Delta variant may prompt more companies to slow return to office

Google on Wednesday said it would push its return-to-the-office date from September to mid-October, becoming the latest large employer to delay bringing workers back. With the delta variant driving up COVID-19 cases across the country, expect more announcements like that.

"The momentum of a return to the office, at least in New York City, has really slowed," said Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO of the Partnership for NYC, which represents private businesses.

Earlier this summer, with cases at their lowest and reopenings abounding, it seemed the city was coming back. But now uncertainty over virus strains, the possible restoration of mask mandates, and a stagnant vaccination rate have caused many employers to press pause.

"We're very concerned about the state of affairs," Wylde said. "We had projected that 62% of office workers would be back in their office by the end of September. And we're now uncertain about those numbers and about the pace of recovery."


Despite all the uncertainty, Gov. Andrew Cuomo encouraged all employers to bring their workers back by the end of the summer.

"Say to your workforce, by Labor Day everyone is back in the office," he said at a press conference on Wednesday. "We need that volume to support the restaurants and the shops and the services. It's not just about your business."

Cuomo said there's a ripple effect on the city's economy as a whole. The longer office buildings sit empty, the longer more storefronts stay vacant, and the more small businesses close.


But employment attorney Kathryn Barcroft, a partner with Solomon Law Firm, said she expects many employers will err on the side of caution.

"If telecommuting is working well for employers, maybe they want to continue that through the fall and make sure that you have the right plans in place to have a safe workplace," Barcroft said. "You cannot have an unsafe workplace for people to return to."

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