The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the office routines of millions of Americans, and many office workers don’t yet know when they will return to their buildings.
The answer to “When do I need to report back to the office?” is significant, because it can dramatically change a person’s plans. Knowing when you need to go back to an office impacts commuting, childcare duties, budget and even housing or moving plans.
Forty-five percent of organizations have not announced a date employees will return to worksites, according to a May survey of more than 1,000 members of the Society of Human Resource Management.
When employees have been given a timeline for returning to work, answers vary on what that ideal time should be. Of companies with a set return date, 39% are planning a phased strategy in which only critical teams go back first.
Whether or not a clear plan has been set, it’s critical for companies to be responsive to employees’ concerns around returning to the office.
“Frequent and transparent communication to employees is key,” said Jessica Methot, an associate professor of human resource management at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. “Rather than drafting a multitude of email communications that get lost in the shuffle and that overwhelm employees with information, companies can create virtual dashboards with up-to-date guidelines, plans for returning to the office and information tailored to each role in the organization for details.”
See how your company compares to when those in various industries are telling staff they should report back to an office:
Some are using the summer to slowly recall employees.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in June that “thousands of employees have returned to facilities in seven states, and four more states and Puerto Rico will reopen on June 29. The IRS continues to focus on nonportable work and will reopen facilities in remaining states on July 13.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s reopening procedure started June 15, permitting 25% occupancy of buildings and “social distancing protocols of at least 6 feet,” according to internal documents obtained by CNN.
Goldman Sachs confirmed to HuffPost that a small number of employees reported back to offices in New York, Jersey City, Dallas and Salt Lake City beginning Monday, June 22; Morgan Stanley employees’ return to U.S. offices will be sometime after the the July 4 weekend.
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat told Bloomberg in an interview in late May that he hopes to return about 5% of staff to Citigroup’s main building in Manhattan in July or August.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post that starting July 6, “assuming external conditions allow, we’ll start to open more buildings in more cities,” but did not specify which. “This will give Googlers who need to come back to the office—or, capacity permitting, who want to come back—the opportunity to return.”
Accounting firm KPMG told HuffPost that none of its 100-plus offices in the U.S. will open earlier than mid-July. When offices do reopen, “re-entry will be slow and staged,” a KPMG spokesperson said. “Our expectation is that, for the near future, most of our people will continue working from home.“
Some are planning to go back in fall — or waiting until then to decide.
Verizon Media, HuffPost’s parent company, said that U.S. employees will be working from home through at least September. “As of now, most of Verizon Media’s employees in the U.S. will remain in a work from home situation through the end of September. We are currently assessing what we will do after that time, and expect to have a decision about what will happen after September 30th,” a Verizon Media spokesperson said.
The professional services firm PWC told HuffPost that for its U.S. offices, “We have determined that we will not open our offices until after Labor Day, and we may choose to push that date back based on the available data and recommendations coming from the CDC.”
A majority of colleges and universities are still planning to reopen campuses for in-person learning in the fall. Out of 1,030 colleges tracked by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 64% said they are planning for in-person courses in the fall, including the University System of Georgia, the University of Arizona and Ohio University.
Sixteen percent of colleges, including the University of Florida and the University of Texas at Austin, said they were proposing a mix of online and in-person classes.
Amazon said employees in roles that allow them to work effectively from home “are welcome to do so until at least October 2.“ (The company has been criticized for forcing its warehouse workers to do their jobs in crowded, unsafe conditions.)
Others plan to work remotely until at least next year, and a select few are making remote work permanent.
Some organizations are holding out until 2021 to make decisions about recalling the majority of staff. About one-third of businesses in the SHRM survey said they would allow employees to work from home through the rest of 2020.
The New York Times said that “no employee will be required to return before January if they do not feel comfortable doing so,” according to an email sent to staff.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that anyone who can work from home is welcome to do so at least through 2020,” and that in 10 years, he expects 50% of his company’s workforce to be remote.
CNN President Jeff Zucker told staff in a late May memo, “We expect that the majority of you will not be able to return to our offices this calendar year.”
Richard Barton, CEO of real estate listings platform Zillow, said in April that staff can work from anywhere through the end of 2020. “My personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months,” he said in a tweet.
Beyond just this year, some companies are using the coronavirus pandemic to make their company remote-first for good:
Slack said it is extending its office reopening date beyond September and does not have a date for when offices will reopen for limited use. In the meantime, most of its employees can now work from home permanently.
Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke said offices will be closed until 2021 and after that, most employees will be remote in a permanent capacity.
Twitter announced in May that most employees can now work from home forever.