Don’t Want to Mandate? Tips for Encouraging Vaccinations

by Jessica H. Jones, Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, and Julie Noblick

While the EEOC allows employers to mandate vaccines, it might not be the right choice for every workplace. Almost a third of the population today says it wants to wait and see how the vaccine works. Mandating now may generate opposition.

If you prefer to wait to mandate, consider these behavioral economics tips from Willis Towers Watson to create buy-in among employees.

Emphasize stories over statistics.

We have become numb to numbers. Employers should offer a platform for employees willing to share their story of loss or becoming seriously ill from the virus. This has the power to help employees heal emotionally and encourage others to act. People are more likely to believe they can get sick or infect others when they hear it happened to someone they know.

Stress the new normal may require shots.

Beyond the benefit of reducing the risk and severity of illness, employers should also communicate to employees that vaccines are likely to be required for domestic or international travel or even to attend concerts or sporting events.

Focus on immediate benefits.

People place far more value on what they can attain immediately. The promise that a vaccine can lead to the end of pandemic restrictions months from now is not enough. Communicate more immediate benefits such as reducing risk during a trip to the grocery store or barber. Emphasize, however, that even the vaccinated should continue to wear masks and stay distant.

Seek commitment.

There’s a reason political campaigns ask voters to sign cards committing to supporting a candidate. Once we have publicly stated our position, we are more receptive to confirmation bias, meaning we seek out information that confirms our point of view and overlook information that doesn’t. Employers should encourage their employees to sign up for vaccinations as soon as they are eligible.

Make it easy.

Appointments should be simple to book by phone or online and should be offered at as many locations as possible, including employer sites when increased supplies of vaccines make that possible. In the United States, employers can cover fees for administering the vaccines through both medical and pharmacy benefits.

Avoid overwhelming employees.

When we are presented with too much information or too many choices, we often freeze and make no choice. The torrent of information about COVID-19 might paralyze employees and decrease vaccination rates. Employers should provide easily understood information about why, how, and where they can get vaccinated. If vaccination will be a choice, make it easy.

Use social networks.

We like to do what our friends and neighbors are doing. This makes social networking a powerful tool. And, the workplace remains one of their most important social networks.
Just as many influencers show videos of themselves receiving the vaccine, employers can put stickers on ID badges and vaccine sites can distribute easily visible buttons to those who are vaccinated.

Protect employees from loss.

Getting the vaccine should not cost recipients out-of-pocket expenses or lost wages. Some employers are offering the equivalent of two to four hours of pay for workers to get vaccinated during their shifts.

Jessica H. Jones is a lead associate at Willis Towers Watson. Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz is a population health leader of the North American Health and Benefits practice. Julie Noblick is a senior associate.

Source: Harvard Business Review