Despite COVID-19 vaccinations getting off to a slower-than-expected start and the U.S. death toll from the pandemic continuing to climb, more than half of workers surveyed said they will return to their offices in the first half of 2021.
The results, culled from a ZoomInfo survey that asked 270 of its customers about their return-to-work plans, indicate many employers are not waiting for vaccinations before getting their workers back to their duties in person.
Nearly 55% percent of respondents — which included representation from executives, IT workers, and marketers — said their companies plan to be back in the office by June or are already back.
By comparison, 24% of people said they would go back at some point in the second half of 2021, and 21% indicated they wouldn’t go back until 2022 or would stay remote indefinitely. The latter represents a sizable one out of five workers.
The findings follow prior data from ZoomInfo that showed employers searched online more often about COVID-19 screening topics than about testing topics, suggesting that the less costly screenings may prove more popular for employers.
Vaccine rollout may speed up
The responses illustrate a juxtaposition to the vaccination rollout that many communities have long heralded as the point at which life may resume a sense of normalcy. It is possible that most Americans will not be vaccinated in the first half of the year.
As of mid-January, almost 900,000 people were getting their first dose of the inoculation daily, the Wall Street Journal reported. “This pace might change, but based on the recent rate, it might take a year — until January 2022 — for every American to get at least one shot,” the Journal wrote.
It does appear efforts will be made to increase COVID shots nationally, as President Joe Biden said his administration hopes it can expand vaccinations to 1.5 million a day for his first 100 days in office.
IT workers most likely to return by June
In breaking down ZoomInfo’s survey results by job function — either marketing, IT, or executives — there are interesting differences.
Perhaps not surprisingly because of the nature of their jobs, more IT workers as a percentage have already returned to the office or will do so by June. Executives were close behind.
As for those coming back in the second half of the year, marketers by percentage outranked the other two categories.
Finally, executives placed higher than marketing or IT teams in saying they would stay remote until 2022 or even indefinitely. In many cases, it is the C-suite that is pushing for offices to reopen, so this 2022 outlier was unexpected.
As offices reopen — and clearly many will in the coming months — it is worth watching how vaccination rates progress.
If inoculations do not keep up with demand, businesses may need to readjust office plans once again. Balancing employee safety against the wish to have workers back in person remains a challenge for companies to navigate in the pandemic.