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Omicron Delays, But Doesn't End Bay Area Companies' Return-To-Office Plans, Survey Finds

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – The omicron variant changed up many companies' timelines for when they'll find their "new normal," but didn't really change their vision of what it would look like, according to a recent survey from the Bay Area Council.

"We did see about a month or two regression due to omicron," Kelly Obranowicz of the council told KPIX 5. "The 3-day a week norm was consistent, as it has been for 10 months."

Obranowicz said the Bay Area Council has been administering a survey about companies' return-to-office plans since April of 2021.

"We send it out to employers from all nine counties in the Bay Area. It's employers of all sizes, across all industries, and we have on average 200 employers responding to the survey each month," Obranowicz explained. "This survey was launched at the beginning of January, right after everyone was seeing the surge, and what did it mean for everyone's reopening plans."

Though the omicron variant didn't really change what many employers' "new normal" will look like – a hybrid model of 2 days of remote work and 3 days of in-person work, it did delay many employers' plans to get there.

"In January, employers indicated that about 37% of their workforce was fully remote, and that was about 10% higher than we had seen in both November and December," Obranowicz said.

In previous surveys conducted before the omicron surge, many of the responding employers felt they'd be at their "new normal" by March or April of 2022. While about 25% of employers feel they're currently at their new normal, Obranowicz said around 70% feel their "new normal" is still several months away.

"Looking at January, we're not going to hit that 70%, I would say, by June at the earliest," she said.

However, the vast majority of employers do not plan to stay fully remote for good, according to survey data. Employees will be coming back, just at a different frequency than pre-pandemic.

"It might not look exactly like it did pre-pandemic, but there are still going to be people going into the workplace - hopefully with some level of consistency," Obranowicz said. "Again, that might not be until June 2022, but once we do hit that new norm, it's not going to be completely dead, a ghost town, or like no one is going into the workplace."

Jesse, who works at a Bay Area tech company, said his employer has offices open right now but there's no requirement for people to go in at the moment.

"Personally, I love it," he told KPIX 5.

He says he typically comes in 3 days a week, and really enjoys the flexibility of a hybrid in-person and remote work week.

"Being able to have the freedom and flexibility is working really, really well for me," he said.

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