The return to office work is often pushed back again

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January has become the new Labor Day. In other words, more and more US companies are postponing their return-to-the-office plan until January 2022.

We’re talking about Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Lyft. These are top-class, future-oriented companies. Many other companies working outside of their offices will do the same. (This is Google’s too Third Return to the office destination.)

The big return was supposed to be after Labor Day this year. Back in the summer, when vaccines were being injected one arm at a time and the number of Covid cases was falling, this month looked like a great opportunity to get back to normal – or at least as much of the pre-Covid normality is possible.

How the pandemic changed work

78% of workers under 40 say the pandemic has made them wonder what kind of job or career they want to do.

69% of those who don’t work remotely say they’ve considered moving to a job they can do remotely.

The top three job and job-related searches during the pandemic are: 1) Well paid jobs, 2) What jobs are hired at age 14, 3) The best jobs to work from home.

Search for jobs that young people hire has increased 192%. Search for high paying jobs has increased 120%. Searches for jobs done remotely are up 114%.

74% of young workers say they would get a job for $ 15 an hour; 47% say they would get a job for $ 7.25 an hour.

Source: Elements Global Services


Summer would be over and the kids would be back to school. It seemed like a good time to call. And this wasn’t just any old holiday; It was the day we party Manpower. What a great opportunity to show that the pandemic has receded and we can get back to work.

Except, of course, that the pandemic hasn’t receded. The Delta variant emerged, and so did people known as “vaccine-hesitant”. The number of cases has risen again, and in some places it is almost as bad as the worst days before the vaccination. This time around, however, few cities or states have called for factory closures or home stays because, quite frankly, they were politically unpopular even in the blue states.

But hospitals and intensive care units were full, sometimes overcrowded. Some states are now even rationing healthcare; Hospitals in Idaho and Alaska are implementing so-called “crisis care standards”. It’s basically like triage conditions on a battlefield; the most needy go to the doctor and others are simply given pain relievers. And of course not the many elective surgeries that have been postponed by hospitals dealing with COVID patients. This type of “rationing” has been around for months.

So the new destination is January. It would be another clear break in the calendar, a good time to share the past of Zoom meetings and working from home into the Dilbert-like cubicles and staff meetings that used to define work. Except that it can’t even be guaranteed.

All of this initially assumes that COVID-19 cases will continue to decline and reach manageable levels. Some experts think this is likely and that the current peak may have already passed. Others say not so fast, that won’t be over until it’s over.

There are many unvaccinated Americans – three in ten of all adults – who could still be infected with the Delta variant of the virus. There is also a mu variant of the virus that is showing up in a few places around the world. Will it infect even more people than the Delta variant or does it not matter much? Even the experts are divided; all we can do is wait and see.

The second factor in all of this is that many people who work from home do not want to return to the office. They are well used to the previously weird concept of staying in their apartment all day working on a laptop in a guest room. You don’t have to put on office clothes or gasoline in the car. You don’t have to pack lunch, which is usually unsatisfactory, or go out to eat while you work, which is costly.

Some of them want to work from home for the rest of their careers. Some are content with a hybrid system – a few days in the office and a few in the house or apartment. Some companies can work from home in whole or in part, others not so much.

So, like much of the pandemic, we’ll wait and see. We’re making plans – in this case, going back to the office in January – but the virus could change those plans. At some point it will all end, but we are already looking into a third year of this strange challenge and there is no telling how long the virus will last until 2022 – and possibly beyond.

But one thing is clear. Millions of workers and thousands of businesses will never go back to the old five-day-week routine in the downtown office building. This is a major revolution for the US workforce since women entered the labor market in large numbers in the 1970s, and it will bring profound changes in office practices and in society at large.

The world of work will be very different for your children in ways we see now and in ways we cannot predict. Fasten your seat belts; it can be a bumpy ride.

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