Steve 120x120.jpg

Steve Odland

President and CEO

JeffHoffman.jpg

Jeff Hoffman

Institute Leader, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, ESG Center

JoeMinarik.jpg

Joseph J. Minarik

Senior Vice President and Director of Research

ErickLundh.jpg

Erik Lundh

Senior Economist

RobinEriksen.jpg

Robin Erickson, PhD

Principal Researcher

JP.jpg

JP Kuehlwein

Marketing Institute Leader

DeniseDahlhoff.jpg

Denise Dahlhoff, PhD

Senior Researcher, Consumer Research

Sabattini, Laura 120x120.jpg

Laura Sabattini, PhD

Principal Researcher, Human Capital

Schwarz Robert.JPG

Robert Schwarz

Senior Researcher, ESG Center

Chiqui.jpg

Chiqui Cartagena

Chief Marketing Officer & Center Leader, Marketing & Communications

Dr. Mahdy Al Jazzaf1.png

Dr. Mahdy Al Jazzaf

Executive Director

DevinOConnor.jpg

Devin O’Connor

Deputy Director, Economic Research

OTHER RELATED CONTENT