Fears about COVID-19 infections in the workplace, questions about safety precautions, and concerns about vaccination rates are key reasons why some property and casualty insurance professionals say they are not enthused about a return to the office.
Canadian Underwriter’s Working From Home survey found that nearly two in five of more than 800 P&C industry respondents reported that they were either “not enthusiastic” (21%) or “not at all enthusiastic” (18%) about going back to the office. When invited to expand on their answers in an open-ended question, several readers pointed to uncertainty around COVID-19.
“No trust amongst colleagues’ attitudes towards COVID-19,” one response read.
“Worry over employees that are not vaccinated,” said another. “Worry over new variants of the virus.”
Workplace vaccination rates were top of mind for P&C pros. As of June 12, 64% of all Canadians had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine with 13% fully vaccinated, according to the federal government. The Canadian Underwriter survey was conducted from June 14 to 16.
“If an employer can’t ask and can’t guarantee that colleagues are vaccinated, then it is an unsafe environment for workers,” one reader argued.
“I will refuse to return to the office until my colleagues are all vaccinated,” a respondent said. “If privacy laws prevent me from [finding] out that info, then I will only set foot there on weekends when the building is empty.”
Beyond vaccinations, industry professionals also raised concerns around safety measures in the office. While people may be vaccinated, thereby minimizing the risk of worst-case outcomes (COVID-19 has killed 26,000 Canadians), it’s still possible to contract, carry and transmit the virus.
“It depends,” a reader said of a return to the workplace. “If [I] have to wear masks all day and not be able to interact with people, as it is not safe, then [I] would rather stay home until safe to do so.”
Said another: “I find the constant office cleaning, mask-wearing, and hyper-awareness of COVID stressful. I can’t just get up and grab a cup of coffee or use the water cooler. I have to bring it from home. It’s not a relaxed environment anymore. Also, my workplace office has no windows, which is very depressing.”
Workplace safety extends beyond the boundaries of the office itself. Some respondents expressed concern about travelling to and from the office on public transit.
“I would like to see my colleagues, but apprehensive that not all will be vaccinated and travelling on the GO train,” said one person.
“The commute on public transit means likely exposure to COVID,” reported another.
“I worry about anti-vaxxers, crowded trains, rising anti-hate sentiment, open offices with no cubicle structures, being targeted by COVID-19-deniers because I would still want to wear a mask,” wrote one respondent.
Larger employers will have to deal with a number of issues related to an office return, one respondent observed.
“I think [a] big employer will have problems with the return to the office because you can’t require anybody to be [vaccinated],” they wrote. “You can’t require anybody that doesn’t feel safe at work because a co-worker isn’t [vaccinated] to come to work. A big problem to be solved by committee.”
For some, working from home means staying healthy, and not just from a COVID standpoint. There are mental, physical, and financial benefits, too.
“Haven’t caught any colds, illnesses,” one respondent wrote. “Don’t miss traffic, loss of personal time, and costs to get to work, still able to collaborate with team and more productive at home.”