With the highly contagious Delta variant still spreading, many employers are slowing down their return-to-office plans. A survey completed by the Partnership for New York City between August 9 and 20 found that only 41% of Manhattan office workers will return to their workplace by September 30, down from a projection of 62% in a similar survey done by the organization in late May. 

The return to work is much slower than expected. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Among employers that have delayed their plans (most of the companies who responded to the survey are based in Midtown and the Financial District), 42% postponed for one month or less, 18% for two to three months, 10% for three months or more, and 28% are evaluating on an ongoing basis. 76% of office workers are expected to be back in the office by the end of January 2022. 

About 23% of Manhattan office employees have returned to the workplace as of late August, up from 12% in late May. Of those, the vast majority are working in a hybrid model that includes some days of remote work each week. About 58% of firms that disclosed their vaccination policy are requiring all employees to have shots while  37% of the companies reported not having a vaccination policy. 

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the New York Times acquired an email memo from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reopening task force that directs all city employees to be back for in-person work by September 13. The city employs more than 300,000 workers. 

De Blasio first pushed to have 80,000 municipal workers return to their offices on May 3. At that time, he limited building occupancy to 50% so employees were on a hybrid schedule. Wednesday’s email said that, from this point on, “telework will only be allowed in limited circumstances.” All employees will have to be vaccinated or face weekly Coronavirus tests. 

“As the city finishes its return to office process, the mayor’s message remains the same: We know how to make workplaces safe, and public servants can deliver more for New Yorkers when they’re working together,” said Mitch Schwartz, a spokesman for the mayor. “City workers will have all the resources they need to complete this final step safely. There’s no time to waste in building a recovery for all of us.”

Employees at The New York Times have had their return to work postponed. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Employees at The New York Times were set to return to their bureaus three times a week beginning on September 7 but the company announced it will be postponing return plans indefinitely. The building will remain open for employees who choose to go in voluntarily. They will be required to show proof of vaccination.

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