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With some Texas businesses bucking the return-to-work trend, point of risk and opportunity presides

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Posted at 10:46 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 11:46:10-04

WACO, Texas — The dominos deriving from the coronavirus pandemic continue to fall. Whether it's a resurgence in positive Covid-19 cases, the additions of new variants of the coronavirus, heaped on top of supply chain and labor shortages. Unfortunately, the hits keep on coming for employers and employees in our current economic environment.

Today, in the ever-changing landscape, several significant companies find themselves on the tight rope once again in implementing full return to work policies. This week, Chevron Corp. announced a delay in their full return of employees to offices in California and Texas. Another major company, joining the likes of Inc, grabbing headlines earlier this month to push their return to office plans from Sept. of this year until Jan. 3, 2022. On Thursday, Apple Inc. announced a similar delay in pushing their return to corporate office policy until January.

In a virtual town hall held earlier this week, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell, marked on how the nature of the workplace has changed.

"So for sure, the tendency over the remaining part of this year, and next year will be for people to come back to their physical place of work, at least part of the time," he said. "But, it seems in your certainty that there will be substantially more remote work going forward. So that's going to change the nature of work and the way work gets done, it's going to change the nature of the workplace, because how often will people be in the workplace and how's it going to affect different groups of people."

While a hybrid work model for employees, which includes some remote work and some in the office work, may appear to be the trend some companies are implementing, not everyone's on board. And the Lone Star state is bucking the trend. Houston, Austin, Dallas have among the highest office occupancy rates in the country. According to Kastle Back To Work Barometer, which has been tracking office occupancy since march 2020.

Trend in the Weekly Occupancy Report from Kastle Access Control System Data from March 4, 2020 to August 11, 2021. Three of the top 10 major cities tracked on the Back to Work Business Barometer are in Texas.

Decisions in implementing return to work policies are not without risk, not just for health and safety reasons, but in keeping productive employees. According to the latest data from a survey conducted by Morning Consult, over half of workers would consider quitting if their employer asked them to return to the office before they felt safe. Pinpointing how long the remote work phenomena will continue, is largely dependent on the severity of the pandemic, and at least for now the return to work phenomena continues.


"It's changing businesses."

Randy Robertson is the owner and CEO of INNOVATiON, a marketing and consulting firm in Waco. Keenly aware of some the hurdles businesses are facing in hiring on new employees.
"In the food service business, I know from places that I've traveled to and different clients that I have that are trying to employ a wait staff, that it's that's probably one of the areas with the most difficulty," he said. ""I used to have salespeople come here all the time. Now, some employers don't want their staff going out to have one on one meetings. And so it's an evolving type of situation."

Whether it's the labor shortage in the food service industry employers are facing or the prevailing desire among employees to work from home rather than the corporate office, there's no denying the economic landscape is changing. And if the hurdle today for employers is hiring new employees and keeping the ones they have, then implementing a return to work policy can be both a point of peril and opportunity. Asked whether it's more peril or opportunity, Robertson said that's a good question.

"Because there are a lot of businesses that are struggling to get the number employees that they need, but there's also a change in how people do business."

Brazos River in Waco, TX

For now, with the staying power of the remote to work phenomena yet to be seen. However, the shifting trend in the workplace lends evidence of the need for employers to be flexible as we all navigate a sea of change together.

"Everybody's in the same boat because you don't know how this is going to shift and how it's going to end," Roberston said.