(This article originally appeared on The Hill)
A recent study by Reimagine Main Street, a nonprofit that supports small businesses, is encouraging their community of business owners to ensure that their employees are vaccinated. The organization points to the more than 3,300 small business owners who participated in the survey, and how the majority (64 percent) said that it was “very important” that their employees get the shot.
How important? A whopping 45 percent of the respondents said that they would offer their employees paid time off to do so and almost one in five (19 percent) intend to mandate the vaccine for their employees.
Mandatory vaccines? Wow. I applaud these business owners and Reimagine Main Street for their passion. But I really don’t care whether my employees get vaccinated or not.
In the Philadelphia area where I live, all adults will be eligible for vaccines by the middle of this month. Most experts – including the city’s health commissioner – expect that those same adults will be able to get their shots by June. That’s great news. I already got my shot. Many people I know are already either fully or partially vaccinated or scheduling their jabs in the near future.
When the conversation comes up at my company (as it does in more than 80 percent of those surveyed by Reimagine Main Street), I’m happy to discuss or even offer recommendations for where employees can go. I even tell people that I’m happy to compensate them for the time off, even if they have to miss work because of a reaction, which I hear is pretty common. The fact that the new stimulus bill still allows me to take a tax credit under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to reimburse me for those costs doesn’t hurt either.
But regardless, if an employee doesn’t want to get a shot, that’s up to them. Frankly, it’s none of my business what they do, or don’t do. I’m not going to argue with them over the health risks or their concerns, no matter how outlandish some may be. People have their reasons, and it’s not for me to judge. If they choose to expose themselves to COVID-19 and get sick or even hospitalized, that’s on them. They’re making a choice. I’m vaccinated. I made my choice.
Some say that I’m potentially hurting my business because a sick employee will miss work and cause disruptions. That’s true. But that’s also the case with a lot of things, right? For all I know, that same employee chooses to drink and drive. Or smoke too much. Or ski. Or eat fast food. Or engage in other risky behaviors. I can’t stop them from doing that either, and all of those actions also have consequences for my business.
I’m fortunate in that my company has been “virtual” since 2005, which means we have no offices — everyone works from home. It cuts down on overhead but isn’t great for innovation and building a work culture. However, I – unlike so many of my clients – don’t have to worry about that one person in the office who chooses not to get vaccinated bringing COVID to work with them. But is this really an issue? Are they putting other employees at risk? No, not if those employees got vaccinated. And yes, even vaccinated people can carry the virus. But the studies suggest that if they get sick, the effects are much, much less severe.
What about masks? Most of my small business clients are still requiring masks (and social distancing) in their offices. That’s because there are still many people who want to get vaccinated yet aren’t able to get jabbed yet. But very soon anyone who wants a vaccination will be able to go just about anywhere to get one. And when that happens, I foresee many of those same small businesses letting their mask-wearing requirements lapse. Because who are they protecting? The employee who voluntarily chooses not to get vaccinated? Why should the rest of a company’s employees be inconvenienced by them?
By the end of the summer, the vaccination question will have been resolved. Most people will have abandoned their masks and, despite all those prognostications, the world will be very much the same as it was before the pandemic. Airports will be busy. Conferences will be filled. People will be in restaurants and walking in the streets. Sure, more will have work-from-home options than before. And of course, there will be annual “booster” vaccinations that will not only protect us from new variants of COVID and the flu but also provide a healthy lift to the profits of the pharmaceutical firms that make them.
But for the most part, our offices will be the same. Most people will have had the common sense to get a vaccination. But some employees won’t. That’s on them. I don’t care.