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Survey: Majority of Houston Employers Encouraging Vaccines, More Flexible with Remote Work 

Published Jun 09, 2021 by A.J. Mistretta

Downtown Houston

With the state of Texas now fully open and COVID-19 cases in decline, Houston companies are grappling with how to resume operations in a safe and secure fashion that also conveys a sense of normalcy. 

The Greater Houston Partnership conducted a wide-ranging survey among its members to gauge sentiment on issues including vaccine requirements for employees, return-to-workplace timelines and ongoing health and safety practices. A total of 141 firms responded to the survey conducted June 3-7. 

The vast majority of Houston-area employers (87%) are encouraging but not requiring vaccinations among their employees, with about a quarter using some form of tangible incentive (monetary, time off, etc.) to gain compliance. Just 8% are requiring employees to get vaccinated. Fifty-two percent of companies said they are tracking employee vaccinations, and of those a little over a third are requiring proof while another third are conducting non-anonymous surveys. 

In terms of health and safety protocols, 55% of respondent companies said they require non-vaccinated employees to wear a mask while the rest are split between mandating masks for all (22%) and not mandating masks at all (24%). Just 21% said they have eliminated social distancing indoors altogether while the rest either require social distancing among all employees (42%) or only among the non-vaccinated (38%). Asked about the health and safety measures being deployed in the workplace, the top answers were enhanced cleaning services, limiting elevator capacity and providing individual safety equipment and supplies.  

Following a year that saw significant job losses across the region, companies are working to regain their footing. Asked how their employee count has changed since the pandemic began in March 2020, 49% said it has remained the same while the remaining companies were evenly split (nearly 26%) among those who have increased staff and those who have cut staff. Of those companies that lost staff, 38% experienced a decline of 6 to 10% while 21% saw losses of 11 to 20%. 

Asked about plans to resume on-site operations, nearly 20% of respondents said they never closed while another 47% either said they had already reopened or would do so this month. Another 9% expect to reopen in July or August, and 20% will open in September or later.

Houston area employers appear to be more open to flexible work arrangements post-pandemic. Employers were asked about their plans for remote work in the near-term (1 to 3 months) and medium-term (3-12 months). See the results in the chart below. 

Employers’ top outside concerns regarding reopen are: staff vaccinations (72% rated it extremely/very important), community vaccination rate (65%) and community herd immunity (60%). 

“We conducted this survey to help local employers determine how others are handling the tough issues surrounding reopening," said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. "What we found is that there is a definitive cultural shift in how some companies are approaching issues like remote work. They also told us that vaccinations are the most important part of their return to onsite operations. This is all significant data as companies try to regain what they’ve lost during the pandemic and return employees to work.”
 

Click here to see the results of the survey. 

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