Most workers support workplace vaccine and mask mandates

The return to the pre-COVID workplace is highly uneven across countries and demographic groups.

Most workers across the world support vaccine and mask mandates and would feel uncomfortable going to work if these protections were not put in place, according to a 33-country Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum.

On average across all countries surveyed, about three in four employed adults agree they and people in their workplace should be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (78%), undergo frequent testing if they are not vaccinated (74%), and wear a mask in common areas when in proximity with other people (81%).

If workers were required to get vaccinated or undergo frequent testing to keep their job, about six times as many would choose to get vaccinated over getting tested frequently (68% vs. 12%, on average globally). Another 9% say they would seek to find a way around these requirements, but still keep their job, and 5% say they would quit their job or find another one.

In the absence of a vaccination, testing, or masking mandate at their workplace, only a minority of workers in most countries (averaging 38% globally) would be comfortable going to work there. If employees were allowed to work without wearing a mask, undergoing frequent COVID testing, or being vaccinated against COVID, a global country average of 31% say they would be uncomfortable, but go anyway, 25% say they would work remotely instead, and 6% say they would quit their job.

While, on average, 77% of adults who are currently employed say they always or mostly worked away from their home before the pandemic, only 66% say this is the case now – a difference of 11 percentage points. However, this is 5 points higher than six months ago when only 61% said they always or mostly worked away from their home at the time.

These are the key findings of a survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform among 14,401 employed adults across 33 countries between October 22 and November 5, 2021 – a few weeks before the emergence of Covid-19’s omicron variant.

The survey brings to light wide differences in COVID and workplace-related behavior and attitudes across countries. Read the World Economic Forum article.

Detailed Findings

Widespread support for workplace COVID-control mandate

Vast majorities of employed adults in most of the 33 countries surveyed agree they and people in their workplace should be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, undergo frequent testing if they are not vaccinated, and wear a mask in common areas when in proximity with other people. However, support for protective mandates varies widely across countries. It is generally highest in Eastern and Southern Asia, Saudi Arabia, and Latin America, and lowest in Central and Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, and the United States.

Different responses to vaccine or testing requirements

Unsurprisingly, the countries where workers are most supportive of a vaccination mandate in the workplace are also those where workers are most likely to say they would choose to get vaccinated if required to do so or to undergo frequent testing to keep their job. While on average globally about two-thirds (68%) say that’s what they would get vaccinated, it is the case of about four in five in China, Singapore, and South Korea vs. only about half in Russia, Poland, Romania, and Hungary.

On average globally, 12% of workers would choose frequent testing instead. This would be the preferred option for at least 20% in Brazil, Chile, and Peru.

In Russia, Turkey, and the Netherlands the proportion of workers who would seek to evade getting vaccinated or tested, while still keeping their jobs is about double the global average of 9%.

In Romania, Hungary, and the U.S., more than twice as many say they would quit their job or find another one than on average globally (5%).

At a global level, older workers and highly-educated workers are more likely to say they would get vaccinated than their peers who are younger or ended their formal education earlier.

Discomfort in the absence of workplace mandates prevails but is not universal

Only seven of the countries surveyed show a majority of workers who would be comfortable going to work if employees at their workplace were allowed to work without wearing a mask, undergoing frequent COVID testing, or being vaccinated against COVID: Russia, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.

In China, where only 12% of workers would be comfortable in the absence of COVID-control restrictions in the workplace, two-thirds say would quit their job (18%) or work remotely instead (48%). Countries, where at least 40% say they would either resign or switch to remote-working, include Malaysia, Spain, South Korea, Japan, and Peru.

Uneven pace of return to the traditional workplace

In general, fewer employed adults are currently going to an office or another location away from home than were before the pandemic (66% vs. 77% on average globally). However, this trend is significantly more pronounced in certain countries and certain demographic groups.

Countries that show a drop off in the prevalence of out-of-home work from before the pandemic of more than 20 percentage points include Peru, Singapore, Great Britain, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, and Mexico. On the other hand, several countries report a level that is close, if not higher, to what it was pre-COVID: China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, and South Korea.

Of note, five countries show an increase in out-of-home work (presumably a return to the traditional workplace) of more than 10 points since June of this year: Argentina, Chile, India, France, and Sweden.

However, this survey was conducted before the discovery of the omicron variant in South Africa, which may have implications for workplace restrictions and in-person work habits, as countries respond to the potential threat.

These are the results of a 33-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 14,401 employed adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in all 27 other countries, between Friday, October 22 and Friday, November 5, 2021.