Many companies that were planning to have employees return to the office in September have pushed back their reopening dates as COVID-19's Delta variant burns through the U.S. And as the pandemic-related office closures stretch to almost two years, some executives are concerned that their workforces are nearing a point of no return to the office, The Wall Street Journal reports.
"Many employees developed new routines during the pandemic, swapping commuting for exercise or blocking hours for uninterrupted work," the Journal reports. "Surveys have shown that enthusiasm for remote work has only increased as the pandemic has stretched on." In a June 2020 survey of workers across they U.S. by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 73 percent said they considered working from home a success, and that share rose to 83 percent in PwC's January update. On Thursday, PwC reported that 41 percent of workers would like to stay fully remote, up from 29 percent in the January survey.
Companies have different levels of comfort with the idea of workers staying remote. "If you have a little blip, people go back to the old way. Well, this ain't a blip," Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger told the Journal, approvingly. "There is no going back." Prudential Financial's vice chairman Rob Falzon said his "single greatest concern" around shifting to remote work is that "as individuals disassociate themselves with their organizations from a cultural standpoint, it becomes increasingly easy for them to make decisions to leave and go elsewhere."
Other companies are trying to ease workers back into the idea of showering, getting dressed, commuting to the office, and spending the day around non-familial people again, whenever it is deemed safe. Graciela Gomez Cowger, CEO of the Portland law firm Schwabe, Williamson, & Wyatt, said she is trying to help her employees remember that "it takes longer" to get ready for work than they might remember, and they're "out of practice. Just putting on a good shirt and getting dressed is a thing."