As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., a growing number of major employers are pausing plans to bring workers back to the office.
On Wednesday, Apple told employees that it would again delay a return to the office amid growing concerns about rising cases of COVID-19, according to multiple news reports. The tech giant had previously planned for employees to head back to their offices on a hybrid basis in February. Apple will also temporarily close three retail stores (in Miami, Annapolis and Ottawa) amid an uptick in cases.
The company will give employees —both corporate and retail — a $1,000 bonus that can be used for home office needs. Other companies, including Shopify, Twitter, Facebook and Google, also offered employees work-from-home stipends when they went remote in the early days of the pandemic.
Apple is the latest major company to adjust its plans to account for new coronavirus concerns. Earlier this month, Google announced that its employees would no longer be required to work from the office at the beginning of January. The next week, auto giant Ford announced it would push back its return to office from January to March for 30,000 office workers. Facebook parent Meta followed by unveiling a program that would let employees defer their January in-person office return by up to five months.
Ridesharing services Uber and Lyft have also pushed back their return plans. Lyft workers won’t be required to come back until 2023, while Uber announced an indefinite delay.
Investment firm Fidelity paused several return-to-office pilot programs last week, and more recently Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman told CNBC his earlier belief that workers should be back in offices by now was wrong. “I think we’ll still be in it through most of next year,” he said. “Everybody’s still finding their way.”
While many employees welcome the idea of working from home, it's not for everyone, and there are some real costs associated with it. Heating bills are supposed to be extra high this winter, and people who are home all day will probably keep their thermometers higher than they would if the place was empty.
On the other hand, remote workers save on commuting costs, and gas is much more expensive compared to a year ago. What's more, in some situations, driving significantly less could even help you save on your car insurance.