Delta variant wreaking havoc on America’s return to office plans

The Delta variant is wreaking havoc on companies’ return-to-office plans.

Uber, Apple and Google are among the latest to push their return dates back by a month – from September to October. Employment website Indeed took it one step further, announcing its employee return-to-office date is now Jan. 3, 2022.

“Health risks are at a peak these days because of this pandemic, and we’re still learning about what’s going on every single day,” Paul Wolfe, Indeed’s Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources, told Yahoo Finance. “Our guiding principle through the entire pandemic has been the health and safety of our employees.”

Commuting time and costs are a top concern for workers dreading a return to the office, according to a recent Indeed report published in July.

In late June, Indeed surveyed 450 workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic. While most employees surveyed plan to return to the office sometime later this year, one-third will be required to do so in the next three months.

Forty-five percent of employees surveyed are most worried about their commute time and associated health risks, while 38% are most put off by the additional out-of-pocket expenses of coming into the office such as public transportation, gas, and tolls.

According to Indeed’s external survey of workers, 32% of employees say they want a hybrid schedule that requires them to commute to the office only two or three times a week, while 17% only want to physically be in the office a couple times a month.

Twenty-eight percent of employees want to work at the office full-time, while 23% would prefer to work from home on a permanent basis. Four in 10 Americans, who have been working from home at least once a week, would quit their jobs if they were required to work at the office full-time, according to a July report. Another survey found that 65% of workers would accept a 5% pay cut if it allowed them to continue to work from home permanently.

Wolfe says many workers have become less willing to give up the flexibility they have working from home.

“I like the fact that I can have coffee with my husband and dinner with my husband, and this has become part of my workday now,” said Wolfe. “As long as…I’m getting my work done, do I really need to physically be back, go to that old paradigm of being in an office to get work done or be viewed as productive? And I think the answer we’ve all learned through the last 17 months for many of us is no.”

Frustration with vaccine rollout

President Biden and many local officials have expressed frustration with the vaccine rollout in the U.S. and implemented stricter measures such as mandating vaccines, obligatory masking, and frequent testing requirements for government workers.

Taking its cues from government officials, corporate America is also tightening its COVID restrictions. Disney, for instance, said Friday it’s requiring vaccination proof from salaried and non-union hourly workers at its company sites.

“Employees who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return,” Disney said.

Other companies such as Tyson Foods, Ford, Walmart, Google, Citigroup, and Facebook have added additional mask or vaccine requirements.

Wolfe cited the slow vaccine rollout in foreign countries as one of the main reasons why Indeed extended its work from home policy.

“We wanted to give some runway there. We wanted to allow folks in countries that work for us where vaccine rollout isn’t as robust as it is in the U.S. to have an opportunity to get it,” he said. Indeed has 11,000 employees worldwide in 14 countries including India, Mexico, and Brazil.

Potential progress on a COVID vaccine for kids is another reason Indeed’s return date was pushed back. Top infectious disease expert Dr. Fauci has said that a vaccine for children as young as 4 could be available in a couple months.

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