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Survey Report

Reopening the Workplace: Health, Safety and Wellbeing Employer Survey

Highlights of key findings, United States

June 22, 2020

We examined health, safety and wellbeing issues as businesses reopen. Leaders are actively putting employee needs at the center of their plans.
Compensation Strategy & Design|Health and Benefits|Total Rewards|Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

About the survey respondents

These research findings are based on responses from 543 organizations in the U.S. representing 5.3 million employees. The survey fielded between June 1 and June 10, 2020.

Respondent profile:

  • 42% for profit, publicly traded
  • 38% for profit, private
  • 17% nonprofit/government


Industry pie chart shows: 8% energy and utilities, 12% financial services, 15% general services, 13% health care, 12% telecom, 26% manufacturing, 8% public sector and education, 7% wholesale and retail
Respondents by industry


Employee safety, wellbeing and flexibility are top of mind as employers prepare to reopen the workplace

Our COVID-19 Reopening the Workplace Survey, which fielded June 1 – 10, 2020, explored key considerations to help businesses and leaders examine their preparedness for resetting physical work sites. Findings show that employers are increasing focus on safety, enhancing wellbeing programs and providing flexibility in areas ranging from paid leave to accommodations for at-risk employees. In addition, they are adapting strategies and programs around wellbeing to accommodate remote working.

While employer concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing remain high (50%), the percentage reporting moderate to large impact has dropped since April (64%); however, behavioral and mental health issues are predominant in the minds of employers.

While employer concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing remain high (50%), the percentage reporting moderate to large impact has dropped since April (64%); however, behavioral and mental health issues are predominant in the minds of employers.

Concerns about the negative impact of the crisis on productivity have lessened (27% in June versus 43% in April). But workforce reductions are on the rise. One-third of companies have already taken actions to reduce staff through layoffs, and another 19% are planning or considering doing so. More than a quarter of companies have cut salaries, and most (70% to 80%) have not offset those cuts. Three-quarters of furloughed employees are expected to return to work by Q1 2021, and just as many workers who have endured salary cuts or reduced hours are expected to have those reinstated.

Safely reopening work sites requires that an organization’s leadership put employee concerns front and center. Facing numerous first-time challenges due to the pandemic, many leaders are demonstrating a commitment to a culture of safety, inclusion and wellbeing as they implement their organizations’ reopening plans.

Highlights at a glance

Broader benefits priorities

Participants reported the following as their top benefit priorities over the next six months:

  • Communicating on benefit and wellbeing programs (69%)
  • Enhancing mental health services and stress/resilience management (47%)
  • Enhancing safety (39% up from 27% in April 2020)
  • Supporting financial wellbeing (22%)

Note: Percentages indicate being selected in the top 3.

  • Prioritizing workplace safety.
    Nearly 50% more companies identify workplace safety as a top priority compared with views in April (39% vs. 27%).
  • Preparing for a second wave.
    Two-thirds of companies have a plan for an exposure, have a screening management team in place and are stocking vital supplies. Only one-third (32%) have developed a plan for a second wave of infections.
  • Protecting employees with screenings and personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • More than 50% of employers will use employee questionnaires and thermal scanning to screen the workforce. Most plan to use company employees for screening.
    • 73% will require masks in public locations, and 24% will require masks at all times.

  • Emotional wellbeing remains a top priority. 47% cite emotional wellbeing as a top priority. Key focus areas include: expanding mindfulness programs, training for managers and high-touch navigation.
  • Expanding financial wellbeing. 75% have or will take steps to promote existing counseling services and tools. Nearly half of companies have adopted or are considering new emergency savings or counseling services.
  • Emergence of virtual care. More than 80% of companies are promoting tele-behavorial health services. Companies are also adding digital condition management (45%) and virtual physical therapy (29%).
  • Improving support for caregiving needs. Nearly one in four (23%) employers will enhance caregiving benefits, including flexible hours (88%), navigation resources (51%) and backup child or elderly care services (30%).

Physical distancing
  • Reconfiguring workspaces. More than half of companies have reconfigured seating assignments in order to maintain six feet of distance.
  • Phased reentry approach. More than half are taking action to phase employees back to the workplace and stagger shift changes.
  • Revising travel guidelines. 77% have revised travel guidelines. Most restrict or prohibit business travel today, and many remain uncertain about business travel in 2021.

Flexibility and paid leave
  • Accommodating at-risk employees. Nearly half of employers have taken steps to accommodate at-risk employees by adding PPE (65%), expanding physical distancing (64%) and reassigning to new roles (30%).
  • Flexibility to work remotely.
    • Today, about 60% of employees are working remotely compared with 11% before the onset of the pandemic.
    • Companies anticipate one-third (34%) of their employees will be working remotely at the beginning of 2021.
    • 69% will provide flexibility for all employees who can complete their work remotely.
  • Enhancing paid leave
    • 34% have or will enhance paid sick leave for COVID-19 diagnosis.
    • Over half have or plan to increase flexibility in the use of paid leave.

  • Setting expectations.
    • Nearly three-fifths have already communicated new day-to-day expectations.
    • As part of their return-to-work strategy, over two-thirds are already using or planning to use employee listening strategies (surveys, virtual focus groups) to identify safety concerns, wellbeing and workplace needs.
  • Discrimination prevention training. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of employers are training managers on stigma and discrimination prevention, and half are planning or considering adding it.
  • Open enrollment communication. Over 85% will tailor their messaging and enhance their digital approaches to support this year’s open enrollment.
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