Office-Return Dates

Companies Now Avoid Announcing Specific Office-Return Dates

USA – Due to repeated office-return setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are now shunning from setting specific schedules when their staff would return to their office, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday evening (12 January, SGT).

Previously, many firms across the United States announced that they would return to the office in September 2021. But those plans were delayed by the Delta variant. Then many of the same companies targeted to return to their workplace by January 2022. However, those plans were derailed by the Omicron variant, and a sense that COVID-19 is going to persist far longer than most first imagined.

The repeated postponements have perturbed owners of office buildings and small businesses, whose finances have been impacted by the weak demand in office space. According to Kastle Systems, only 28 percent of the staff working in office buildings it provides security services returned to their workplace last week across 10 major US cities. This is down from over 40 percent during the first week of December 2021.

The repeated setbacks have also promoted many business executives to avoid announcing particular office-return dates. Instead, many are implementing more nuanced workplace strategies, like recognising that COVID-19 will still be around for an unknown time.

These nuanced workplace plans, which are still being formulated by many firms, would mean calibrating the usage of brick-and-mortar workspace depending on need and health conditions. For instance, rather than specifying an office-wide return date, businesses are working on systems that would differ the number of staff reporting to offices based on the COVID infection rates, said HR executives.

HR leaders also revealed that some companies are working on strategies that will base office returns on the requirements of specific groups. For example, managers would ask staff who are part of the sales or marketing department to gather in the office to collaborate, and then eventually return to mainly working from home (WFH).

The decision by firms to avoid specifying a particular office-return means more bad news for office landlords, because this is expected to extend the length of time that employees work from home.

“The longer people have worked remotely, the harder it will be to get them back to the office,” added Kathryn Wylde, CEO of business group, Partnership for New York City.

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