With the United States poised to issue emergency use authorization for at least one COVID-19 vaccine, tech professionals are thinking about what that will mean for the workplace and returning to an office. Last week Blind, a company that operates private social networks for tech employees, asked its users three simple questions about the tech workplace and the COVID vaccine:
- Do employers have the right to ask employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office?
- Would you get vaccinated if your employer asked you to?
- Would you go back to the office if vaccines are not mandatory?
An overwhelming majority (69 percent) of the survey’s 3273 respondents indicated that employers do have the right to mandate vaccination. Even more would comply with such a mandate.
Indeed, a vaccine mandate may be necessary to bring the majority of tech workers back into company offices. Only 36 percent of respondents indicated that they would be willing to return to in-person work without such a mandate.
Breaking the respondents down by company showed some differences. Tech professionals at Indeed and Netflix seem more willing to return to in-person work without a vaccine mandate than those at the average company, while tech workers at Airbnb, Cisco, Intuit, and Oracle are far less willing.
What is it about those workplaces that makes the difference? Could it be location? Company culture? The number of employees at the location? Or simply the design of the buildings? (I know I’d be more concerned about going to an office with sealed windows that’s accessed via elevator than a more open-air setting; certainly Oracle’s Silicon Valley conglomeration of office towers would raise my pandemic-primed hackles.) Perhaps we’ll get some insight on this vaccines roll out and tech companies prepare to move away from full-time work-at-home policies.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.