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Source: World Economic Forum

Amanda Russo, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum, +41 79 392 6898, arus@weforum.org

  • “Too costly” and “too complicated to implement” were the top two reasons employers gave for not testing employees
  • However, many are taking some steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
  • Detailed findings from the COVID-19 Workplace Commons project hopes to share information of the challenges faced by companies and benchmark current practices.
  • It surveyed 1,125 employers from 29 countries across 23 industry sectors
  • Learn more about the survey and read the report on the approach employers are taking to testing, contact tracing, facility safety, pandemic response, financial impact and pandemic preparedness.

Geneva, Switzerland, 19 November 2020 – A new global business survey found that few employers are testing their employees regularly when they come to work because they find the tests too costly (28%), too complicated to implement (22%), or they are concerned about the accuracy of the tests (18%).

1,125 employers across 1,141 facilities in 29 countries participated in COVID-19 Workplace Commons – Keeping Workers Well Survey. An interactive data dashboard and inaugural report provides details on some of the challenges faced by companies and benchmarks current practices. The report provides findings from employers across the globe about their approach to testing, contact tracing, facility safety, pandemic response, financial impact and pandemic preparedness.

Conducted by Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions and the World Economic Forum (WEF), with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the survey found that for companies with employees on-site at the workplace, many are taking some steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Nearly three-fourths (74%) of these companies report they require masks for their employees, and nearly 80% make masks and hand sanitizer available.

“How to move the economy forward while keeping people safe is on the mind of every business leader as they continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mara Aspinall, professor of practice at the College of Health Solutions. “The survey findings give us a clearer picture of the many difficult decisions employers face in trying to reduce the spread of the disease — and why more must be done to expand access to rapid-result testing.”

“We have created a community for leaders to share their challenges and current practices,” said Genya Dana, head of health care transformation at the World Economic Forum. “We believe these resources will help leaders everywhere make informed decisions as the pandemic continues to evolve.”

Globally, the majority (65%) of businesses surveyed were small businesses with 25 or fewer employees, with nearly 80% having fewer than 100 employees. 62.5% of the survey respondents were U.S. businesses.

“As businesses continue reopening and employees return to the workplace, we are again caught in an intense virus upswing with COVID-19 cases hitting record numbers,” said Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, managing director for pandemic response, preparedness, and prevention, health initiative, with the Rockefeller Foundation. “We must come together and do everything in our power to keep the economy open and keep people safe.”

Additional survey findings include:

Only 36% of companies had disaster or emergency response plans in place pre-COVID-19, and of those only 39% had plans specifically for epidemics or pandemics; 47% of those said their plan was useful for the pandemic.26% of respondents report increased monthly operating costs of 26% or more (excluding testing expenses).Notably, the data revealed that there were few significant differences between U.S. and non-U.S. companies except in contact tracing, where U.S. companies are doing much less compared with other regions (37% for U.S. vs. 54% for non-U.S.).43% of all companies are performing some form of contact tracing, with 58% of them making it mandatory and 17% requiring workers to sign liability waivers.

“By sharing the findings of our survey, we are ensuring broad access to information and truly democratizing knowledge during the pandemic,” said Nate Wade, project co-lead and senior director of strategic initiatives at ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

ASU and the World Economic Forum will field two more phases of its COVID-19 Workplace Commons — Keeping Workers Well survey in 2021. Employers of all types, sizes and geographic locations are invited to get involved and sign up to participate in the next survey at ASUcovidcommons.com. Findings will be updated and released on the website.