Tech workers want vaccine mandates. Will their bosses bite?

A new survey suggests more than half of tech workers would consider quitting if their bosses didn't require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Tech workers want vaccine mandates. Will their bosses bite?

As more employees return to work, the topic of vaccine mandates will only become more relevant.

Image: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Tech giants were among the first to send their employees home at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as vaccines become more available, those same companies — Facebook, Uber, Microsoft and more — are slowly but surely beginning to bring them back.

But a new survey from Qualtrics suggests tech workers are more wary than most about returning to the office before their colleagues are vaccinated.

According to data shared exclusively with Protocol, more than 50% of respondents from the tech industry said they'd consider leaving their jobs if their employer doesn't require employees to get vaccinated. Just 37% of the general population surveyed said the same.

Tech industry employees were also far more likely than the rest of the workforce to support vaccine mandates in general. More than 80% of tech workers who responded said they'd support such mandates at their place of work. That's compared to 66% among the broader pool of respondents. The only other industry that voiced as much support for vaccine mandates was financial services. Health care workers, meanwhile, were among the least enthusiastic about mandates.

While the sample size in this survey is limited (there were 148 techies in the survey pool of 1,003 people) tech workers' hesitancy to return to work without assurances that their officemates will be vaccinated could complicate companies' plans to reopen. Since last year, tech giants like Facebook have contemplated a future in which a large portion of employees work remotely forever. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg made clear that it's the company that will ultimately decide whether to give an employee permission to work from home permanently, based on things like that employee's performance review and level of experience.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has said that while hybrid work will be part of its future, once COVID-19 "no longer presents a significant burden on our communities," workers will be expected to spend no more than 50% of their working time at home. And Google has floated the idea of a "flexible work model," where employees spend at least three days working from the office per week.

Even as they design these return-to-work plans, touting the increase in vaccine access across the country, few companies have said whether getting a vaccine will be a prerequisite to returning to work. Such a requirement would undoubtedly invite the ire of conservative lawmakers who are increasingly voicing opposition to Biden administration efforts to create vaccine passports, which would prove a person's vaccination status. Civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have expressed concern about the idea, as well.

There are also laws that dictate whether employers are allowed to issue such mandates. But in California, home to the heart of the tech industry, they can, as long as they don't discriminate against or harass employees based on a protected characteristic, like their religion or a disability. Still, some legal experts question whether businesses can issue mandates on the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available, since they received emergency use authorization, not official FDA approval.

For now, tech companies are just beginning to tiptoe back into office life. But as more employees are required to return to work and vaccines become more plentiful, the topic of vaccine mandates will only become more relevant, making it critical for companies to know where their employees stand.


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His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

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Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

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The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

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Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

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Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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