73% fear returning to work amid COVID-19: Survey

Millions of employees are coming to terms with a new reality: it may be a very long time before they return to the office.

In just the past week companies including Ford, Microsoft, and Target told workers not to expect to be back in the office until at least the summer of 2021.

For some workers, that news is a mixed blessing.

According to a new survey from the workplace technology platform Envoy, 94% of workers say they want to return to the office at least one day a week, but they want to do it on their terms.

“Everybody needs their space, and sometimes they want to go to work to get away from things,” Envoy’s CEO Larry Gadea told Yahoo Finance. “It’s a little wild for some folks. There are kids running in the background, there’s jack-hammering outside, there’s a highway beside them. They want their work-life balance.”

While Gadea admits “flexibility is the future” when it comes to working from home, 90% of employees say they miss the workplace, especially socializing and seeing colleagues in person. More than a third miss office perks like lunch and snacks.

Fear of returning to the office

Despite wanting to go back to the office, 73% fear a return to the workplace could pose a risk to their personal health and safety.

“That’s what’s really hard for workers,” said Gadea. “They want to believe that all these measures are being taken correctly for them and that the latest and greatest is being considered [by their employer].”

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/10/02: Main entrance at JPMorgan Chase headquarters in New York City. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/10/02: Main entrance at JPMorgan Chase headquarters in New York City. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The survey found 40% of employees are most concerned about not knowing if someone sick comes into the workplace; about a third worry there will be too many people in the office at the same time; and nearly a quarter are concerned about being indoors without the proper ventilation.

Companies including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase had workers return to the office recently, only to send them back home after some employees tested positive for coronavirus.

Permanent shift in the workplace

For some, working from home will be permanent. Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Shopify (SHOP) are among the companies announcing they will allow many employees to work remotely even after the pandemic.

While remote work has been productive for some, BlackRock’s Chairman Larry Fink says the pandemic has accelerated secular trends in the workplace.

“I don't believe we will have 100% back in office even when we have 100% solutions related to the virus. I believe this will become a blessing. I believe this is going to be considered a benefit,” Fink said at an event this week.

The Envoy survey was conducted between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1, 2020, with 1,000 U.S. full- and part-time employees participating.

Alexis Christoforous is co-host of Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.” Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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