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Ford, Uber, Lyft Among List Of Companies Hitting The Brakes On Return-To-Office Plans

Plans to return to the office in early 2022 are being delayed — again — as the omicron variant continues to spread, wreaking similar uncertainty to its predecessor, the delta variant, at another pivotal moment for the future of office.

Google is among several major U.S. companies to hold off on reopening its offices.

Lyft Inc., Ford Motor Co., Uber Technologies Inc. and Google are among the major U.S. companies that have postponed their reopenings, according to The Wall Street Journal. This is bad news for landlords that have taken massive hits in lost rental revenue over the past 18 months. 

Uncertainty around the variants is also impacting small businesses relying on foot traffic from nearby offices, per the WSJ. Keyless entry company Kastle Systems estimates that average office occupancy across 10 major U.S. cities was just under 40% the week ending Dec. 8, a decrease of 0.8% week-over-week. 

“January gets pushed back to February. February will get pushed back to March,” Rick Passarelli, owner of a Bobby Van’s steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan told the WSJ. “It keeps getting pushed back.”

The omicron variant was present in 31 states as of Dec. 13, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain is likely to spread more easily than the original virus, however, the CDC says it does not yet know how infectious omicron is compared to delta. 

Some companies are basing their policies on location. Fidelity Investments announced in a statement to Yahoo that its voluntary return-to-office program was halted at locations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, but going forward elsewhere.

While omicron has cast a new shadow of uncertainty on the nation's third attempt at getting Americans back to the office, many companies are pushing forward with plans to reoccupy office space in the new year. According to an opinion piece by CNN Business citing Bureau of Labor statistics, only about 1 in 10 U.S. workers are staying remote as of November.