Companies adjusting return-to-office plans while navigating changing COVID landscape

CHARLOTTE — Many companies are planning for their employees to return to the office after Labor Day, but business experts said the surge of the COVID-19 delta variant is changing those plans.

“From our experience, it’s shifting,” said Kelly O’Brien, with Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

O’Brien and Anthony Burton monitor the local business community.

“This past week seems like a bit of a pivot point in terms of rising cases,” said Burton, Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

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They said the delta variant is forcing companies to rethink letting employees return to the office.

“If you put my feet to the fire, I’d have to say what I have heard the most of is, are business leaders that are saying, ‘We’re just going to take this in, kind of, 30-day reviews. We’re kind of seeing what happens and adjusting accordingly,’” O’Brien said.

Zero Hour Health handles corporate wellness needs for a range of companies across the country, including restaurant chains and Fortune 500 companies.

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“We’ve certainly learned over the past year how important being flexible is and didn’t realize how quickly things could change,” said Roslyn Stone, CEO of Zero Hour Health. “This week’s conversation has changed even a little further.”

Zero Hour Health has a goal to provide health expertise so that businesses can stay open and be safe.

“Since Friday, that has been the call,” Stone said. “The call from CEO’s has been, ‘I’m now thinking about a vaccine mandate at least for our corporate offices or regional support centers.’”

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Stone believes that by this time next month, there will be a lot more corporate vaccine mandates than there are right now.

“Absolutely, we do think you are going to hear that,” Stone said. “And we do think that may be the only way to get out of this mess.”

Stone said that many CEOs are frustrated with the level of misinformation out there and that even if they provide vaccine incentives and information from credible sources, it’s hard to compete with social media.

Stone gave an example from a conversation Monday with a CFO.

“If it’s not TikTok that they find themselves, I think we’re in some ways spitting in the wind,” Stone said. “And he’s not wrong about that. So it’s very difficult, and yes, these CEOs are in many ways over it. They are frustrated at this point. It’s a preventable illness.”

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