Companies Delay Reopenings Due to Rising COVID-19 Cases
Ford, Uber, Google Push Back Reopening Dates
A handful of companies including Ford (F), Uber (UBER), Lyft (LYFT), and Google (GOOGL) are either changing or delaying their return-to-office plans as COVID-19 cases rise. Companies initially targeted a January return but Omicron is changing that timeline. Landlords and the small businesses that support and rely on these office workers are now worrying a return to normalcy could be pushed out beyond next month.
That would be a major blow to commercial real estate landlords who have struggled with vacancies and uncertainty since the outset of the pandemic. It has also meant less traffic for the businesses supporting these office buildings. Nearby restaurants, bars, and businesses have struggled for nearly two years as a result of the pandemic.
Delayed Openings Could Drive More Vacancies
Another delayed return to the office could prompt more employers to consider or implement a long-term remote work strategy. Currently, under 50% of workers in US cities have returned to the office.
Meta Platforms (FB) is one example. It’s planning to open its US office at the end of January, but it also has a new program which lets workers stay home until June.
Elsewhere, Hartford Financial Services had planned to fly senior managers to its headquarters in mid-December but is now pushing that back to mid-January. Wells Fargo (WFC) plans to open next month, sticking to its previous plan despite rising cases of COVID-19. Other companies are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Reasons to be Optimistic
Despite rising COVID-19 cases, there are reasons for landlords and small businesses to be optimistic about 2022. For starters, more people are getting vaccinated. In the US, roughly 82% of people 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In major cities such as New York and San Francisco, the rate is even higher. Earlier this year when the Delta variant slowed down reopenings, 62% of people were vaccinated.
Even with pandemic cases rising, the number of workers returning to the office since Thanksgiving has increased. According to security company Kastle Systems, just over 40% of workers in 10 major cities are back in the office, marking a record level since the pandemic struck the US.
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