As the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine rollout speeds up, many organizations are wondering how to approach vaccination in their return-to-work plan.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that employers can require coronavirus vaccinations in order to return to the physical workplace. But many employers are planning to encourage and incentivize vaccination, rather than require it.
Why vaccine incentives may be more powerful than mandates
Employer-required employee vaccination against COVID has the potential to improve workforce health by helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 among employees — and consequently, reduce absences, productivity loss, and healthcare expenses. However, mandates are controversial. Mandating COVID-19 vaccination could reduce employee morale and cause tension, and some employees may decide to quit their jobs rather than get vaccinated.
According to a Johns Hopkins University article about vaccine mandates, many people will be more likely to get vaccinated if they are not forced into it. In order to achieve a vaccinated workforce, creating a vaccination program that focuses on education, incentives, and positive messaging may be more effective.
Here’s 20+ creative ideas to encourage your employees to vaccinate while maintaining a strong sense of trust and connection among your employees.
Provide accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although many people are eager to get vaccinated, some of your employees may feel reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine. About 20% of the general population can be described as vaccine hesitant. Distrust in the medical system, fear of potential side effects, and doubts about the vaccine’s efficacy are among the reasons that employees may not wish to get vaccinated. Employers must actively listen to these concerns and provide a clear and thoughtful messaging regarding employee vaccination.
Here’s a few ideas to incorporate into your communication plan:
- Dedicate time at your regular staff meetings to share information about the COVID-19 vaccines and address concerns.
- Share educational blog posts about the vaccines in your company newsletter. In addition to including information about the COVID-19 vaccines, share tips on reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, including social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
- Host an educational session focused specifically on the vaccine and allow employees to ask questions.
- Share facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the COVID-19 vaccines on your intranet portal, Slack channel, or other engagement tool, like Cooleaf.
The best way to combat misinformation is to provide clear information on the COVID-19 vaccine, including vaccine development, the clinical trials, and possible side effects.
Other links and resources:
- Five Research-Backed Steps to a Pro-Vaccination Social Media Campaign from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a COVID-19 vaccination toolkit to help employers of essential workers raise awareness about the public health benefits of getting vaccinated.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released a guide to help employers promote coronavirus vaccines effectively
To help you spread the word, we’ve also created this helpful infographic with key information on COVID-19 vaccines from the CDC’s website. Enter your email and we’ll send you the high-resolution graphic to use in your communications!
Create a vaccination incentive program for your employees.
When implemented effectively, vaccine incentives can be a powerful part of your workplace vaccination program. Vaccine incentives don't need to be costly — a small, meaningful gift can be extremely powerful.
In order to be most effective, incentives should be treated as "thank-you" gifts to show gratitude for employees — not just for getting vaccinated, but also for their hard work during the pandemic. If your employees are essential or frontline workers, showing appreciation can be especially meaningful.
Ideas for vaccination incentives or appreciation gifts:
- Company swag, like water bottles, T-shirts, hoodies, or coffee mugs.
- Free food or food delivery service gift cards.
- Gift cards to local businesses.
- Cooleaf points (can be included as part of your wellness program) to spend on prizes
After such a difficult year, giving employees a small gift to show your appreciation sends the message that you truly care about your team's well-being. Consistent and meaningful team recognition is critical to maintaining employee motivation and engagement.
Make it fun.
For many people, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is already a cause for celebration. Embrace that festive atmosphere and harness the power of positive peer pressure with events that celebrate the development of the new vaccines.
Add some fun to your vaccination communications with these ideas:
- Host a weekly raffle and enter anyone who was vaccinated in the last week, with fun prizes.
- Create “I Got Vaccinated” stickers, pins, shirts, or mugs and send them to any employee who wants them.
- Adopt a hashtag such as #IGotVaccinated and share photos of employees getting vaccinated on social media.
- Invite employees to publicly share their reasons for getting vaccinated.
In Cooleaf, you can create a challenge to ask people to share their vaccine photos, or post what they’re planning to do once they are fully vaccinated (or the pandemic ends).
Involve your leadership team.
Team leaders, senior managers, and executives can be powerful advocates for your COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Vaccination is a personal decision, so when employers show a willingness to get vaccinated, employees will feel more motivated to vaccinate as well.
Get your leadership team involved in the employee vaccination efforts:
- Collect vaccination photos from senior leaders and post them in your communications channel or engagement platform.
- Ask senior managers to "lead by example" and talk to their team about their experience getting vaccinated.
Give employees time to get vaccinated.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine takes time and effort. Organizations can help by offering flexible policies to encourage employees to get vaccinated during the workday.
- Time off to get vaccinated.
- Paid days off to recover from vaccine side effects (particularly after the second dose), regardless of whether or not they experience any.
Fund rides to vaccine appointments.
Around 45 percent of Americans do not have access to public transportation. By offering to cover the cost of rides to vaccine appointments, organizations can help improve vaccine access among their employees.
To help employees get to vaccine appointments:
- Offer ride credit through Lyft or Uber.
- Give employees a gift card to either service and encourage them to use it to go to their vaccine appointments.
- Share information about vaccination clinics in your community in your company newsletter.
Helping your employees return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic is no easy task. And overcoming vaccine hesitancy can feel daunting. But with a strong vaccine communications plan, employers can create a safer, more confident, and healthier workplace.