6 Ways to Encourage Employees to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is happening all over the world. Many countries are even benefiting from an accelerated distribution. However, there is some vaccine hesitancy in significant portions of the global population.
For example, in the US, only about half of the population plans to get vaccinated. This means herd immunity is a distant dream. On top of that, more transmissible variants of concern leave businesses highly vulnerable to an outbreak and inevitable facility-wide shutdown.
Given the current situation, employers and decision-makers who are devising a return to work strategy are wondering how to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.
In this article, we list five ways you can motivate your employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
6 ways to encourage employee vaccination
Promoting vaccination in the workplace will be a nuanced situation. Some workers may be skeptical of vaccines in general, or the new Covid vaccine, or the protocols around it. The Pfizer/BionTech vaccine has unfortunately triggered a few allergic reactions in the U.K, and two health care workers in Alaska reported adverse reactions recently. Though adverse reactions are not unusual in a mass vaccination program, it does make some people fearful.
1. Create a strong communication strategy
Even your best-laid plans won’t work without excellent communication. Take a thoughtful and proactive approach, and focus on empowering your employees by reinforcing the big picture and outlining the actions you’re taking to keep employees safe. Determine who will be available for questions and via what channels, and cascade these key contacts to your staff.
2. Lead by example
Organizational behavior experts agree that optics are an important part of encouraging the behavior you want to see. For example, Bill Gates recently shared a picture of getting the first dose of the vaccine.
It is imperative that business leaders and management personnel lead by example, communicating proactively that they are receiving the vaccine, and possibly sharing the event through video or photographs.
You can also discuss your authentic experience during and after the vaccination to inform what employees can expect and alleviate anxiety around the unknown. Try and communicate that you care and that you’re “in it” with your staff. This will not only build confidence around the safety of your organization during COVID-19 but also boost goodwill in general.
3. Make accurate information accessible
It’s not an unreasonable reaction to be nervous about the vaccine. There’s a lot we don’t know about this virus, and it’s natural that people are hesitant about their best next steps. However, it’s easier to persuade employees that a vaccine makes sense if they understand facts.
In the interview with Wall Street Journal, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared that there is a lot of misinformation circulating which only makes people more nervous.
You can point employees toward specific scientific studies that have been done on the vaccine, as well as published research about the rigorous screening process by independent clinicians, etc. Remind employees of the strict FDA procedures and how many vaccine serologists, immunologists, and biologists have participated in studies and recommend the vaccine.
Additionally, it’s important to share information on how employees can get the vaccine. Since the distribution is state-controlled, business leaders need to be up-to-date on how things work locally.
Include the following information:
List of vaccination locations (If you’re an organization with a presence across states, ensure there is a point person in each area who can direct workers to the nearest vaccination location.)
Contact information on vaccine location
Information about how your specific insurance comes into play, your sick time policy, etc.
Where employees can find accurate and reliable research if they need more information
It’s best to contain all of the information pertaining to the vaccine in one location—a single source of truth, if you may. Whether that’s a company intranet, one email with several links, an online folder, or a specified part of your physical building, make sure that everyone has access to the same information and that it’s consistently updated for the highest accuracy.
4. Create incentives
Research has shown that incentives go a long way in improving participation in workplace wellness initiatives. An SHRM study found that incentives are associated with higher participation rates in wellness programs, by about 20%. You can use the same principles to encourage vaccine compliance.
Try hard incentives like cash or gift cards, or softer ones such as an extra day of paid time off (PTO). You can also explore individual or team incentives (as long as a team version won’t impact company morale or result in peer pressure for those who are not able to get the vaccine).
For example, have employees submit their name to an online portal that tracks overall company vaccination percentage, and offer a reward when the company reaches a certain point. We recommend checking with your legal team before implementing a program, to make sure everything is above board.
This is especially important for people who may have heard about some negative side effects, or perhaps experienced some discomfort themselves during the vaccination process. Creative incentives can bolster the completion rate of vaccination.
5. Provide a safe space for dialogue
Often in times of uncertainty people just need a place to talk about their options and their feelings.
Ensure your employees have a place to get the latest information from verified sources. Empower employees to ask questions and provide responses. Share resources and clear up any misconceptions that are presented. Take advantage of resources like the WHO COVID-19 Information Hub. Obviously, the safest way to host such a forum is virtually, either in an online meeting or via a town-hall-style telephone conference.
6. Host a vaccination clinic
While this way may not be possible for every company, companies with larger campuses might try hosting a vaccination event at their facility. For example, Amazon is hosting their second pop-up vaccination clinic at its Seattle headquarters. You can start by reaching out to your state officials to see how vaccines are being distributed and if there might be an option to create an event that would vaccinate a large number of people at once.
Some companies are splitting shots at the clinic into two categories: for employees and the rest of the local community. There is also the option to partner with local health authorities and hospitals to build deeper ties in the community.
However, if you’re unable to host an exclusive vaccination drive for your employees, you can find other ways to assist them such as appointment booking or assistance in scheduling options, listing vaccination centers on the company intranet, along with current requirements, etc.
Can you make vaccination mandatory for employees?
The short answer is no, employers cannot make vaccination mandatory for employees. Doing so can create strong resentment or even legal issues. We highly recommend motivating employees to get the vaccine, without making it mandatory.
Most employment lawyers and HR professionals suggest looking at your flu vaccine policy as the best place to start. Many states mandate that certain environments, like schools or healthcare facilities, have vaccinated staff. However, that's generally not required for most businesses at a state level. That being said, employers can require a flu vaccination, but employees are also entitled to an exemption due to health or religious reasons. Be sure to check the Americans with Disabilities Act and OSHA’s whistleblower protection program before making any hard rules.
Right now, both fear and logistical hurdles are standing in the way of people getting vaccinated. Instead of mandating vaccination, which can erode employee trust and loyalty, we suggest encouraging individuals to get the vaccine by helping them to work through their hesitations.
Safeteams is a contact tracing and social distancing solution for safer workplaces, currently used by over 27,000 employees within 100 facilities of all sizes across various industries. To know more, book a chat with one of our experts today.