Number of the day: Delta variant concerns

According to a poll from ComPsych, a behavioral health provider, the Delta variant is now employees’ most pressing concern about returning to work. When asked what their biggest worry is, the vast majority of employees (50%) cited the rapidly spreading COVID-19 strand and getting sick from it. The other challenges cited were: feeling overwhelmed at the thought of changes to family routines (33%), childcare challenges and difficulty finding options for care (10%), pet care challenges (3%) and having to relocate back to the office after moving during the pandemic (3%).

What it means to HR leaders

After a couple of months of good news on the COVID-19 front–including the arrival of vaccines and falling infection rates and deaths–things have reached a tipping point with the arrival, and fast spread, of the Delta variant.

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Employee fears over the variant are well-justified: Data finds that Delta spreads faster and more easily than the earlier-detected versions of coronavirus.

This means employers cannot afford to waste time in preparing for the Delta variant and prioritizing health and safety among employees and their workplaces. Experts say that employers will largely look to revisit mask, vaccine and return to work policies as a result.

Related: Will new federal mask guidelines revive workplace mandates?

Company and HR leaders also should prioritize employees’ mental health and helping them manage anxiety, says Richard Chaifetz, founder, chairman and CEO of ComPsych.

“To the extent employers are able to offer support to manage both the feelings and logistics, this can go a long way to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce,” he says. “It’s going to be a big adjustment for employees, and the anxiety as a result of uncertainty and change is significant.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.