Most Return-to-Workplace Plans Unchanged, for Now

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Even though many technology companies are announcing delays in their return dates given the delta option, according to a multi-week survey by Morning Consult, the plans of most companies appear to have not yet changed.

For three weeks, Morning Consult asked a representative panel of 1,000 American adult workers nationwide when their employer planned to return them to work either full-time or part-time. The first poll started on July 16 and ended last Thursday.

The youngest found that most of the workers were already in the office. Eight percent of workers said their companies have implemented a permanent home office policy. And 7 percent said their companies hadn’t announced a directive yet.

Of the remaining workers – people who work from home but plan to return at some point, either part-time or full-time – 19 percent said they would be back by September.

Only 2 percent of those surveyed said that they would return home in October. The number of people who reported their return date approached zero in November and December. And only 1 percent said it was 2022.

“September is still a starting point for workers to go back to work,” said John Leer, an economist at Morning Consult. “The fears we are seeing have not yet leaked to the wider workplace.”

The survey was unable to break down workers by industry, but it does contain information on education. The breakdown of the survey by education shows that the proportion of employees in the office decreases significantly as the level of education rises. But even for employees with a university degree, the return dates are still concentrated in August and September.

These results reflect company policy as far as workers are aware, but do not reflect the opinion of company leaders. That distinction is important, says Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who studies plans to return to the office. “If I were the CEO and wasn’t sure Labor Day was coming back, I might hold the cards close to my chest for a week or so to see how things go,” he said.

That’s because it is costly to change company policies on a return date, and it is even more costly if it turns out to be too early to return to the office.

It is difficult to develop a return to office policy. Executives need to watch the virus evolve, monitor employee attitudes, and resolve delicate legal and human issues related to the virus, said Tsedal Neeley, a Harvard Business School professor who studies remote work.

“Companies are concerned with the question: Do you make vaccines mandatory? Is it legal When you hire it, how do you do it? If you don’t, how can you make sure everyone feels mentally and physically safe? ”Said Professor Neeley.

For Professor Bloom, technology is the barometer of where office work is going: “As with everything related to working from home in this pandemic, technology has come first. They were the first to switch to hybrid, the first to delay returning to office last year, the first to mandate vaccines this year, and likely the first to delay returning to next year.

But not every company can afford the flexibility that technology companies enjoy. To some, procrastinating can feel more costly.

Kathryn Wylde, president of the New York City partnership and has spoken to over 30 companies with offices in New York, said that right now, they’re all just figuring out what works for them individually. “It’s a mess,” she said. “Everyone makes their own decisions. And I think everyone has problems. “