Vaccinations, Mandates and the Future of Work | Brunswick Group

Vaccinations, Mandates and the Future of Work

Since December 2020, the Brunswick Group Americas Employee Engagement Practice has been closely tracking how employers are addressing workforce questions around the COVID-19 vaccines.

As the Delta variant spreads and infection rates tick back up, many companies are delaying their re-opening plans, reinstating mask mandates, and considering – or implementing - vaccination mandates for employees. Many decisions early in the pandemic had to be made quickly and with a high level of uncertainty. Leaders did not have the luxury of assessing employee sentiment and response. Now, they have an opportunity to look back at the data to see what has worked well in decision making and
communicating with employees throughout the timeline of the pandemic.

In this note, we present a summary of the questions and approaches that companies, organizations and communities are using to guide their decisions in three key areas:
Vaccine Mandates: Are employers mandating employees or customers get vaccinated? To what extent are employers implementing COVID-19 testing in their workplaces and retail locations? How will boosters be considered?
Future of Work: How is the vaccine rollout affecting where and how employees work? To what extent are employers requiring employees who had shifted to working remotely during the pandemic to return to the in-person workplace? How are employers engaging employees to ensure they remain inspired, committed, and engaged?
Employer / Employee Relations: How are corporate leaders weighing in on questions of trust in the vaccines? How are companies working to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for their employees, customers, and communities? To what extent are companies making social contributions around the vaccination effort?

Also included is a summary of trends within key sectors. For complete access to our work tracking corporate responses to the pandemic, please contact [email protected]


Vaccine Mandates

The advice on mandates and personal vaccination disclosure rules from government, school systems and companies are highly fluid. For leaders who confront these issues, grounding their thinking in data from the past 18 to 24 months can make decisions and communications in the near and long term clearer and more effective.

When making determinations in mandates and key workplace decisions, consider the following questions:
• How have you been talking about security and safety up to now? Take an analytical approach to internal feedback and survey results from the last year to determine what decisions and messages resonated with employees.
• What matters to your employees? Assess employee sentiment and response through internal and external communications channels to identify key areas of risk and opportunity.
• What is common practice in your industry? Survey external audiences and peer groups to determine what is most important in how decisions are being made now, and in the future.
• Do you have a clear storyline for any change in policy? Communicate transparently the reasons, benefits and implications behind decisions taken. 

Future of Work

Employees are uncertain about returning to offices given the rise in ‘breakthrough’ cases, driving many companies to push back their office re-opening plans, some by months or even into the new year. Many are also working with new hybrid, remote and in-office structures and processes.

A majority of companies point to the benefits of in-person collaboration and companionship which cannot be experienced while working remotely. But many are considering changes to office layouts, team structures, communication style, and expectations around the number of days employees must be in the office.

While there may be sound business reasons for an employer to incentivize either in-person or remote work, employees will expect those new rules to be made clear and applied consistently across the workforce. Failure to do so could exacerbate the “great resignation,” which has seen millions of workers quitting their jobs as they re-evaluate their career goals in light of the pandemic.

As employers try to balance different interests and needs, they should consider how best to:
▪ Facilitate opportunities for dialogue with clear topics, parameters, and outcomes. Dialogue does not always mean a blank slate for any topic to be raised, but properly facilitated, it can lead to clarity on what is driving employees to make the choice to stay, what would motivate them to leave and what support they need. 
▪ Index what employees believe is central to the corporate culture. Look across cultural dimensions - environment, fulfillment, ethics, purpose, and advancement – and then double down on the most important elements to ensure that as decisions are made and the ways of working change, the organization stays true to its cultural roots.
▪ Establish a change communications plan that keeps critical issues – like safety, security and mental health - at the front of the communications agenda.


Today’s uncertainty, coupled with concerns around vaccine equity and disclosure, employee resignations, and workplace transitions, increases the need to evaluate – and continuously re-evaluate - workplace cultures.
As these trends accelerate through the second half of 2021, the key takeaway for employers and business leaders is simple: employees matter more than ever.

By following the guiding principles of putting humans first, ensuring a strong foundation of value-based communications with employees, preparing and consistently updating scenario planning and establishing proactive platforms for employees to take positive actions, companies can be well positioned to weather ongoing historic transitions.

Download the full report here

For more thought leadership from Brunswick’s Employee Engagement specialists and to connect with our team, please visit our website or email [email protected].