Report: 'staggering majority' of workers don't feel safe due to COVID-19

Honeywell has released the results of a global study on workers’ perceptions and feelings on the health and safety of their workplace, including hotels and airports. 

The findings of the "2020 Building Occupant Survey Report" show that a “staggering majority” of the U.S. workforce (71 percent) does not feel completely safe working in their employers' buildings. This number is even higher for those working remotely (82 percent), who are especially skeptical about the safety of work sites. In fact, nearly three in 10 remote workers (29 percent) would look for a new job rather than return to a site that did not implement necessary safety measures.

Globally, 68 percent of the workforce does not feel completely safe working in their employers' buildings and 23 percent would look for a new job rather than return to a site that did not implement necessary safety measures.

When broken down by category, those who work at hotels and airports are in similar situations: 70 percent do not feel completely safe in their employers' buildings, which is higher than the 64 percent of office workers who do not feel safe.

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“Workers are keenly attuned to the steps employers are taking to make their workspaces safer and healthier, especially when it comes to air quality and adherence to safety guidelines, which wasn’t previously a concern for some people,” said Vimal Kapur, president and CEO of Honeywell Building Technologies. “Air quality, for example, is not something that will be dismissed once we’re on the other side of this pandemic. It will be essential to the occupant experience, and good air quality will help make workers feel more comfortable as they return back to their offices.”

COVID Concerns

The surveyed workers’ concerns echo the latest scientific research on the spread of COVID-19, with 59 percent of those being more concerned about transmission through the air than through contact with a surface. In terms of what poses a bigger threat to their safety, 64 percent point to co-workers not following safety guidelines and 36 percent believe outdated ventilation systems. C-level and executive-level workers are more likely to recognize the threat of poor air quality with nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed indicating outdated ventilation as a bigger threat. 

Outdated ventilation systems are a bigger concern for the hotel workers surveyed (46 percent) compared to workers in office buildings (38 percent) or schools/universities (38 percent).

Nearly half of U.S. surveyed workers (48 percent) agree that their building management has not taken the steps necessary to keep them safer on the job, and 61 percent believe their building is more likely to make short-term changes in response to the pandemic versus long-term investments in building systems. Respondents believe schools and universities (63 percent) are much more likely than hotels (52 percent) to favor short-term solutions.​

Surveyed workers are most worried that building management will not consistently enforce health and safety guidelines (49 percent), followed by worry that they won’t consistently invest in new technology to make working in-person safer (26 percent).

Global Worries

Globally, the report found office buildings are viewed as more safe than school or university buildings.

An “overwhelming majority” of the U.K. workforce surveyed (71 percent) does not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number is even higher for surveyed executive-level workers (79 percent) and remote workers (78 percent), who are especially skeptical about the safety of worksites. More than six in 10 U.K. respondents (61 percent) admit that their company or organization should be doing more to make their workplace safer during COVID-19, compared to 39 percent who believe the building or facility management should be doing more.

Workers in the U.K. and Middle East are as concerned with virus transmission through a surface as transmission through the air. Meanwhile, workers in the U.S. and Germany are more concerned with air transmission​. U.S. respondents were most concerned about enforcing health and safety guidelines.

German respondents (37 percent) are more likely to view updates to air quality systems as more critical than respondents from the U.S. or U.K. (28 percent for each).

Of note, buildings in the Middle East are more likely than buildings in Germany or the U.K. to have implemented enhanced cleaning procedures and touchless door entries.


“Many facilities have made changes to their procedures but have not invested in the building itself and their occupants have noticed,” Kapur said. “Workers are going to demand more from buildings in the future, and we’re even seeing with these survey results that creating a healthier and safer environment will be a differentiator for staff retention and recruiting, and it may also impact long-term real estate value.”

To return to work and feel safer, U.S. surveyed workers view health safety protocols such as social distancing or mandatory masks as most critical (57 percent), and, in fact, 61 percent of those working on-site have seen such updates happen. Other top health and safety measures that surveyed workers want include health screening protocols such as temperature checks (49 percent), enhanced cleaning procedures (45 percent), updated air quality systems (28 percent), touchless door entries (28 percent) and technology for contact tracing (19 percent).

Conducted by Wakefield Research, the study surveyed 2,000 people across the U.S., U.K., Germany and the Middle East who typically work in buildings with 500 or more employees.