Houston-Area Employers Will Encourage Vaccinations and Flexible Work Schedules, According To New Survey

More than 140 Houston-area employers were asked about vaccine requirements for employees, return-to-workplace plans, and ongoing health and safety practices.

Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media

A majority of Houston-area employers are encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations and are more open to flexible work schedules post-pandemic, according to a new survey released this week.

The business barometer survey, conducted by the Greater Houston Partnership, asked more than 140 employers about vaccine requirements, return-to-workplace plans, and ongoing health and safety practices.

The survey found 87% of employers would encourage — but not require — employees to get vaccinated, while 8% plan to make vaccinations a requirement.

When it came to returning to the office, the top three concerns among employers were staff vaccinations, community vaccination rate, and herd immunity, according to the survey.

Once back at the office, more than half of the respondents said they would track their employees’ vaccinations through the use of non-anonymous surveys or requiring the employee to provide proof.

Most employers said they would allow for some schedule flexibility as employees begin to return in-person. Twenty-three percent said they would offer full flexibility over the next three months. The same percentage said they would allow for at least two remote work days per week.

On the flip side, about 31% of employers said they plan to fully transition back to the office within the next three to 12 months.

When asked how their workforce has changed since the beginning of the pandemic, about half said they stayed the same, and the remaining half was nearly split down he middle — one quarter said they increased their staff, while the other quarter said they cut staff.

The survey was conducted to help local employers get a sense of how others are navigating the return to the workplace, said Patrick Jankowski, the senior vice President of Research at the Greater Houston Partnership.

He said the transition back to the workplace is opening up new options for businesses, allowing for some to continue practices they had adopted during the pandemic.

“You can’t do construction remotely, you can’t do wholesale remotely,” he said. “But you can still some professional services, so that’s likely where we’re starting to see the differentiation between remote work and being physically present.”

Additional reporting by Matt Harab.

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