January is shaping up to be the new September for many large US companies to recall workers to long-deserted offices as thestumbles employers eager to standardize their operations.
On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced an extension of the tech giant’s voluntary telecommuting policy from October 18 to January 10, 2022.
In an email to employees, Pichai said that although tens of thousands of Googlers are welcomed into company offices on a voluntary basis, “In many parts of the world, the pandemic continues to create disease. uncertainty”.
Given these varying conditions, Pichai said the company is extending its period of voluntary homework until January 10, 2022.
“After January 10, we will allow countries and locations to determine when to end voluntary homework based on local conditions, which vary widely from office to office,” Pichai said. “To make sure everyone has enough time to plan, you’ll have a 30-day warning before you come back to the office.”
The company employs some 135,000 people, headquartered in Mountain View, California, and satellite offices employ thousands of people in New York City and other major shopping centers.
Auto maker Ford is also delaying its return to the office. The company recently announced that some workers will continue to work remotely until at least January 2022. Ford has said it will explore hybrid arrangements – including office work – in the new year, according to the state of the virus.
“As we continue to prepare our non-site dependent team members for the transition to a hybrid work model, the state of the COVID-19 virus remains very fluid and therefore we are adjusting the start of our hybrid work regime to earlier in January. 2022, “Ford said in a statement to CBS News.” In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the virus and as conditions improve, explore opportunities for team members to return to the site for collaborate and work as a team. “
Apple has also delayed the planned return of workers to its offices until 2022 at the earliest due to the latest increase in COVID-19 cases, according to reports. The iPhone maker told employees in a memo that a return would not take place until at least January, Bloomberg reported.
“The road to recover will be winding”
This is the second time the Cupertino, Calif.-Based company has pushed back its in-person work schedule, after initially delaying a planned return in September.. CEO Tim Cook acknowledged that “the road to recovery will be winding” during a conference call this month.
According to Bloomberg, Apple employees will be alerted a month before they have to return to the office. They will need to work in the office at least three days a week, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays, Bloomberg said. Apple did not immediately respond to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment.
Apple is hardly alone. Tech companies large and small are pushing back face-to-face work, citing uncertainty as coronavirus cases rise nationwide.
Lyft, which had planned to return workers to its San Francisco headquarters next month, is now delaying their return “until we are clear,” citing uncertainty caused by the latest wave of coronavirus. The ridesharing company does not expect its nearly 5,000 company employees to return to their offices until February 2, 2022 at the earliest.
“We expect the COVID situation to remain fluid over the next few months, which will prevent us from getting a clear return date without the possibility of moving it again,” said Logan Green, CEO and co-founder of Lyft, in a post. to employees.
The company is extending the six-month work-from-home period “to provide a several-week buffer after winter break for team members to settle into their assigned offices,” according to Green.
Circle distant calendar dates
The DoorDash online food delivery platform also commits to working remotely for the remainder of the calendar year. After that, the company will switch its nearly 6,000 company employees to hybrid work starting in January 2022, with a few days spent each week at its San Francisco headquarters and other days spent working remotely. .
“We intentionally chose 2022 for our return to work plan to meet employees where they are,” a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch.
Amazon, which previously set a September 7 return date, said Thursday that technical and corporate employees are now expected to report to its U.S. offices on January 3, 2022. The e-commerce company does not require employees be vaccinated against the virus, but will require those who are not vaccinated to wear masks in the office.
Austin, TX employment website Indeed is also turning January 3 of next year on its corporate calendar for the company’s 11,000 employees to show up again in the office. Citing concerns about new variants of COVID-19, Indeed announced last week that it would delay its switch to a hybrid way of working from September 7 to early next year.
“Until yesterday, we were going to explore new ways of working – employees choosing whether they want to be on-duty, hybrid or remote, depending on their job,” said Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources recently. from Indeed. CBS MoneyWatch after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans, even those who are fully vaccinated, resume wearing masks indoors.
“This morning, we announced to employees that we are entering this new way of working from January, mainly because we have these new variants which are now the dominant strains in the United States and are much more contagious than the previous variants. “said Wolfe. noted.
Planning for the future
, the maker of a global online gaming platform, is also pushing back the return date of its offices for its more than 1,000 employees from mid-September to the new year and is now aiming for January 4, 2022 to take over the work in person.
DocuSign, a San Francisco-based tech company that allows businesses to manage electronic agreements, also doesn’t know when employees might return.
“Like most businesses since March 2020, we continue to post dates when we thought our office would open,” said Joan Burke, director of human resources at DocuSign. She said the company is currently aiming for Oct. 4 as the reopening date, noting that “it’s far enough in the future that it’s something we could plan on.”
Despite this, DocuSign says it will delay reopening its offices again if the virus requires it. “If we decide to delay the October 4 opening, I’m sure we would set a date,” Burke said.
A moving target
Safety expert Allison Wood, director of global risk consultancy Control Risks, said employers should view their return-to-work policies as evolving in tandem with the virus. Wood has been closely monitoring epidemiological indicators that suggest a delay in the return is in order.
“Companies are re-examining what measures are in place and when it makes sense to expect people to return to the office. It has to do with the Delta variant and the changes in focus andand other state and public health agencies. It’s a reason for companies to sit down and reassess their decisions and policies in place, ”said Wood.
Its clients, which include tech and manufacturing companies, are rethinking their expectations for returning workers to the office, along with risk mitigation measures such as masking, the practice of social distancing, and even the requirement to vaccines.
“The one thing that remains constant about the pandemic is that it evolves and changes, so we remind our customers that they need to maintain a certain level of flexibility and agility in how they take decisions. decisions. That’s a pretty clear example of that, ”she said, citing the rise of the Delta variant.
Risks of rupture
At the same time, employees are reassessing their plans given the incidence of breakthrough infections in people already vaccinated.
“I think we all thought six months ago that September was going to be good, but ‘Miss Delta’ was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think so. You better check it out for yourself,'” Danielle Ompad said. , professor of epidemiology at New York University.
To that end, Overstock, the online furniture retailer based in Midvale, Utah near Salt Lake City, has announced that it will not bring workers back to the office until January 2022. Overstock initially targeted Memorial Day in May as a return date for the company’s more than 1,500 employees in customer service, marketing, merchandising, finance and technology roles.
“Our original plan was to go back then, but in March we decided to wait until next year. We won’t be back until January 2022,” CEO Jonathan Johnson told CBS MoneyWatch.
“We know what working from home is like and we know what working in the office is like, but we don’t know what’s in between. I would love to learn from others when they come back, and we’ll do what they do right and we won’t do what they make mistakes about, ”Johnson added.