It's easy to understand why employers might be anxious to push their workers to get Covid shots now that they're available to all adults in the U.S. A vaccinated workforce makes planning easier, enables a return to in-person work (if you and your employees are up for it), and generally helps push us all toward the golden promise of the end of this horrible pandemic. 

So should employers make getting a shot mandatory? While there is still some uncertainty around the issue, many employment law experts claim it is probably legal to require your employees to get vaccinated. That doesn't mean it's a good idea, though. 

Writing on The Conversation recently, University of Oregon law professor Elizabeth Tippett argues that other ways than blanket mandates are more likely to nudge your team to get vaccinated without reservations or bitterness (hat tip to Business Insider).  

What works better than a vaccine mandate

To kick off the piece, Tippett reminds employers of the incredible sway they already hold over their employees' lives. Just think of a worker who overslept one day racing out of the house without eating breakfast or showering to make it in before 9. Your influence as an employer pushed that employee to face the day with a rumbling stomach and crazy hair, no formal mandate required. 

Though she allows that in some settings, like health care and hospitality, mandates may be necessary, in general Tippett urges employers to embrace their influence and use a softer touch to encourage their teams to get their shots. How might that work exactly? Tippett offers a handful of possibilities: 

  • Make it easy to get vaccinated. Some bigger employers are offering vaccinations, but smaller firms can find creative ways to make it painless for their people to get their shots. "Target is offering its workers free Lyft rides to vaccination sites. For workers worried about using scarce vacation or sick time, Trader Joe's, Chobani, and Dollar General are offering time off to get vaccinated," Tippett offers as inspiration. 

  • Educate your team. You've probably provided your staff information on making their workspace more ergonomic or getting the most of your company's health benefits. Why not offer them information on the benefits of getting vaccinated via whatever existing channels you use to communicate with your workforce?

  • Consider a vaccine reward. Tippett offers a few examples of what these rewards might look like in practice: "Monthly raffle drawings available to the recently vaccinated; tickets to the company's outdoor barbecue for those fully vaccinated by a specified date; or preference in vacation scheduling or shift selection for those who are vaccinated or qualify for an exemption."

  • Make not getting vaccinated a hassle. Carrot not working? Then try a little stick. This could look like "automated reminders, followed by personalized reminders from human resources, and eventually a phone call," writes Tippett. "At some point, it becomes more of a hassle to avoid the vaccine than to get it."

  • Try a scare form. As a last resort, Tippett suggests you could try scaring reluctant employees into rolling up their sleeves by asking them to sign a form "acknowledging the health risks of continued exposure -- like the form employers are required to provide health care workers who refuse a hepatitis B vaccine. While such a document should not include an unlawful waiver of workers' compensation claims, it could explicitly warn workers of the health risks they're taking."

Whichever nudge works best for your business, Tippett's overall message is that you as an employer have significant sway over your employees' behavior. Now is not the time to be shy about exercising it. 

What is your company doing to nudge your people to get their shots?