Is Delta Variant Pushing Back the Return to Work? This Number Will Surprise You

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Courtney Dercqu156
Current Social Media Manager/Former Recruiter
May 23, 2024 at 9:27PM UTC

When the news of the new Delta variant was released, many Americans suspected another wave of business closures. And there's good reason why.

Apple, whose original return to work plan for a September was pushed back to October at the earliest. Jack Kelly, a senior contributor with Forbes, said that Apple’s decision could cause other businesses to reconsider their in-person plans. Per Kelly: “Corporate executives won’t want to be the lone holdout and expose their staff to the virus... If a bellwether, such as Apple, says that they are concerned, by virtue of their decision, it’s likely that others will follow suit.” And other companies, like Twitter and Facebook, did follow suit. 

However, a recent study conducted by Morning Consult reported in the New York Times found that this delta-induced shift isn't impacting everyone. Tech seems to stand alone in its willingness to push back return to work plans, with most workers charging back to the office this Fall despite the surge in COVID cases. The survey learned that only 7% of the companies surveyed had not announced a reopening plan as of yet. 

Of the workers who were still operating on a remote schedule, 19% of them said they’ll be returning to the office by September. According to John Leer, an economist who works at the Morning Consult, September seems to be a jumping-off point in the return to work. Another study found that 74% of still-remote employers planning on making the transition at some point this Fall. 

Factors that indicate who's returning (and who's not)

Based on an educational level only, those who have a high school diploma have already been back at work, with only a small percentage making an in-person return in the coming months. 

According to CNN Business, despite headlines to the contrary, "essential" industries saw an economic boom during the COVID-19 pandemic and brought many people into the in-person workplace, even at the height of the COVID pandemic. Take a look at box stores. Throughout 2020, Walmart added over 100,000 jobs, many of which list a high school diploma as the minimum requirement. Other chain stores like Target also saw an increase, adding over 40,000 jobs over the past year as well. Like other essential industries, big-box chain stores were unable to work from home. 

Those who have a college education ranked second in being most likely to have already returned to the office. However, a larger percentage of them are waiting for an in-person return in September. Those who possessed a professional license outside of those in the healthcare industry saw the lowest likelihood to be currently working in an in-person workplace, with many making an in-person return in September. Those who possess a  professional license also had the largest possibility of a 2022 in-person return compared to other credentials. 

So, should you continue to prepare for a return to work?

The answer: Yes. The landscape is evolving. While it’d be easy to think that such changes in the environment would mean a delay in in-person returns, the lack of response to the Delta variant is proof that you have to expect the unexpected. In fact, the very nature of the variant changing policy has proven that, too. 

For example, the CDC recently recommended that vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors, whereas big corporations like Disney just changed their mask mandate to allow vaccinated individuals to work mask-free. Inconsistency in public health and corporate policy forces workers to stay smart and get prepared for their company to make sudden announcements. Your best option is to stay informed on current trends, and have an open line of communication with your employer about where they see the company going. But, remember that what is planned for today can change tomorrow. 

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