PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Nationally and right here in the Tampa Bay area, companies are delaying their return-to-office dates in an effort to keep their workers safe.
Keyboards sit silent and computer screens stay dark at many of the offices at the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
“This would normally be full of folks really working hard together trying to figure it out," said Chris Steinocher, President and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. "But as you can see our offices are empty.”
Steinocher said productivity hasn’t gone down with most employees working remotely.
“We are Zooming and I’m Zooming my heart out and I’m Zooming so much but there’s something missing," he said.
He hopes to have them return to the office starting Nov. 1. Steinocher thinks it’s the work culture that is taking a hit across the U.S.
“Another problem -- think about new hires," he said. "I feel so, so sorry for them that they don’t really understand us because we haven’t really broken bread together.”
This week, big companies like Target, Microsoft, Ford and even the New York Times are delaying their return-to-work day until Summer 2021, as the virus still surges in some states.
“There’s a fine line of comfort and safety and the ability to continue to do business and work as a team," said Colin Murphy, Chief Information Officer for cyber-security company KnowBe4.
Like Steinocher, Murphy has some reservations at what we may be losing in this remote-work world.
“KnowBe4 started adding money to people’s paychecks to make sure you have the snacks the coffee, the things you would have at work — the creature comforts — to try and help people maintain that at home," he said.
The Clearwater-based company has 1,000 employees worldwide. The company is bringing back 50 per week across offices but it has no solid date it is requiring employees to return.
But both of these leaders, ultimately want employees back to the office at their own pace.
A survey by the work-place platform, Envoy, shows 94% of American workers want to return to the office at least one day a week, but on their own terms. They desire the flexibility between remote work and brick and mortar work.
Steinocher says he is already providing that. His employees are on an A/B style work schedule. It allows them the opportunity to come into the office on a specific day. But so far, employees are still shying away from the office.
A study by Wakefield Research shows workers aren’t in a hurry to return, 73% of them fear returning to the office could open them up to getting sick.
Steinocher believes it rests on the employer to provide a safe working space and attract their employees back.
“It’s going to be slow [transition] and I don’t believe there will be a rush to it," he said.