Business

Companies Push Back Office Reopenings

Commercial Real Estate Poised For Space Shift

Employers that had planned to reopen their offices after Labor Day to coincide with what was expected to be a receding coronavirus are having second thoughts.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported as COVID-19 cases rose in many states during the summer and some school districts said they will provide remote learning for at least some of the time, some employers ditched plans to bring office workers back.

“I always say my crystal ball is not good enough,” Brett Rehm, vice president of Epic Systems, a Wisconsin medical software maker, told WSJ. “It is good to have future plans, but you have to pay attention on a daily basis to what is going on.”

A survey released this month revealed the rise in COVID-19 cases has altered return to work plans. The poll of 15 large employers that have 4 million employees, including Lowe’s, Boeing and Salesforce.com, revealed 57 percent of respondents put plans to bring employees back to work on hold in response to the dramatic rise in cases. The poll was conducted by the Pacific Business Group on Health, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve healthcare and lower costs across the U.S. health system.

Another 43 percent of firms said they are enhancing safety measures to ensure a safe return.

WSJ reported Dave Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos, sent an email to its more than 12,000 employees telling them the return to the office date has been pushed back to Jan. 28, instead of Sept. 8.

“People were dreading the fall,” Almeda told WSJ as employees reported their children's school plans were still unknown or set for remote instruction.

In Almeda’s survey of staff, 93 percent said they are just as productive at home as they are in the office, he said.

For companies that are worried about lawsuits from employees who contract the disease, Rae Vann, a partner with Carlton Fields, a Tampa, Florida, law firm, told WSJ the risk of COVID-19 litigation is a concern but not significantly much more than other major workplace litigation risks.

When a vaccine becomes available, Vann said, employers will face the question of whether to require workers get vaccinated.

“Not everyone who gets the influenza vaccine is immune to the flu, so you want to be sure whatever mandate you’re putting into place will achieve the result that’s intended without creating a host of other issues, like employees being demoralized or feeling they have no choice,” Vann told WSJ.

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