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Do Anxious Officemates Make Case For A Delta Delay In Reopening Workplaces?

Will even vaccinated co-workers need to be on guard at the office this fall?

As the delta variant’s spread causes déjá vu among office managers, some experts advocate that companies flip the calendar back to 2020 completely and go fully remote once more. 

Indefinitely suspending a return to the office isn’t just good for safety and reducing the spread of Covid-19. The psychological well-being of employees would greatly benefit from pumping the brakes on plans to bring everyone back post-Labor Day, public health experts and academics told Quartz

There are numerous new pressures that weren’t apparent just a few months ago, when many of these plans were made: virus spread and breakthrough infections mean masking and increased risk; the return of schools and the potential for shutdowns over student infections means parents will be likely to need to work at home and return to balancing work and caregiving; and many workers will be on guard at the office, worried about being the source of transmission to the unvaccinated and immunocompromised at home. 

“A lot of people have somebody at home that they might worry about exposing,” Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, an assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, told Quartz.

Instead, employers should support more robust remote work policies, in order to support caregivers and provide flexibility to employees, and serve as a competitive advantage to recruit talent and ensure workers their safety and preferences are top of mind. The delta variant is another reminder, in short, that companies have evidence remote work can work; they just need to figure out the right balance between rigid and relaxed. 

“It’s a hard time to be rigid about demanding that people come back to the office,” Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford’s VMWare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, told Quartz.