Companies Delaying Return to Office Amid Omicron

New York, NY, December 13, 2021-Companies of all sizes are rethinking their plans to send workers back to the office as the new omicron variant adds another layer of uncertainty, reports the Associated Press. 

“Alphabet’s Google and the nation’s second largest automaker Ford Co. are among those once again delaying their return-to-office plans, while other businesses whose employees have already returned are considering adding extra precautions like requiring masks.

“Officials in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway and Sweden also have asked people in recent days to work from home if they can because of concerns about the variant.

“Meta, formerly known as Facebook, and ridesharing company Lyft separately announced Tuesday, December 7, 2021 that they’re letting workers delay their return when offices fully reopen early next year.

“Meta still plans to open its headquarters at the end of January but will allow workers to delay their return as late as June.”

Lyft says it won’t require workers to come back to its offices for all of next year, though they will fully reopen as planned in February.

“Janelle Gale, vice president of human resources for Meta, said the latest decision recognizes ‘some aren’t quite ready to come back.’

“The moves are the latest indication of how difficult it is for companies to set firm plans for their employees’ mandatory return as worries about a spike in new cases or new variants keep shifting deadlines. This fall, the delta variant spurred many big companies to postpone a mandatory return to early next year.

“‘A year and a half ago, we thought this would be for a very short time,’ said Jeff Levin-Scherz, population health leader at Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory firm. ‘But the pandemic has thrown us many curves, and employers need to continue to be nimble.’

“The firm’s survey of 543 employers with 5.2 million workers showed on average 34% of remote-capable employees remain remote, but that would decline to 27% by the first quarter of 2022. However, the survey was conducted before news of omicron surfaced.

“The delayed plans are yet another blow to already struggling restaurants, bars, dry cleaners and other businesses that rely on office workers as patrons.

“Particularly hard-hit are those in downtown or midtown areas of cities like New York dominated by office buildings that remain largely empty.”