Omicron Variant

Banks, Tech Firms Delay Office Return Due To Omicron Variant

GLOBAL – The Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization (WHO) said is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is infecting vaccinated people, is derailing the plans of financial companies and tech firms to allow more staff to return to the office, reported Fortune magazine on Tuesday morning (21 December, SGT).

Last week, Goldman Sachs informed its employees in London to work from home (WFH) if they can. Notably, the United Kingdom has been particularly affected by the Omicron variant. The global investment bank hosted holiday office gatherings in the past few weeks, but it cancelled its remaining in-person celebrations last week in New York due to fears over COVID-19. Still, Goldman Sachs is reportedly permitting smaller teams to gather for parties.

Citigroup told its staff in New Jersey and New York last week to telecommute again during the holidays. “This is not a mandate, and our offices remain open to ensure critical business operations,” a representative told Fortune on Monday.

As for Apple, its Chief Executive Tim Cook distributed a memo last week informing workers that the resurgence in COVID-19 cases and concerns over the new Omicron variant will delay the tech giant’s initially planned return-to-office on 1 February 2021 to a yet to be determined date.

This is the latest of many setbacks for Apple’s return-to-office plans, which were originally scheduled in June 2020. In addition, Cook stated in the memo that every staff, including those working on Apple stores, will get a US$1,000 bonus to be utilised for their WFH requirements. Last week, Apple closed 3 stores in Canada and the United States because of heightened COVID-19 cases.

Similarly, search giant Google has delayed its plans to allow workers across the globe to return to the office on 10 January 2022, but it has not announced a new return-to-office date. In an email dated 2 December 2021, Matt Brittin, Google’s President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), said the Omicron variant and fresh travel curbs have resulted in “global uncertainty”.

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