Main image of article Is Omicron Forcing Tech Employers to Halt Return-to-Office Plans?

Is the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases due to the ultra-contagious Omicron variant forcing employers to readjust their return-to-office plans? 

According to Blind, which surveys anonymous technologists on a range of issues, the answer is “yes.” Some 71 percent of technologists across the country told Blind their employer had postponed the office reopening due to Omicron. The rest (29 percent) reported no changes in plans. (The total survey size was 3,167 technologists.)

“Survey responses from verified professionals at Apple, Cisco, Credit Karma, Cruise, DocuSign, eBay, Expedia, Google, Intel, Lyft, MathWorks, Microsoft, Oracle, Peloton, Pinterest, Roblox, SAP, Twilio and Uber confirmed the delayed office reopenings,” Blind added in a blog posting. “Some of them indefinitely.” 

Blind also asked technologists who’ve returned to their offices whether their employer required them to get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week. Some 31 percent of respondents said that was the case, while 69 percent reported no such testing rule at their company. The results indicate many employers may be waiting to implement President Biden’s vaccine mandate, which also gives workers the option to be tested for the coronavirus weekly,” Blind’s blog posting added. “The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing the mandate.”

Right before Omicron became a serious issue in the U.S., new survey data from LinkedIn (based on around 5,000 U.S.-based respondents) suggested that some 50 percent of employees had returned to working onsite, a slight but significant rise from 40 percent in September 2020. Meanwhile, the percentage of those working remotely on a full-time basis declined from 44 percent to 34 percent.

“What’s most striking… is how much the pandemic-influenced worksite choices of 2020 have persisted,” read LinkedIn’s blog posting accompanying the data. “That’s happened even as mass vaccinations and significantly relaxed safety protocols allow nearly all employers to imagine a full return to the worksite.”

Although Omicron may delay office re-openings for a few more weeks or months, it’s clear that a majority of technologists want to head back to their office desks for at least part of the workweek: In Dice’s Tech Sentiment Report, for example, 85 percent of technologists said they found the prospect of hybrid work anywhere from somewhat to extremely desirable. How long until many companies open up offices again?

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