Return to work uncertainty continues as new Coronavirus strains are making themselves at home. Although some employers opted to remain remote permanently, rumors were circulating that the in-person office work world was planning to begin opening back up in January 2022. A November 2021 survey by the Partnership for New York City reported that by January 30th:
● 49% of office workers were expected to be back on an average weekday
● 57% were expected to be back at least 3 days a week
● 21% planned to stay remote
Some workers have returned to the office over the last few months. According to data from Kastle Systems, office occupancy across the United States rose 7%. It was an encouraging trend, but employers began carefully monitoring Covid cases to see how the omicron variant would impact return-to-work plans. In San Francisco, a city hesitant to return back to the office, large tech companies like Google, Apple Inc., and Uber Technologies Inc. have tabled return to office discussions—or have halted setting them altogether.
The jump in the number of Covid cases and increased government mandates are likely to slow down the return to in-office work in Q1 of 2022. Many feel that we are experiencing the calm before the next storm and are preemptively taking precautions. However, even though many employers are leaning into uncertainty and pushing back or refusing to set firm return dates, there is hope for an eventual return to in-office attendance.
What types of roles might be expected to return sooner than others?
● Covid-19 had the most significant effect on jobs with a high level of physical proximity like personal care, on-site customer service, hospitality, and travel. These are the areas likely to remain unsettled the longest or develop other ways of doing business, such as e-commerce. Work that cannot be done remotely or transformed into a digital mode will either experience curtailed demand or a more rapid return to work after restrictions ease.
● Computer-based jobs that require only modest physical proximity but can be done remotely will likely lag behind jobs that can only be done in-person.
Employers planning a swifter return to in-person work should consider:
● Employing stringent safety measures
● Staying flexible
● Making changes as new information becomes available
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