Back-to-Office Plans in the Midst of the Delta Variant

The Ever-evolving Future-of-Work, Vaccine Mandates, and Great Resignations


Written by HRCap, Inc.

August 26, 2021


Companies have been heavily varied in their responses to the pandemic and work arrangements.


Interestingly, tech companies had previously explored remote work, or previously called “distributed work.” In 2013, Yahoo had attempted to implement a remote work policy that was touted as a failure by many. Google had also instituted a remote work arrangement back in 2014. They found that workers were still productive, but implementing remote work posed challenges.


Companies will have to do a balancing act of protecting employee health whilst ensuring business continuity and productivity. Companies are also measured on their agility and adaptability to ongoing COVID-19 developments, and their timely response to employee feedback to prevent disengagement.


Related: The Great Resignation is here. 3 Critical Tips for long term talent retention


We have carefully assessed varying responses to the pandemic and policies around work modality at 15 highly visible giant corporations and over 300 HRCap client organizations in the United States. Interestingly, responses were varied, even among those in the same industry, such as tech or banking.

Most notably, many companies have gone from skeptics to acceptors of remote work of varying degrees due to the pandemic, but many are still faced with the following Top 3 issues.


Issue 1: Lack of Productivity & Confidentiality


In the banking industry, plans about implementing remote work were largely made according to the pandemic. The banking industry relies heavily on relationships, confidentiality, and apprenticeships; key interactions were largely done in person.


Neither JP Morgan nor Goldman Sachs had considered remote work before the pandemic. During the peak of the pandemic, they had been slow to adapt to a work from home model, having workers come into the office on a rotating basis when it was safe to do so. Now, several industry CEOs have been strongly vocal about their desire for workers return back in office.


However, the Delta variant has caused NYC COVID-19 numbers to spike, and both JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have loosened their back to office mandates. JP Morgan has announced for workers to return on September 21 after working from home for six months. Wells Fargo also announced recently that they will be delaying their back to office requirement to October 4th.


Issue 2: Barriers to Innovation & Engagement


In fact, many major tech companies were slow to go fully remote, even when the pandemic was at its highest point in 2020. Many in tech have strong feelings about innovation and in-person interactions. After all, Apple's Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying, “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions... You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”


Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, was quoted as saying back in 2020, “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new so we don’t see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models.”


Google now plans to delay office returns to October, and vaccinations will be required. Originally, Google had announced a September 1, 2021 return to office.


Issue 3: Vaccine Mandate Controversy

Illustration with graphic that has syringe indicating vaccine. Text says: 44% would consider leaving job if forced to get vaccinated. 38% would consider leaving if vaccine not mandated by employer.

Another critical issue employers face with back to office policy is the question of mandating vaccines. In a recent article by Korn Ferry, conflicting data shows that, “44% of U.S. workers said that they would consider leaving their job if forced to get vaccinations. At the same time, another 38% said they would consider leaving their current employer if the organization did not enact a vaccine mandate.”


United Airlines, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Tyson Foods, and nearly 2000 hospitals and 800 college campuses have mandated vaccination.



So, what is the newly evolving business normal and what does the future of work look like for 2022?


Here at HRCap, the pandemic has required us to be nimble, quickly shifting from a 100% onsite model to a 100% fully remote model back in March 2020. We kicked off a pandemic taskforce, digitalized our process, invested in improved hardware & software, and set additional performance management systems in place for business continuity and service excellence. Once we determined it safe to slowly return to the office, we prepared our office with social distancing and safeguard dividers at each workstation. We strictly adhere to the CDC recommendations by wearing masks in the office, sanitizing our office daily, limiting visitors, enforcing contact tracing and social distancing, and requiring testing and vaccinations to strictly protect the health and safety of our employees.


We experimented with the hybrid set up, then officially instituted a rotating team-based hybrid schedule for greater productivity, stronger collaboration, and higher employee engagement in the office. We attest to the efficacy of hybrid model, and will commit to an ongoing hybrid model as our new business normal. By strictly ensuring precaution but also adapting to the evolving future of work, we found that our teams are generally satisfied, productive, and engaged. In fact, we were evaluated, surveyed, and recognized by NJBiz.com as one of New Jersey's Best Places to Work” in 2021.


We are committed to inform our clients and candidates about new HR developments in light of the pandemic. In the next blog, we will further elaborate on the Work Modality Spectrum shared above.



Source: HRCap, Forbes, Fast Company, CNBC, NY Times, Korn Ferry, CNN, Seattle Times, VOX, Tyson Foods, CDC, NJBiz.com


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