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Ford, Google delay January return-to-office dates

Cases of Omicron variant confirmed in U.S.
Cases of Omicron variant confirmed in U.S. 12:18

Ford, the second largest automaker in the U.S. on Monday announced that it will again delay bringing workers back to the office in light of concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Previously, Ford had said it would not enter its planned hybrid work model before January 2022, a date it's now moving to March given the ongoing risks that COVID-19 poses. 

"The state of [the] COVID-19 virus remains fluid, and despite the success of our ongoing safety protocols and increased vaccination rates, we are shifting the start date of the hybrid work model to March," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Select employees will be invited back to the company's offices beginning in March for a pilot phase of the hybrid work model, the spokesperson added. Remote work options will remain a key part of the company's longterm flexible work model. 

Ford's announcement comes on the heels of Google telling its workers last week that they will not be expected back in the office come January, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 causes large employers, including, industry leaders to yet again reconsider when it will be safe to convene with colleagues in physical workplaces.

In August, the technology giant announced it would require employees to return to its offices by January 10 at the earliest, subject to local conditions. In other words, that's when the company's voluntary remote work period was slated to end. 

"Beyond January 10, we will enable countries and locations to make determinations on when to end voluntary work-from-home based on local conditions, which vary greatly across our offices," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the time. "To make sure everyone has ample time to plan, you'll have a 30-day heads-up before you're expected back in the office."

But the arrival of the Omicron variant in the U.S. is concerning enough that the tech leader is again extending its work-from-home period.

The company will wait until the new year to determine when it will end its hybrid work phase based on local conditions, which are in flux, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch Friday.

Cases of Omicron variant confirmed in U.S. 12:18

Employees currently have the option to work from the office if they so choose in most locales, according to the Google spokesperson. To date, Google has reopened roughly 90% of its U.S. offices.

Small and large companies' return-to-office dates have been a moving target over the course of the pandemic, given the unpredictable course it has taken and the arrival of new, more contagious strains in the U.S.

In the summer and fall, a number of employers that had eyed September return-to-office dates moved them to 2022, at the earliest. 

In October, banking company Capital One, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, said it no longer expected workers to return to the office by November 2, an earlier slated target date for bringing back employees to the physical workplace. The bank has not yet set a firm date by which employees must be at their physical desks. 

Remote work experts say they expect other companies to follow Google's lead and circle more distant calendar dates for their official transitions to hybrid work models.

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