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Omicron variant may delay return to in-person work

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Abby Butler


Nations around the world are trying to keep the new omicron variant at bay. Among other strategies, officials recommend following established best practices, including measures to reduce density in certain spaces.

Bradford S. Bell

Professor in strategic human resources and director of ILR’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies

Bradford S. Bell, professor in strategic human resources and director of ILR’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, says employers may walk back plans for workers to return to the office as concern over the omicron variant grows.

Bell says:

“If the omicron variant proves more contagious, more likely to lead to severe illness, or more resistant to current vaccines, I would expect that many employers will extend the timeline on their return to the office plans. They may also be more likely to restrict access to the office for those who have started to come back in, particularly if they are confident in their ability to maintain operations with a fully or largely remote workforce.

“Although some employees have been gradually filtering back into the office on a part-time basis, many companies have postponed their full-scale return to the office until early next year due to the delta variant and the overall unpredictability surrounding the situation. Even those hoping to return employees to the office early next year have hesitated to specify a return date and instead have left it more open-ended.

“Given the severe talent shortages that companies are experiencing, I would expect that most would continue hiring even if they expect a temporary disruption. If the anticipated disruption is considered more long-term, then it is possible they may adjust hiring to compensate for an expected contraction in their business. But, given the challenges companies have been facing in their efforts to staff back up, I think most will be very hesitant to lose any momentum they have been able to start building back on the hiring front.”   

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