What the Delta Variant Means for Returning to Work
The changing virus means employers must rethink their in-person work plans.
Just as businesses were celebrating the return of employees to the workplace, the Delta variant arrived to crash the party. Here’s a multi-faceted look at what this pandemic development means for employers.
Why this variant is more dangerous
Quite simply, the Delta variant is more efficient than its predecessors.
“Delta is more dangerous in many ways,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It has an incubation period of four days, rather than six, making people contagious sooner. When the pandemic began, people spread the original coronavirus to an average of two or three people. Today, people infected with Delta infect six people, on average,”
For a visual explanation, check out this epidemiologist’s TikTok video.
Businesses may reconsider their return-to work plans
The Delta variant may cause companies to rethink their plans for bringing workers back to the office. “Corporations would be open to liabilities for pushing people to possibly endanger themselves,” writes Jack Kelly for Forbes.
Indeed, big-name employers such as Google, Apple and Uber have pushed back the dates they expect workers to return from September until October. Lyft recently announced that their return date is now February 2, 2022—assuming improving COVID trends.
Only opening the workplace to the vaccinated
Additionally, some companies are only allowing fully vaccinated employees back at in the office. For example, The New York Times reports that salaried and non-union hourly Walt Disney Company employees in the U.S. must be fully vaccinated. Disney workers have 60 days to get their vaccinations and new workers must be fully vaccinated before starting work.
Op-eds calling for higher insurance rates for the unvaccinated
While we’re not aware of any health insurers raising premiums for the unvaccinated yet, recent op-eds in USA Today and The New York Times call higher rates for those who refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. For employers who provide health insurance benefits, this is an issue to watch, especially regarding the potential legal ramifications.
Employers need to remain flexible
Employers calling employees back to the physical workplace already know that health and safety must be their first priority. Navigating the return also means remaining flexible. According to the research and advisory firm Gartner, rigid work environments could leave organizations vulnerable to losing talent to more adaptable employers.
To keep and attract talent, employers cannot return to business as it was pre-pandemic. Hybrid work models, with a combination of work-from-home and the workplace, are here to stay.
Keep communication open
One of the few things that seems certain these days is change. As the coronavirus evolves so does our understanding of it and its risks. It’s also true that we’re collectively weary. This makes it more important than ever to communicate with empathy.
Clear, honest and frequent communication will help you and your team remain safe and productive as we move through and past this pandemic.
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