Most Back-to-Office Plans Haven’t Changed For Now

Many tech companies announce delays According to weeks-long surveys by Morning Consult, looking back at their office return dates in the face of the contagious Delta variant, it seems that most companies’ plans have yet to change.

Every week for three weeks, Morning Consult asked a panel of 1,000 nationally representative adult American workers whether their employer plans to return them to the workplace full-time or part-time. The first survey started on July 16 and ended last Thursday.

The latter found that most workers were already in the office. Eight percent of employees said their company has adopted a permanent work-from-home policy. 7 percent said their company has not yet announced a policy.

Among the remaining workers—people who work from home but plan to return part-time or full-time—19 percent said they would return by September.

Only 2 percent of respondents said their return to duty date is in October. The number of those who specified a return date was rounded to zero in November and December. And only 1 percent said it was in 2022.

“September is still a starting point for workers returning to work,” said John Leer, economist at Morning Consult. “The concerns we’re seeing have not yet been reflected in the wider study area.”

The survey failed to break down workers by industry, but it does include information on education. Dividing the survey by education shows that as the level of education increases, the share of office workers drops significantly. But even among workers with a master’s degree, turnaround dates are still concentrated in August and September.

These results reflect the company’s policies as far as employees know, but do not reveal what company leaders think. That distinction is important, according to Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University who has been closely examining return-to-work plans. “If I was CEO and wasn’t sure about the return of Labor Day, I would have kept the cards in my chest for maybe a week or so to see how things would turn out,” he said.

This is because it is costly to change company policy on the return-to-office date, and even more so if the return-to-office is too early.

Designing a return-to-office policy is difficult. Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley said it requires managers to monitor the development of the virus, monitor the attitudes of their employees, and resolve tough legal and personnel issues related to the virus.

“Which companies grapple with the question: Do you mandate vaccines? Is it legal? If you are authorizing, how will you do it? If you don’t, how are you going to make everyone feel psychologically and physically safe?” Professor Neeley said.

For Professor Bloom, technology is the barometer of where office work will go: “As with all work from home in this pandemic, technology led first. They went hybrid first, first delayed the return to the office last year, made vaccinations mandatory first this year, and possibly They postponed the first return until next year.”

But not every company can afford the same flexibility that tech companies have. For some, procrastination may be more costly.

Kathryn Wylde, head of Partnership for New York City and speaking to more than 30 companies with offices in New York, said that at the moment, everyone is trying to figure out what works for them individually. “It’s a mess,” he said. “Everybody makes their own decisions. And I think everybody struggles.”

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