Tech Companies Rethink Return-To-Office, Vaccine Rules Amid Covid Variant Surge; Google, Facebook Say All Employees Must Get Jabbed

Tech giants are revising their strategies and policies as Covid-19 cases surge again thanks to the Delta variant, fine-tuning return-to-office and vaccine plans.

Facebook and Google yesterday said all of their employees, including anyone wanting to spend time on their campuses, would need to be vaccinated. In a memo to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in a note Wednesday that he hoped the move would offer “greater peace of mind” to the company’s 135,000 workers. “Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy,” he wrote.

Google has also postponed its planned September return to offices to mid-October.

The Centers for Disease Control this week revised its stance on masks, formally recommending face coverings in many settings, even for those who have been vaccinated. Schools, which will be back in session for most of the country by next month, are a particular area of focus for the latest CDC guidelines. Officials also

Twitter, which had opened its New York and San Francisco offices closed them again and paused other planned reopenings after the CDC issued its latest guidance.

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Microsoft-owned LinkedIn said it will now permit workers to choose fully remote work, a reversal of a prior plan to require half-time office work by October.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, did not address LinkedIn specifically but spoke more broadly about the new view of office and remote work in an appearance at a CNN online forum.

The company’s main headquarters in Redmond, WA, has been slated to reopen in September. Given the many variables, Nadella said, “We’ll take the best practices around how to open, with flexibility.”

Asked about requiring vaccines, Nadella said the company is “studying” that scenario. “There will be some combination of vaccines, testing — and some exceptions to that.” He mentioned the company has entered a “soft open” phase, noting he was speaking from the Microsoft offices.

About 70% of employees in internal surveys have indicated “they want the human connection” that comes with working in the office, the CEO said. At the same time, 70% want “extreme flexibility.” That duality is a “paradox we need to navigate,” Nadella said.

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