HomeNewsletterCompanies considering pushing up return to office dates

Companies considering pushing up return to office dates

A number of businesses have started to rethink their reopening plans following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance announcement last week, The Wall Street Journal reports. The CDC’s new guidance says vaccinated Americans no longer have to wear masks and observe social distancing in most instances, leading companies wondering if they should move up their office return dates.

Some retailers wasted little time making the switch. Both Walmart and Costco announced they would no longer require vaccinated employees and shoppers wear masks in their stores or warehouses outside of the municipalities that will still require it. Meanwhile, Dallas-based travel technology company Sabre said the new guidance would permit it to speed up its return to the office plans in the fall. Many of its employees would still work remotely, however. A company spokesperson said the new social distancing guidelines for vaccinated people would allow the company to put more desks on certain floors than it initially planned.

Number of companies to stick with pre-announcement return plan

Salesforce.com, a tech company in California, said the CDC’s announcement would not alter its mask or social distancing plans, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company has not mandated vaccinations for its employees across the globe and plans to start inviting vaccinated workers in the U.S. to return to its offices in areas like San Francisco and Irvine, CA in groups of 100 people at a time, according to Chief People Officer Brent Hyder.

Meanwhile in New York law office partners at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas LLP were somewhat split on how to move forward after the CDC’s announcement. A couple of partners were fine with letting employees move about the office sans masks right away, but most said they weren’t ready.

“I just think it’s too abrupt to change right now,” attorney Jeffrey Schwartz told The Wall Street Journal. Schwartz added that when New York’s city and state governments adopt the new guidance, the firm might drop the mask mandate.

Indiana-based drug maker Eli Lilly plans to stay with its pre-announcement plans, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to bring back a quarter of its office staff, about 1,750 employees to its headquarters on June 1. Only vaccinated employees can return to the office then, per company CEO David Ricks. Social distancing and mask requirements will remain until July 12, however. That’s when the company will open up to more workers, but it will still keep an eye on health data, according to an Eli Lilly spokesperson.

“Recent guidance from the CDC supports our current policy and we will continue working with employees to offer flexibility based on their individual circumstances and job requirements,” a spokesman said.

CDC’s new guidance’s impact on CRE

The real estate industry is not sure if the CDC’s announcement will lead to a rapid return to offices. Some believe it’s a key step towards making people feel comfortable about going back to their office. Others feel the guidance will only matter based on what state officials require.

“Local regulations supersede the CDC, and states have been all over the place,” Adam Portnoy, chief executive of the RMR Group, which has employees in 30 office buildings around the country told The Wall Street Journal.

Portnoy’s firm is based in Newton, MA, where the state mandates no more than 50% occupancy in offices and requires mask wearing. RMR Group’s Texas and Florida tenants don’t have those restrictions, but companies there still aren’t pushing hard for employees to come back, he said.

A lot of employers are staying with their original plans to have workers come back around Labor Day. Executives aren’t moving their initial return dates out of concern of upsetting employees or disrupting plans they might have made based on their company’s pre-existing guidelines.

“Employers are walking a tightrope,” Portnoy said. “They want people back but don’t want a plan that will create attrition in the workforce.”

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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