Corporate executives around the United States are wrestling with how to reopen offices as the pandemic starts to loosen its grip. Businesses — and many employees — are eager to return to some kind of normal work life: going back to the office, grabbing lunch at their favorite restaurant or stopping for drinks after work.
While coronavirus cases are declining and vaccinations are rising, many companies have not committed to a time and strategy for bringing employees back. The most important variable, many executives said, is how long it will take for most workers to be vaccinated.
Another major consideration revolves around the children of employees. Companies say they can’t make firm decisions until they know when local schools will reopen for in-person learning.
Then there is a larger question: Does it make sense to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, given that people have become accustomed to the rhythms of remote work?
More than 55 percent of people surveyed by the consulting firm PwC late last year said that they would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week after the pandemic recedes. But their bosses appear to have somewhat different preferences — 68 percent of employers said that they believed employees needed to be in the office at least three days a week to maintain corporate culture.
Some companies that have begun trying to get workers back to the office — like Vivint, a home-security business based in Provo, Utah, that has more than 10,000 employees across the United States — say they are doing so on a voluntary basis.
Vivint is allowing 40 percent of its 4,000 employees in Utah to return, though only about 20 percent have chosen to do so regularly.
To accommodate social distancing, Vivint has restricted access to each building to a single entrance, where employees have their temperature taken. Signs remind employees to wear masks at all times, and the company has limited capacity in conference rooms.
Vivint also has an on-site clinic that has been offering 15-minute rapid virus tests to employees and their families.
The company hopes to use the clinic to distribute coronavirus vaccines to its workers when Utah allows it to do so.