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Major Employers Now Pushing Date For Office Returns To Summer 2021

A building at Google's Mountain View, California headquarters

With the rate of new cases of the coronavirus growing in the U.S. once again and no vaccine immediately on the horizon, businesses are beginning to give up on bringing employees back to the office this winter.

Major employers such as Microsoft, Target, Ford Motor Co. and The New York Times have announced in the past week that they wouldn't be requiring employees to return to their offices until at least July, the Times reports. Google, Uber, Slack, Airbnb and DocuSign have all pushed anticipated return-to-work dates until summer in the past few weeks.

Many of the earliest movers in this trend are tech-focused companies or have large technology departments. Blue-collar industries, such as manufacturing and logistics, have no replacement for in-person work, while some financial services are legally required to be performed in the office. Smaller companies fighting to survive have also returned to their offices at a significant level.

For companies that have the capability to allow remote work, doing so means allowing parents to remain in their jobs while performing more around-the-clock child care than they ever have before, as many schools remain in remote learning situations. Google and other companies have explicitly cited working parents as motivation for extending remote work timelines, the Times reports.

Even workers without children have been leery about returning to the office, fearing long hours in enclosed spaces with other people as a health risk. Office landlords have been working hard to raise hygiene standards at their buildings to address that perception. Nevertheless, Microsoft recently joined a growing list of tech companies that have introduced the option to work from home permanently, while the digital infrastructure to improve the experience grows, Fast Company reports.

Some researchers have projected that a wave of companies could exit leases or decline to renew if remote work remains as prevalent as it is now into next summer. While Amazon doubled down on its commitment to physical office space with $1.4B in new leases in August, the office market on the whole could take until 2025 to stabilize, according to a recent Cushman & Wakefield report.