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Amid Slow Return to Workplaces, COVID-19 Precautions Abound
Economy

Amid Slow Return to Workplaces, COVID-19 Precautions Abound

Amid Slow Return to Workplaces, COVID-19 Precautions Abound

Story Highlights

  • Increased reports of workers on-site at workplaces over seven-week period
  • 46% of U.S. workers are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 at work
  • Washing hands and surfaces is action used most by employers and workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As state economies across the U.S. are gradually reopening, workers are slowly returning to their workplaces, yet it is far from business as usual for most. Majorities of workers whose workplaces have employees on-site report that their employers are taking precautions to keep people from catching or spreading the coronavirus.

These safeguards include new or more frequent cleaning procedures at work, a measure 69% of workers report their employer is "always" taking. Additionally, 58% say their employer is always providing personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves or face shields, and 54% say employers are enforcing a six-foot distance between employees and customers or other employees. Fewer, 41%, say their employers are always screening employees for cough or fever.

An additional 20% to 33% say each of these steps is happening "sometimes" at work. The measure least likely to be implemented is symptom checking, with 39% of workers saying their employer is never doing this.

Stacked bar chart. Percentages of U.S. workers who say their employers with on-site staff are taking four specific actions to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus. Sixty-nine percent are always adopting new or more frequent cleaning practices; 58% are always providing personal protective equipment; and 54% are always enforcing at least a six-foot distance between workers and customers or other workers. Fewer, 41% are always screening for fever or cough, but 20% are doing this sometimes. Data are from May 25-31, 2020.

Gallup has been tracking full- and part-time U.S. workers' activity and attitudes amid the COVID-19 pandemic using its online, probability-based panel survey since March. Between mid-April and late May, there has been a seven-percentage-point uptick in workers reporting at least some employees are working on-site at their workplaces.

U.S. Workers Increasingly Returning to Workplaces
To what extent are employees currently working on-site at your place of work?
Apr 13-May 3 May 4-31
% %
All or nearly all employees 28 33
Some employees 17 19
Very few employees 36 31
No employees 16 14
GALLUP PANEL, 2020

Effects of and Concern About the Coronavirus in Workplace

With more workers returning to their workplaces in May, the latest survey, conducted May 25-31, finds nearly three-quarters of employed U.S. adults saying the coronavirus is having a very (23%) or somewhat (50%) negative effect on their workplace.

Even as workers may recognize the economic pressure on their employer to reopen, many also fear for their own personal safety. Nearly half are concerned -- either very (13%) or moderately (33%) -- about being exposed to the coronavirus at work. At the same time, 29% are not too concerned and 25% not at all concerned.

A separate item in the survey finds 25% of U.S. workers "strongly agree" that they can now return to work safely; fewer, 20%, "strongly disagree."

Workers' Actions to Avoid COVID-19 Spread

Apart from the steps employers are taking, majorities of workers are complying or taking matters into their own hands to avoid catching or spreading the virus. Two-thirds (67%) report they are adopting new or more frequent cleaning practices all the time at work; 59% are always trying to maintain at least a six-foot distance between themselves and other employees or customers; and 54% are always using personal protective equipment.

Fewer, 43%, are working remotely all the time, but 23% are doing this sometimes.

Stacked bar chart. Percentages of U.S. workers who are taking four specific actions to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus. Sixty-seven percent are always adopting new or more frequent cleaning practices; 59% are always trying to maintain at least a six-foot distance between themselves and others; and 54% are always using personal protective equipment. Fewer, 43% are always working remotely, but 23% are doing this sometimes. Data are from May 25-31, 2020.

Bottom Line

As businesses nationwide wade cautiously into reopening their workplaces, nearly half of workers say they are concerned about exposure to COVID-19 at work. Employers and workers are taking extra precautions to avoid spreading the virus and prevent another deadly wave of infections in the U.S. The ability of such actions to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections will help determine the pace and extent to which society reopens. Even after a vaccine is developed and coronavirus infections dwindle, the memory of people's vulnerability to infectious diseases may make some of these changes a permanent part of life.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/312461/amid-slow-return-workplaces-covid-precautions-abound.aspx
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