Employers Delaying Office Return Plans Over Delta Variant: Survey

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Just under half, or 49 percent, of corporate real estate professionals said their companies are delaying a return to the office over fears of the delta variant, a more contagious strain of the coronavirus, according to a new survey from CoreNet Global.

But for those coming back to the office, more employers are taking extra precautions, like mask mandates. The survey, which polled more than 200 corporate real estate professionals and service providers for large corporations, found that 63 percent of respondents said their companies are requiring masks, even among vaccinated employees, in the workplace. 

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Regardless of their companies’ requirements, CoreNet found that 65 percent of respondents were personally wearing a mask indoors — slightly more than are required to do so by their employers.

The survey follows multiple big names in tech, finance and banking pushing back their plans to get employees back to in-person work. Amazon, Apple, Google, Lyft, NBCUniversal and Capital One Financial Corp. have all moved their dates of when they expect their employees to log-off of Zoom and return to the office. 

And, in New York City, employers anticipate that only 41 percent of their office workers will return by Sept. 30, down from the 62 percent that were expected to return after Labor Day, Crain’s New York Business reported. The delta variant is the main factor stalling companies, and several are beginning to see 2022 as the more likely time to get workers in the habit of commuting once again.

Despite pushing for mask-wearing and an increase in vaccine requirements among public-sector employees, only 30 percent of those surveyed by CoreNet said their companies will require vaccinations before they can return to work. New York state employees are required to get the vaccine or get tested weekly for the coronavirus, and all New York City Department of Education employees are required to have at least one dose of the vaccines by Sept. 27, without an option to test out.

“We think it is interesting that only 30 percent are requiring vaccinations of returning workers,” Sonali Tare, senior director of content experience at CoreNet Global, said in a statement. “It may be because of legal requirements in various jurisdictions. We expect that number to grow.”

For those that have required vaccinations, some have already doled out punishment for breaking the rules. CNN fired three unvaccinated employees who entered the media giant’s offices against the company’s vaccine requirement earlier this month. 

Related Companies and the Durst Organization have also laid down the law. Durst said employees not vaccinated by Labor Day will be terminated. Manhattan-based Related — best known for co-developing Hudson Yards — said workers must get their first shot by Aug. 31 or be fired, unless they have a medical or religious exemption

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.