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Why Incentives Rather Than Mandates May Be More Effective in Encouraging COVID Vaccinations

Given the deadly consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be natural for employers to think that employees would be receptive to getting themselves vaccinated. However, there is often a pushback by employees who may prefer quitting their jobs rather than taking the vaccine as a mandate. The reason can often be due to the method applied by the employer rather than the concept of vaccination. The prospect of valued employees quitting, especially in a tight labor market, the chances of alienating employees can have severe repercussions on reputation, retention, and productivity. According to experts, incentivizing employees can work far better. An overview:

High Stakes with Importance of Employee Satisfaction and Retention Paramount

According to the Harvard Business Review, as many as 47 million voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021 compared to 35 million in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. There are more job openings in the U.S., and only 18 percent of the survey respondents reported being satisfied with their current jobs. Given this background, it is likely; the spate of resignations and changes in employment will continue putting employers in a quandary.

Safety Concerns in the Workplace Still Present

Although much of the care of the pandemic has waned and concepts like wearing masks and maintaining social distance seem distant, something stops people from congregating with their coworkers. According to research, more than a quarter of the participants in a study expressed their preference to work remotely to distance themselves from others. Employers battling to arrive at an optimum method of alleviating worries and creating safe workplaces often issue vaccine mandates. According to MyBioSource, in a scenario where only around 70% of eligible Americans have received their vaccinations, mandates seem the logical method of ensuring worker health and safety. However, many interpret mandates as a sign of coerciveness and loss of control. In short, people do not like to be told what to do. In such cases, offering incentives, usually small amounts of money, is effective in overcoming the reluctance.

Even Low-Value Incentives Can Work Wonders

Many employers believe that given the easy availability of vaccines, people would have got vaccines if they had wanted to. However, recent research reveals it may not be the case. The study found that a whopping 68% of those not yet vaccinated would be ready to receive a shot if the government or employer offered them money. Studies have also revealed that the amount of money acceptable to 60% of the respondents was $100 or less. With employers battling the high cost and effort of filling open positions, spending a little money seems an attractive proposition to retain existing employees.


Behavioral and human resource experts have established that incentives can prove powerful motivators for encouraging desired behaviors across varied situations. When people act due to incentives, they feel they are doing something to earn them and they are in control and not forced to act against their will. At a time when there is a tectonic shift in the way employees view their relationships with employers, offering vaccine incentives can facilitate engagement and build better loyalty.

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