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Workplace PPE, Symptom Checks Rise as More Workers Return

Workplace PPE, Symptom Checks Rise as More Workers Return

Story Highlights

  • 39% of workers say all/nearly all employees back to workplace
  • Decline in percentage of workers always working remotely
  • 58% say they use personal protective equipment, up from 43% in April

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The percentage of employed U.S. adults who say that "all or nearly all" of their fellow workers are working on site has increased steadily from 28% in April to 39% during the first half of July. Meanwhile, there have been significant declines in the percentage of workers who say very few (from 36% to 29%) or no (from 16% to 10%) employees are working on site at their organization's workplace.

Line graph. Since April, there has been an increase in the percentage of workers who say that all or nearly all employees at their workplace are working on site. There have been corresponding declines in the percentage who say very few or no employees are working on site.

These results are based on a COVID-19 tracking survey that interviews members of Gallup's probability online panel. They likely reflect the easing of stay-at-home orders, and the reopening of many economies, since the spring.

Similarly, Gallup finds a 12-point increase since April in the percentage of workers who say their organization is doing business with clients or customers on site, from 39% to 51%.

As more Americans return to the workplace and venture out of their homes for shopping or recreation, the number of coronavirus infections has increased. Many states have mandated the wearing of face masks in public and the use of social distancing practices and personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks or face shields, as businesses try to contain the spread of the virus.

Even as more workers go back to their work sites, worker concern about being exposed to the coronavirus on the job has not changed much since Gallup began tracking it, averaging 47% "very" or "moderately concerned" in May, 48% in June, and 47% in July thus far.

More Employees Say Their Company Always Provides Protective Equipment

The poll finds a sharp increase since April in companies providing PPE to their employees. In April, 46% of workers at companies doing on-site business said their employer "always" provided them with PPE; that figure is now 66%.

Likewise, more on-site workers in early July than in April say their employer is "always" screening customers and employees for symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever or cough, 51% versus 35%.

Most companies have undertaken more stringent cleaning procedures than they followed before the coronavirus pandemic. However, the percentage doing so has been relatively flat over the course of the pandemic. Currently, 68% of workers at companies doing on-site business say their employer always engages in new or more frequent cleaning procedures; in April, 69% did.

There has been a modest decline in the percentage of workers who say their employer is consistently enforcing social distancing restrictions for employees and customers. In April, 55% said this was always the case, compared with 51% now.

Line graph. Since April, more workers at companies doing business with customers on site say their company is always providing personal protective equipment for employees and screening workers and customers for fever and cough. Similar percentages now and in April say their company is undertaking new or more frequent cleaning procedures. Slightly fewer say their company is enforcing a six-foot distance rule between employees and other employees or customers.

More Workers Donning PPE, Fewer Working Remotely to Avoid Catching COVID-19

Regardless of what an organization may require or encourage its employees to do, workers can take steps on their own to prevent getting infected by the coronavirus. The trends in worker behavior -- based on all employees, including those working on site or off site -- mirror those in workplaces more generally.

  • 58% of workers say they personally "always" wear personal protective equipment to avoid getting the coronavirus. The current figure represents a 15-percentage-point increase since April.
  • The percentage of all U.S. workers who say they always try to maintain six feet of distance to avoid getting COVID-19 has fallen off slightly, from 63% in April to 58% now.
  • Roughly two-thirds of employees -- unchanged from the spring -- say they are personally adopting new or more frequent cleaning practices.
  • Finally, 38% of U.S. workers say they are always working remotely to avoid catching the coronavirus. Twenty-three percent say they sometimes work remotely, and 39% say they never do. Three months ago, the slight majority of workers -- 52% -- said they were always working remotely. This fell to 44% in May and 41% in June before dipping further this month.

Line graph. Since April, more workers say they are always wearing personal protective equipment to avoid getting the coronavirus, while fewer are always working remotely.

The decline in remote work is seen among lower-, middle- and higher-income earners. This includes a nine-point decrease since April among low-income workers (from 41% to 32%), a 16-point drop among middle-income workers (from 54% to 38%), and 15 points among higher-income workers (from 64% to 49%).

Workers in all income categories also show double-digit increases in the use of personal protective equipment.


Many U.S. companies have expressed a commitment to employee and customer safety as they attempt to continue to do business amid the coronavirus pandemic. As more workers return to their workplaces, Gallup finds increased use of personal protective equipment by companies and employees in recent months. More workers say their company is screening customers and employees for COVID-19 symptoms. At the same time, workplace observance of social distancing practices, though it remains high, has declined slightly. The positive steps toward coronavirus mitigation may be helping keep worker concerns about being exposed to the virus steady even as infections continue to rise in the U.S.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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