The COVID-19 Delta variant has damaged employee confidence in returning to the office.

Approximately 42 percent of workers as of Labor Day weekend said they were worried about returning to the office due to COVID-19 fears, according to a new survey from the non-profit think tank The Conference Board. That’s up from 24 percent in June 2021, before the Delta variant took hold in the United States.

“With headlines about the rise of the Delta variant, breakthrough cases among the vaccinated and an overburdened healthcare system in much of the country, COVID-19 concerns that were subsiding just two months ago have risen,” Rebecca Ray, PhD, executive vice president of Human Capital at The Conference Board, said in prepared remarks.

The survey found that women are more worried than men about COVID exposure, job security and mental health.

Approximately 48 percent of women said they were worried about contracting COVID-19 personally, the survey found, compared to 37 percent of men. About 46 percent of women said they were worried about exposing family members to the COVID virus versus 40 percent of men.

Women also felt more pressure to return to the workplace to keep their jobs. About 25 percent of women expressed that concern compared to 15 percent of men. Similarly, 27 percent of women said they were worried about deterioration of mental health with the ongoing pandemic versus 11 percent of men.

Additional study findings:

  • Millennials were far more worried than Gen X workers or baby boomers about exposing family members, feeling pressure to return to the workplace to keep their jobs or deterioration of mental health.
  • Almost 70 percent of workers said they’d work a hybrid schedule, mixing times working remotely and other days in the workplace. Interestingly, 20 percent of respondents said they want to work remotely, and only 4 percent wanted to be just in the workplace.
  • Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they were unsure if they’ll stay at their current job for the next six months.
  • About 60 percent of women said they would stay in their current job for at least the next six months versus 70 percent of men.
  • More than 80 percent of workers said they were looking for new jobs because of a desire for more flexible hours and other work arrangements. This scored more important for women than men, and was high on the list for millennials versus other generations.

The Conference Board conducted its survey in August, polling more than 2,400 U.S. workers on topics on various return-to-work and employment topics.

Source: The Conference Board