The Delta variant is now affecting the plans that companies had to bring people back to the office. For the past year and a half, a lot of people have been working from home, at least part of the time. And a lot of companies had hoped to get everyone back into the office this fall.
Now, the variant is throwing a wrench in things and major corporations like Google and Uber are pushing back their dates for employees to return full-time.
A recent survey from the University of Chicago shows that a lot of people don't even want to go back to work. Four in 10 Americans who currently work from home at least one day a week say they would actually find a new job if they were required to go back to the office full-time.
The same survey says that's pushing employers to rethink having an office at all. Plans to keep employees at home, even after the pandemic, have increased 23% in the past year.
NBC Connecticut spoke with Dan Schwartz from the Connecticut Employment Law Blog and partner at Shipman & Goodwin, LLP. He writes about the variant and returning to work, showing that the pandemic really has changed the future of the workplace.
We asked what companies have to consider when making return-to-office plans and whether or not they can force their employees to come back.
"Well, they can and the question really is more whether they should. I think employers right now really need to take stock of where they are on the vaccinations. One way to do that is to survey your employees and find out how many have been vaccinated. And then I think some will determine that they may want to mandate vaccines, and some may determine that they can live with some unvaccinated workers among them. I think it’s going to depend on the industry, their size and a lot of different factors," Schwartz said.
When asked whether or not vaccine and mask mandates will become more commonplace with companies, he said yes.
"I think this week, we've already seen the federal government start implementing some more strong suggestions of vaccines or testing protocols. We've certainly seen other companies now start implementing mandatory vaccines. Now those mandatory vaccines are still going to take into account someone’s religious beliefs or pregnancy or disability. But I think overall, companies are looking at that as a tool in their arsenal to help keep their workplaces safe. That's really, you know, predominantly what employers ought to be concerned about at this point," he said.
Over the last year and a half, so many people have been able to do their jobs just as effectively from home, but many can't.
We asked about the pros and cons of having either a completely remote or fully in-person staff, knowing what we know now.
"I think a lot of employers have realized that some employees can do their job pretty effectively, remotely. But sometimes it depends on the job and it depends on the person. I’m hearing more just this past week from employers that are considering putting the brakes on sort of rushing everyone back. I think this Delta variant has thrown some of us for a loop in thinking that we were going to have a quieter summer as we did last summer. It’s showing that employers need to be flexible. Certainly, some employers can’t wait for that," Schwartz said.
"Schools and other industries that really require some in-person contact are going to have some tough choices to make with regard to mask mandates and other ways to keep people safe. It really depends on the industry and a little bit of patience, too," he continued.