Address both “why” and “how” to encourage workers to get the COVID vaccine
In light of the recent announcement that “essential in-person public-facing building service workers” are now eligible to get the vaccine in New York, it’s time to support HVAC and Refrigeration technicians and prepare them to get the vaccine.
HVAC employers want their workers to get the COVID vaccine for a variety of reasons. Of course, you want your employees to be protected because you want them and their families to stay safe and healthy. You also want to prevent outbreaks among your staff that could impact your ability to serve your customers. And you certainly want to avoid the possibility of technicians spreading the virus at customer sites, which could happen even with careful use of PPE.
It would be ideal for all field technicians, supervisors, warehouse staff, estimators, and other workers whose jobs require daily in-person interactions to get vaccinated (unless advised otherwise due to a medical condition).
However, there are barriers to getting your entire staff vaccinated, even once the shots are more widely available. You may not be able to mandate vaccination for all employees due to union restrictions. And there’s a good possibility that some of your workers will be reluctant to get the vaccine. Also, circumstances may make it difficult for some employees to get vaccinated.
To encourage more workers to get the vaccine, HVAC employers will need to do two things: help workers understand the facts about the vaccine and its benefits for themselves and others, and also implement policies that make it easier for them to get the vaccine.
Why your employees might be reluctant to get the COVID vaccine
To begin to address the “why,” you need to understand your employees’ concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some people are concerned that the vaccine has been rolled out too fast and might not be safe. Some distrust vaccines (or even doctors and hospitals) altogether. Others have cultural or political beliefs that dissuade them from getting the vaccine. And there may be some with underlying medical conditions who are concerned about the impact of a vaccine on their health.
The first step is to learn about your employees’ attitudes toward getting vaccinated, and which issues may prevent them from doing so. Depending on the size of your company, you can ask them to share their intentions and/or concerns in a survey, speak to employees individually, or have supervisors talk with their direct reports.
Vaccine information and tips on how to share it
Given the importance of the issue, you can find many excellent sources to help you share the facts about the vaccine with employees. Here in NYC, HVAC employers can visit the NY state vaccine site, which has FAQs, vaccine eligibility and availability, and information created specifically for various subgroups. This information can help you put together vaccine information to share with your staff. Here are a few tips.
Send the right message. Be sure your message addresses your employees’ specific concerns with empathy. Share the facts without belittling their concerns. And be sure to let employees know that there’s no cost for the vaccine. Here’s a great resource that can help you develop the right message and the right interventions.
Make it easy to learn about the vaccine. Share an informative video so your workers can hear medical professionals explain the facts about the vaccine.
Here’s one from PBS about how vaccines work, their potential side effects, who’s first in line to receive them, and the need to address racial and social equities.
And a short video from the CDC covering what to expect after getting the vaccine:
Overcome language barriers. Share information in your workers’ native languages so it’s easier for them to understand.
Make it personal. Having someone they trust talk with employees can go a long way to overcoming their concerns. If they are willing, have employees take videos of themselves getting vaccinated, and share their experiences with those who are worried about doing so.
How to remove barriers and help your workers get vaccinated
While building confidence about the vaccine is very helpful in overcoming employee objections, there’s still the matter of situations that make it hard for people to get the vaccine.
Even once the vaccine is more generally available, it might be hard for some employees to get appointments or get to a vaccination clinic at the time when appointments are available. Here’s how HVAC employers can help.
Offer paid time off for vaccinations. This is currently a requirement in the state of New York. Let employees know they will be paid if they need to take off during the workday for a vaccination appointment. Also, if they have side effect symptoms after getting the shot, you can allow them to use paid sick time.
Share information about vaccine locations and availability. It can be time consuming for employees to hunt online for an appointment. You can help by regularly sharing the latest updates about availability, locations, and how to make an appointment. This also serves as a reminder to make an appointment.
Help employees who aren’t tech savvy. If some employees don’t have computers at home or aren’t tech savvy, they may have a hard time getting an appointment. If possible, designate someone in your company to work with employees in this situation to help them set appointments.
Offer an on-site clinic. When doses are more widely available, larger employers may be able to set up a vaccine clinic at their location. This not only makes it easy for everyone, but reluctant workers can see their friends and co-workers getting the vaccine, which may help to overcome their fears.
More resources for HVAC employers
HVAC employers can find more helpful business advice and information on our blog. Check it out.