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More than half of companies rethinking back-to-office plans amid variant uncertainty and vaccine mandates – survey

Thought you were all set to return? Yeah, about that

Cloud directory and identity management outfit JumpCloud has released a survey that extends a big, fat middle finger to proponents of a rush back to the office: 71 per cent of the UK's small and medium-sized enterprises will keep home-working a thing. Indefinitely.

Admittedly, the word "indefinitely" might strike fear into the hearts of those desiring a change of scenery, but it is an indicator of how companies are having to change their responses in light of the evolving pandemic.

JumpCloud's report draws from a relatively small sample of 502 "decision-makers" in the sector in the US and UK, but highlights the rethinking currently under way, thanks in no small way to the Delta variant of the virus.

The most visible impact is the return to the office. 52.8 per cent of respondents are reconsidering plans for a return to the cubes while 15.9 per cent have already slammed on the brakes. 30 per cent have delayed until September, 16.3 per cent to October, November "or later" accounts for 18.8 per cent, while a whopping 35 per cent "don't yet have a firm timeline."

The tech giants have also been pushing back their return dates. Microsoft has set a reopening date in October for its US campuses (and will want a proof of vaccination), and Amazon has delayed until 2022, as has Facebook and Apple.

Still, employees seemed pretty content with the decision making. 80.5 per cent agreed with their employer, while only 9.8 per cent thought it was being rushed (the same percentage felt there was "nothing to worry about," presumably seeking first dibs on the socially distanced workspaces now on the cards).

While the findings might make for depressing reading for vacuum enthusiast and inventor Sir James Dyson, lurking within the report are some interesting statistics around vaccination.

Across the US, 68 per cent of companies have taken steps to mandate vaccination for employees, with more than half of those offering incentives such as paid leave or cash (or equivalent) to get the jab. The northeastern states are most likely to be taking steps for vaccination (at 82 per cent) while the figure drops to 56.1 per cent in southern states.

The split in the UK is stark. 72.8 per cent of companies in Greater London are taking steps to mandate vaccinations while less than half – 44.9 per cent – in the rest of the UK are doing the same.

Whatever one's feelings concerning vaccination, the emerging regional splits speak of inconsistency and the potential for division.

Still, it also sounds like there is every chance that many of us will be able to occupy the kitchen table for a good while longer. ®

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