Companies in the US are once again struggling to identify the right time to reopen their offices. Amid growing concerns of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, technology majors including Meta, Apple, Google and others have already announced that they will continue with the work-from-home or hybrid model for their staff. With this, the previously expected timeline for a return to offices has been delayed yet again by the companies.
This list of companies announcing a delay in office returns is growing by the day. Meta was the most recent firm to come up with the decision. Formerly known as Facebook Inc, Meta notified its employees on Wednesday that the company will fully reopen its offices in the US on January 31 next year. Though employees will have a choice to join these offices up to three to five months later.
The policy comes as the social media giant’s new “office deferral program.” The program is meant to offer employees flexibility in returning to offices, Meta said. In case someone does not want to return to the office for work, the company will give an option to the employees to work full-time remotely.
In the weeks prior to Meta’s announcement, companies like Google, Apple, Uber, Lyft and many others from different industries made similar announcements for their workforces. Google deferred its earlier date of a return to office on January 10 in an email sent to employees on December 2, as seen by CNBC. The tech major will now wait until the new year to assess the situation and will act accordingly.
Uber took a similar stance in a recent blog. The company pushed the return-to-office date back indefinitely. Apple set a more optimistic timeline and postponed its return-to-office date to February 1, which was previously set for January. Starting February 2022, Apple will start calling its employees back into the office in phases, as per CEO Tim Cook. Office presence will be required for one to two days a week for the first month. Afterwards, this would be increased to at least three days every week.
Skipping any chance of further delays in planned office-returns, ride-hailing firm Lyft has pushed its office return straight back to 2023.
Growing Omicron concerns
The sole reason for the companies to delay their plans is the spread of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron in the country. The new variant is considered to be more transmissible than before and hence precautions against it are already being taken throughout.
While working remotely will be the safest strategy, companies fear that an absence from office can ultimately kill the office culture among employees. So plans to call employees to offices in batches are under work, ultimately kicking off some sort of hybrid work model.
Google, for instance, has decided to allow specific offices to decide their timelines for an office-return for employees. The decision will be based on the risk assessment of these offices by Google’s “Local Incident Response Teams.”
So as we enter a new year with the Covid-19 transmission scare still prevalent, it will be interesting to see how companies manage the situation within their campuses and workforces.