Tracking back-to-office plans: Seattle tech companies in wait-and-see mode as Omicron surges

Taylor Soper


An empty Microsoft campus amid the pandemic. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

As the Omicron variant appears likely to surge across the U.S., back-to-office plans are now in flux as companies rethink — again — how and when they’ll bring back workers to a physical space.

DocuSign, Apple, Lyft, Ford, Uber, Google, and others over the past week have pushed back any previously-announced plans.

We’ve seen this before. Back in September, when the Delta variant caused COVID-19 cases to rise, companies began pulling back their back-to-office blueprints.

The latest delay is yet another blow to small businesses such as restaurants that rely on the lunchtime and happy hour worker crowd, as well as office landlords, The Wall Street Journal reported.

It also still remains to be seen what work might look like in a post-pandemic world, and which — if any — forms of a hybrid model will be used.

Some companies such as Microsoft had already given up on predicting a timeframe for full reopening of offices. Apple, which is also closing stores, this week also delayed its return-to-office plan indefinitely.

We reached out to several Seattle-area tech companies, and those who have satellite offices in the region, to get their latest guidance for employees. Most companies that have open offices are requiring vaccinations.

Amazon: Guidance remains the same as its Oct. 11 message, when it said remote work decisions would be left to individual team leaders. The company expects directors to share more with their teams in January.

Microsoft: The company is also sticking to its October message. Once its health criteria and local guidelines are met for a given location, Microsoft will announce a 30-day transition period “that provides time for employees to return to the work site.” Last year it laid out plans for a “hybrid workplace” policy.

Meta: Currently operating its Seattle-area offices at 50% limited capacity. It plans to fully reopen on Jan. 11. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is offering various options to workers, including work from office, work remotely, or an “Office Deferral Program” that lets people work from home for a 3-to-5 month period. Last year it enabled full-time remote work as an option.

Google: The company, which employs more than 7,000 in and around Seattle, ditched its plan to return to office on Jan. 10. It will wait until next year to decide on when to transition out of voluntary work-from-home. It currently has 90% of its U.S. offices open, and in recent weeks nearly 40% of staff came into the office. Google previously said most employees were expected to be in the office three days a week.

Apple: Delayed its back-to-office date indefinitely.

Expedia: A majority of offices are open and most of its global employee base will be returning to the office in January on a hybrid basis.

Smartsheet: Reopening offices in January and introducing a new flexible workplaces plan.

Redfin: A work-from-home policy is still in effect until further notice. It will give employees at least 30 days notice before they are expected to return to the office.

Zillow Group: No return to office date. The company said last year that 90% of staff could work from home at least some of the time, indefinitely.

Outreach: The company hopes to have a plan announced in early 2022. It currently has a hybrid workplace.

F5: Offices are open at limited capacity (around 10%). It will potentially re-open offices in January. F5 allows employees to work in the office, work remotely full time, or take a hybrid approach.

T-Mobile: The wireless giant opened offices Sept. 1 to fully vaccinated employees. Employees working at badge-controlled office locations (not retail locations) can request to work remotely based on their role and circumstances.

Icertis: Offices are open with capacity at 10-to-30%, otherwise employees are allowed to be fully remote. It will give employees at least eight weeks notice to return to their employment city as it transitions to a hybrid work model.

Remitly: Remote work is allowed through April 2022.

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