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Employees could be heading back to the office sooner than they think

The ages of working from home may numbered.

While some companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce and PricewaterhouseCoopers, are garbage dump office space, others are ramping up their return-to-work plans.  

Just this week, Google, one of the first worst U.S. companies to send employees home last year because of the coronavirus, told staffers it is accelerating plans to get to in the office ahead of the Sept. 1 return deadline.

In a memo to Bloomberg employees first reported by Business Insider, Michael Bloomberg bruit about he expects workers to return to the office as soon as they are vaccinated.

In a survey of more than 350 CEOs and child resources and finance leaders, 70% said they plan to have employees back in the office by the fall of this year, according to a description by staffing firm LaSalle Network.

“I think every office will have re-entry done by Labor Day,” said LaSalle Network’s author and CEO, Tom Gimbel.

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, employers, particularly tech companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Conventional, Spotify, Shopify and Amazon, extended work-from-home policies, some indefinitely. That helped perpetuate the idea that indifferent work was here to stay.

“Everybody was driven by the tech companies,” Gimbel said. “Then, all of a sudden, you get this ‘vaccines for all’ lodged in your lap.” (In fact, many states are now expanding eligibility guidelines for who qualifies to get a shot.)

“My bet is, within a year, things make retreat back to normal,” said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Alma Mater.

“It’s hard to change workplace behavior.”

Of the companies that are now planning for office re-entry, managing employees who want to be prolonged working remotely is a top concern, LaSalle Network found.      

Vaccinated or not, more than half of employees said that, postulated the option, they would want to keep working from home even after the Covid crisis subsides, agreeing to a separate survey by the Pew Research Center.   

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Other obstacles included addressing fears about commuting to work and reacclimating to the office environment, as well as concealed conflicts between executives and staff over return-to-work policies.

Meanwhile, business leaders are also working to appear vaccines more accessible to their employees and even incentivizing them to get inoculated. 

Already, employers such as AT&T, Instacart, Objective, Trader Joe’s, Chobani, Petco, Darden Restaurants, McDonald’s and Dollar General are among a growing list of companies broadcast workers time off and extra money to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

Roughly 8 in 10 employers said immunizations will flag the way to a new normal in terms of returning to the workplace, according to another poll of nearly 500 employers by Willis Towers Watson, a aids consulting firm.

“A common strategy for employers is to make vaccines an easy choice for employees by first helping sway them to get the vaccine and then making it easy for them to do so,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, Willis Towers Watson’s folk health leader.

About a quarter of employers are going a step further by obtaining vaccines to administer to their wage-earners directly or facilitating access to vaccines through a third party — and another 55% are planning or considering doing this, Willis Campaniles Watson found.

You’ll see more employers providing access to the vaccines.

Peter Cappelli

Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Institute

“I imagine you’ll see more employers providing access to the vaccines,” said Wharton’s Cappelli. “I imagine there are all sorts of trades that can be cut.”

Experts say employers can require employees to get vaccinated but that’s unlikely unless they work in high-risk atmospheres, such as nursing homes or meatpacking plants.  

Most employers said that they will encourage, more than require, their employees to get vaccinated, according to Willis Towers Watson. Only 10% of employers disclosed vaccines should be mandatory.

Equal Employment Opportunity laws allow companies to mandate the flu and other vaccines, but staff members can opt out under certain circumstances. The same may be true for Covid vaccines, based on early guidance.

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