Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Businesses rethink reopening plans amid new COVID variant

The recent resurgence of the coronavirus has forced a number of companies to rethink their reopening plans, The Wall Street Journal reports. Many businesses, including Wells Fargo, that had September as a target return date are pushing it back to October at the earliest. Others, such as Amazon and Lyft, are delaying their office reopening to 2022. Dell Technologies postponed its fall return in the U.S. without a reopen date.

“We expect this trend to continue for the next several months,” Dell Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke said in memo to employees. “When we have line of sight to new reopening dates, we’ll communicate to you with plenty of time to plan.”

The predicted office return delays are inconvenient for many businesses and employees. Office workers who prefer the hybrid model looked forward to some in-person interaction with their colleagues, The Wall Street Journal reports. Meanwhile, employers have expressed concern about their workers’ mental health as well as how to keep them motivated as remote work continues.

New COVID variant impacts more than office CRE

As businesses rethink when to have employees come back to the office, events are being rescheduled or outright canceled, according to The Wall Street Journal. The upcoming New York auto show was canceled, as Nashville’s 3686 Festival, which attracts start founders and investors.

“We look forward to connecting again in person in 2022,” organizers said in a note to attendees.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival delayed its mid-October event to spring. Anschutz Entertainment Group’s AEG Presents also said its annual festival will return to its standard springtime occurrence next year.

Canceled or postpone events just don’t impact organizers and attendees, but the nearby hospitality venues as well. These events create a lot of business for hotels in the area, as well as restaurants, bars and retail shops. Any additional revenue these CRE properties were counting on vanishes until the event can be rescheduled.

Not all companies are quick to shift their plans, however. UKG, an HR and workforce management software company, still plans to have its internal sales kickoff, with thousands of employees, in October, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company’s other two conferences that are scheduled for November and December in Las Vegas attract approximately 5,000 customers each. UKG, Inc. CEO Aron Ain said the company will evaluate as the dates get closer. The executive told employees in a video message that the company plans to delay the next stage of its voluntary office reopening, which was schedule for this month for vaccinated workers.

“We had plans all set a week ago, and we’ve adjusted those just in the past week again, but what are we supposed to do? It is what it is; it’s out of my control,” Ain said in an interview.

Businesses look to reopen safely

Companies that are moving ahead with their return to office plans are doing so with some caution. Bank of America is requiring employees to wear masks when they are away from their desks and are in common areas. JPMorgan informed employees that it was maintaining its return-to-office timeline, but reinstating a mask mandate for U.S. workers.

Other execs are contacting medical consultants on how to best move forward. Roslyn Stone, CEO of Zero Hour Health, a health advisory firm, recommended businesses restart any disbanded COVID-19 task forces. Stone also asked restaurants what they did with the plexiglass dividers they might have taken down and encouraged them to resume daily wellness checks, according to The Wall Street Journal. She also recommended restaurants take inventory of the personal protective equipment they have in stock.

When large company executives asked Stone about how to safely have big, in-person company meetings again in the fall, she admitted she didn’t have an answer.

“The hot question two weeks ago was to, ‘Help us develop a plan to reduce our risk,’” Stone told The Wall Street Journal. “(The conversation now) is ‘When do you think we might be able to reschedule it?’ I wish I knew the answer to that question.”

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

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