The Omicron Variant Affects Return to Office Plans

by | Jan 11, 2022 | The Future Of Work

Several questions arise as to how the new variant of COVID-19 spreads worldwide. First, will it affect our return to office plans next year? Are we not returning to our workstations anytime soon?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this Omicron variant, also known as B.1.1.529, spreads rapidly in Africa. Experts found that it’s more deadly than other variants as it contains more than 50 mutations. It’s identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel.

This uncertainty may cause businesses to rethink their hybrid and back-to-the-office strategies. Hence, work-from-home collaboration tools and services have increased their sales and usage.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aggressively works with foreign partners and pharmaceutical companies to address any potential implications of the omicron variant.

Moreover, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new vaccination requirements for organizations with 100 or more employees.

Employers must ensure that their workforce is fully-vaccinated of either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson by January 4, 2022.

Employees who prefer not to be vaccinated must produce a negative test result weekly. Unvaccinated workers are also required to wear a mask in the workplace.

Companies in the United States were concerned and perplexed by the Omicron variant. Some leaders talked with internal teams to analyze the hazards. Others advised deferring changes to operations until more information became available.

Executives say that the new reality of corporate management is navigating to the unknowns of Covid-19. The Omicron variant will again test our safety measures and new business workflows.

As local mandates alter, such safety practices may evolve. The New York City government recommends wearing a mask indoors regardless of your vaccination status.

Furthermore, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that she was establishing a state of emergency starting December 3 to prevent the spread of the new Covid variant.

In October, new office space demand plummeted to its lowest level since the first quarter of this year. Demand has dropped 30% across the country since peaking in August.

The office market is facing new concerns over the Omicron variant. But, unfortunately, time is not on the side of office leasing. Hence, stocks of the nation’s top office REITs fell again last Tuesday.

In Europe, U.K. companies adopt new office rules in response to the Omicron variant. In addition, recent health protocols in the workplace serve as countermeasures to prevent its transmission.

According to the WHO, whether Omicron is more transmissible or severe than others is currently unknown. However, preliminary research from South Africa suggests that it’s more potent.

The Omicron will change our minimum health standards and vaccination programs for workplace safety. Are we going to return to the office soon? No one knows, but we must adapt to the new world of work changes.

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