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CEO: Why I’m requiring that my employees and customers be vaccinated against COVID-19

CEO: Why I'm requiring that my employees and customers be vaccinated against COVID-19


CEO: Why I’m requiring that my employees and customers be vaccinated against COVID-19

There are moments when business leaders can have a significant positive impact on society. Helping end the COVID-19 pandemic is one of them.Benny Buller
 |  Opinion contributorCDC new mask guidelines: What it means for those fully vaccinatedThe CDC said vaccinated people no longer need masks in most indoor and outdoor places. Here’s what that means for businesses, variants and kids.Just the FAQs, USA TODAYAs the COVID-19 vaccines roll out quickly across the country, businesses like mine are wrestling with the question of how to handle employees returning to the office. In making these decisions, we must keep in mind that we have responsibilities to ensure our businesses succeed – and to society at large. Our choices will have a tremendous impact on how the nation’s next stage shapes up.The overwhelming majority of U.S. businesses, like mine, have fewer than 500 workers, providing nearly half of overall employment. Over the past year, many have had to shut down altogether. A recent report from the Federal Reserve estimates that the number of “excess exits” – closures likely due to the pandemic – might have stayed below 200,000, which is lower than some economists feared. That’s due in part to various ways small businesses found to keep going with employees working from home. Still, it’s a devastating number. It’s crucial to get more businesses up and running again.Allowing employees to keep working from home is important and an economic good. So is doing all we can to make sure people get vaccinated, to help stop the pandemic and get more of the economy moving again.We can spread message on vaccines That’s why to me, this is a no brainer. At Velo3D, where we provide advanced metal 3D printing technology to some of the most visionary companies in the world, I’m requiring all of my roughly 120 employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine unless a medical professional provides them with a written medical excuse.Working from home is not an excuse. We have a rule that managers should be able to call in any employee to a meeting on site when necessary. So all employees must be vaccinated. For those who are having the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, by June 1 they must have their second shot.The same goes for other people who wish to visit our facilities – contractors, investors and customers from businesses we serve. We’re using the honor system at this point, having people declare that they were vaccinated and when. No documentation is needed. We’re trusting people to do the right thing.Family doctor: I can help people overcome COVID vaccine hesitance, but I have no shots to give There are moments when business leaders face the opportunity to make a significant positive difference that can have a broad impact across society. This is one of those times.People trust us. The Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey of Americans in March, proved this with striking results. “Trust in my employer to respond effectively and responsibly to the pandemic” is at a high 68%, 20 points above business in general and 25 points ahead of government. And 55% of people said they trust their CEO to tell the truth about the vaccine, higher than government officials, CEOs in general, the media and celebrities. This comes amid historic low trust levels in general. Americans’ trust in the federal government has been declining for years, as has their trust in fellow citizens. With employers still seen as sources of information people can count on, we are in an influential position. We can help people understand the necessity of getting vaccinated – people who then go home to their families and friends, spreading the message from an entity they trust.We also have a responsibility to those employees who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons. They need a safe environment to work in, just as they need a safe society to live in. This means the rest of us getting the vaccine.We are choosing action over wordsThese days, there’s a lot of pressure on businesses to talk about every social issue. As an executive, I recognize the challenges with this, since there are endless injustices we could talk about.But actions speak louder. Here’s a case in which we can demonstrate with absolute clarity that we stand for doing the right thing whether it’s popular or not. This is also why we should not stop at only encouraging employees to get vaccinated. We should demand it.3 misconceptions: I was wrong about the COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s what I learned.Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do. In an effort to ensure we can move forward, we have every right to expect that of those who choose to work with us or visit us. (And legal guidance supports this position.)Since I announced this, the responses I’ve received have been overwhelmingly positive. They give me, and the others at our company, optimism for a strong future. I hope other small businesses will similarly take the lead.Benny Buller is founder and CEO of Velo3D, which transforms metal 3D printing to allow the creation of new parts for the aerospace, energy and industrial sectors.

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