Amazon Puts Off Office Reopening to January

Amazon staff must wait a bit longer to return to the office, after plans to fully reopen in September got a rain check to early next year on Thursday.

According to the e-commerce company, it now aims to call back corporate employees in the U.S. and other countries beginning Jan. 3. The move makes it the latest tech company to shift plans, as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues its global sweep and driving worldwide infections beyond 200 million cases.

The emergence of Delta and resurgent cases have prompted many large tech companies and others to reconsider their plans, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Uber, Lyft, The Walt Disney Co., Walmart, Target and Tyson Foods, to name a few, across corporate or applicable retail environments.

The approaches involve mandating vaccines, postponing return-to-office plans, requiring store employees to wear masks in peak infection areas or some combination of these.

Notably, Amazon won’t require proof of vaccination for onsite office workers, unlike Big Tech peers such as Google and Facebook. It’s not alone: A recent Gartner survey revealed that, while most firms encourage the inoculation, the majority do not yet mandate them. However, it notes that planned third-quarter office reopenings dropped by more than half between late April to July 28.

Twenty-three percent of the companies polled in July said the COVID-19 variants triggered delays in their reopening plans, while an equal number told Gartner that they didn’t. Thirty percent were undecided about their reopening plans.

Although Amazon hasn’t demanded that its corporate personnel get the jab, it does mandate masks for the unvaccinated. And its long-term plans seem a bit clouded. In March, the company seemed committed to restoring an “office-centric culture as our baseline,” but then pursued a hybrid model in June that would allow employees to work from home three days per week.

Meanwhile, as Google aims to extend its vaccine drives to more regions, Amazon is apparently leaving warehouse workers to their own devices to source COVID-19 tests. In July, the company said it was ending the on-site testing program, though changes in health guidance could prompt a reversal.

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