Sep 8, 2020 - Economy

Corporate America's coronavirus trust crisis

Illustration of the back of a man's head with an apple on top.  

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies around the world are trying to solve the back-to-work puzzle — but few workers trust their bosses to make the right decisions.

By the numbers: Just 14% of employees trust CEOs or senior managers to lead the return to work, according to an Edelman survey. Only half believe their offices are safe.

Between the lines: There's little consensus regarding which safety measures are needed for people to return to offices. Only about half of Americans think that masks and social distancing should be mandated, and even fewer think that temperature checks and plastic dividers are necessary.

  • Looking ahead: Many CEOs are looking for a vaccine before reopening workplaces, but 42% of Americans say they're either unsure or determined not to take a vaccine.

Why it matters: "This return to workplace is huge for business, if done safely and well," says Edelman Global CEO Richard Edelman. "If not, you’ll have a 2008 moment, when trust in business was really diminished."

Workers also expect their bosses to take a stand against systemic racism, per another new Edelman report.

  • 61% of American expect corporations to publicly speak out against racial injustice.
  • But while 62% trust small businesses to do so, only 43% feel the same way about large companies.
  • Still, people have placed far more trust in companies to respond to racial injustice (71%) than in the government (36%).

The bottom line: Between navigating the return to work and responding to racial justice protests, businesses have an opportunity to distinguish themselves to workers and consumers alike.

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