How can you protect your workforce and make them feel safe if they return to the office? A new report asked 1000 Americans what they need to feel safe at work in August 2020.

As companies grapple with how to provide a safe workplace amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey of US employees by San Francisco,CA-based workplace platform provider Envoy reveals concerns abound about whether companies can keep workers safe when returning to a shared office.

It's protecting the workforce study found that many workers - including those who have already returned to the office - are worried about their employers' ability to keep them safe when returning to a shared office.

At the same time, an overwhelming majority -- 94 percent -- say they'd like to go back to the workplace at least part of the time while continuing some work from home.

Employees are most concerned about not knowing if someone sick comes into the workplace (40%), too many people in the workplace at once (31%), and being indoors with lack of proper ventilation (24%).

Privacy concerns and proximity to sick co-workers top the list of employee workplace worries zdnet

Envoy

A majority of employees say they do want to return to the workplace once COVID restrictions are lifted.

However, three quarters (75%) of employees say they would consider quitting their job if their employers downplayed COVID-19 risks (36%), didn't wear a face mask (31%), or urged them to return to work before they felt safe (29%).

Those in business or tech services (84%) are more likely to consider leaving their job than those in industries such as construction or manufacturing (71%) and retail or service industry (67%), alluding to the fact that many workers don't have the luxury to consider leaving their job.

The survey showed that more than 94% want to spend at least one day a week in the office, with 46% saying the ideal number of days in the office is five days a week.

Though 42% of employees are still working from home, a fifth (20%) have returned to the workplace in some capacity and nearly 2 in 5 (39%) never stopped working on-site.

Of employees who have returned to the workplace, 42% say they've experienced preventive measures that were either ineffective, or not enforced, including six-foot distancing measures (25%), mask requirements (21%), and handwashing requirements (18%).

Privacy concerns and proximity to sick co-workers top the list of employee workplace worries zdnet

Envoy

Those who work in blue-collar professions such as construction or manufacturing (64%) are more likely to not be very confident that their co-workers will follow safe workplace procedures than those in business or tech services (52%).

Larry Gadea, founder and CEO of Envoy said: "In order for companies to reopen safely and quickly, they'll need to adopt technologies that create a more dynamic and responsive workplace that meets the needs of its workers so that employees can return to the office confidently."

People who work in technology or business service roles worry most about returning and are least likely to be back in the office yet. 

Technology and business service jobs tend to take root in cities, where illnesses spread faster. Homeworking has kept many businesses thriving during 2020. Perhaps a more permanent pivot to working from home is required.