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Return-to-Office Plans Are Turning ‘Shybrid’ With Ongoing Delays

Omicron throws another wrench in planning, while some companies have yet to even set a strategy.

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Photographer: Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress/Getty Images

A new wave of Covid uncertainty has again put millions of U.S. workers in limbo about when — or if —  they need to return to the office.

Lyft Inc. employees who were supposed to be back at their desks in February now won’t be required to show up until 2023. Ford Motor Co. pushed back a January return to date to March, while Google and Uber Technologies Inc. shelved their plans indefinitely to see how the omicron variant plays out. Jefferies Financial Group Inc. this week told its staff to go back to remote work after offices had reached 60% attendance.

The latest bout of Covid whiplash means that many white-collar Americans will be approaching two full years of remote work with no certainty about how long it will last. All the while, the chasm grows between executives who want to eventually get people back at their desks and their workers’ reluctance to comply. And while post-pandemic work models are clear for companies such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (most people should be back in the office) and Twitter Inc. (most people can be fully remote), many other firms are still formulating a strategy.

“We coined this term ‘shybrid,’” said Paul McKinlay, vice president of communications and remote working at printing company Cimpress and its unit Vista, which both opted to go with a permanent remote-first model in August 2020. “It’s the failure of companies to accept that they have, in many cases, lost the right to demand in-person attendance at a piece of real estate on any kind of regular basis. It's about continually pushing back return dates without declaring on a future model and leaving people in this limbo.”