This is an update on important pandemic-related news, including the results of the recent union survey on SEC operating status issues related to the ongoing pandemic (“Pandemic Survey”) that we recently administered, as well as our ongoing discussions with SEC management on any changes to our operating status.
As you all know, our current mandatory telework status extends at least until September 7, 2021, which is the Tuesday after Labor Day. As we have reported to you, in light of improving public health metrics, including the availability of Covid-19 vaccines to adults and some, but not all, children, we have been in discussions with SEC management about when it might be appropriate to make changes to the agency’s current operating status and what those changes might be. Your feedback through the recent Pandemic Survey has provided critical context to these discussions.
Pandemic Survey Results
As you can see from the detailed results below, by overwhelming margins, when it comes to returning to in-person work, SEC employees want to decide for themselves and their families how much risk they are willing to take based on their own personal circumstances and concerns. When it comes to returning to in-person work, 95% of respondents believe that they should be able to decide for themselves when to risk infection in connection with returning to the office (82% of respondents “strongly agreed” and 13% “agreed”).
When it comes to getting to and from work, three out of four SEC employees responding report that they rely on mass transit to commute to work and 77% of those employees report being concerned about the risk of being infected or infecting others during such a commute.
It is important to view this data in the context of SEC employee perceptions about their ability to perform their work successfully remotely. 95.4% of respondents report that they can perform their work from home as competently and productively as they can from their SEC office (80% “strongly agreed” and 15.4% “agreed”).
However, some SEC employees would welcome a voluntary option to return to their SEC offices. The Pandemic Survey reported a small - 20% - but relevant group of respondents expressing an interest in such an option.
Operating Status Discussions
Given the improving public health metrics in some areas, including the access to vaccines for adults able and willing to get them, we think it is reasonable to work towards a change in status that would provide employees the option to return to their offices on a voluntary basis for non-essential purposes.
At the same time, we recognize that the pandemic is ongoing, data around vaccine efficacy is still being gathered (especially with respect to the “Delta” variant), and that employees have a myriad of concerns involving their own risks and the risks to their families. Some employees are high risk, live with high risk family members or are not able to be vaccinated.
As a result, we have told SEC management that we strongly believe that any change in the SEC’s operating status, even after September 7, should allow individual employees to make their own decisions about how much risk they are willing to take in order to transition back to working in their SEC office. We believe this is not only consistent with the perspectives of virtually all SEC employees, it is also a reasonable approach at this stage in the pandemic. This approach is also consistent with the SEC’s ability to continue to meet its mission. When this pandemic threw the nation into an unprecedented public health crisis, SEC employees, literally overnight, demonstrated they can successfully work remotely and they have been doing so for over a year. On any given day, only about 2% of SEC staff is onsite. That the vast majority of SEC employees can effectively work remotely is not reasonably in dispute.
Although some public health data is improving, none of that data speaks to the risks facing specific employees and those close to them. We believe the approach we have proposed appropriately puts the decision-making about those risks with individual employees.
Many employees are anxious about what the new administration will do as Labor Day inches closer. We are hopeful that the SEC will accept our recommendation soon. This approach is pro-worker, pro-SEC, and puts decisions about employee health and safety in the hands of individual employees, where it belongs.
Pandemic Survey Result Details
While teleworking, I am able to perform my job as competently and productively as I can at my SEC office.
Strongly Agree: 80%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 2%
Strongly Disagree: 0.5%
I prefer to have the ability to telework when my work does not require me to be at my SEC office.
Strongly Agree: 88.6%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 2%
Strongly Disagree: 0.2%
Based upon my personal circumstances and concerns, if the SEC ended mandatory telework and reopened its offices, I would prefer to have the option to continue to telework.
Strongly Agree: 82%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 3.4%
Strongly Disagree: 0.7%
Based upon my personal circumstances and concerns, I currently continue to need up to 20 hours of administrative leave per pay period for COVID-19 related activities (e.g., caring for children or the elderly).
Strongly Agree: 25%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 29.7%
Strongly Disagree: 11%
Based upon my personal circumstances and concerns, due to the pandemic I currently continue to need work schedule flexibility (e.g., working hours outside of my regular work schedule).
Strongly Agree: 42.2%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 20.5%
Strongly Disagree: 5%
What is your vaccination status?
I have been fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past my final dose of Pfizer, Moderna or J&J): 70.3%
I have been partially vaccinated: 12.1%
I have not been vaccinated, but I am planning to get vaccinated: 3.1%
I do not intend to get vaccinated: 2.4%
I do not wish to disclose my vaccination status: 12%
If I were given the option today to return to work at the office on a voluntary basis, I would choose to do so.
Strongly Agree: 8%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 14%
Strongly Disagree: 45.1%
If I were given the option today to return to work at the office on a voluntary basis, I would be more willing to do so if the SEC required that all persons in the office were fully vaccinated.
Strongly Agree: 38.6%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 17.4%
Strongly Disagree: 13.9%
If I were given the option today to return to work at the office on a voluntary basis, I would be willing to engage in in-person meetings with other people.
Strongly Agree: 10.2%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 18.6%
Strongly Disagree: 25%
When I come into the office, I need to utilize mass transit for my commute.
I currently have the following concerns about utilizing mass transit for my commute (check all that apply).
I have no concerns about utilizing mass transit: 16%
Possibility of infection of myself or others: 77%
Unreliability of mass transit due to scheduling changes on my form of mass transit: 50%
Increased crime on mass transit: 33%
Increased crime in the area of my office: 22%
If I were given the option to return to work at the office on a voluntary basis, my need to use mass transit would make me less willing to do so.
Strongly Agree: 44.7%
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 23%
Strongly Disagree: 4.3%