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A Quarter of U.S. Companies Have Delayed Their Return to Office Plans Amid Omicron Concerns

For many companies, the return to office is far from an imminent reality.

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, as the Omicron variant spreads across the country. As each day goes by, more events and gatherings are being cancelled in the name of safety.

On the corporate side, many companies such as Lyft, Uber, Apple, and Ford have already communicated delays for their plans to mandate a return to office this winter.

These companies are not alone. According to a recent Gartner survey, which polled over 200 executive leaders across multiple industries, 22% of company leaders have delayed their return to office. 17% said they had decreased the number of people coming into the offices, and 34% said they had not made a decision regarding the return.

Just last week, Nike’s chief human resources officer Monique Matheson said in a memo that that employees will no longer be required to return to Nike’s U.S. offices on its previously announced date of Jan. 10, 2022 due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and the latest Omicron variant.

“Experts are predicting case levels to surge in the coming weeks, which coincides with our planned return to our workplaces,” the memo read

In addition to details regarding the return to the office, almost half of the respondents in the Gartner survey said they are implementing a vaccine mandate for employees.

In the retail sector, some companies such as Nike and Under Armour have laid out company vaccine mandates, but only one company — TJX Companies — has made a public update to include the booster shot in the mandate.

Meanwhile, some companies are leaning into a hybrid office model for the foreseeable future.

Johnston & Murphy president Danny Ewoldsen told FN that the footwear brand is navigating a “new reality of hybrid office arrangements” as it looks to retain talent and preserve the company culture.

Puma North America is also taking a hybrid approach. The region’s president Bob Philion said that a hybrid model allows Puma employees to have crucial in-person collaboration as well as much-needed flexibility. The company opened its new North American headquarters in Somerville, Mass. earlier this year.

“For us, our newly-implemented hybrid approach really maximizes our employees’ time, allowing them to maintain a good work-life balance, while sparking creativity through what I like to call ’15-minute collisions’ in the office,” Philion told FN. “These informal run-ins have been hugely instrumental to our business, and I’ve been reminded that the value of in-person collaboration cannot be understated. At the same time, flexibility has never been more important and has been infused into our culture like never before and in a way that I believe is here to stay.”

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