When will office workers go back? Here’s what companies are saying.

By Lauren Hirsch and Matthew Haag

At one point the target was the start of 2021. Then it was bumped to July. Now September is the new goal that many companies have marked on the calendar for bringing back office workers who have been working remotely for the past year.

Maybe. Companies are wary of setting hard deadlines, recent reporting by The New York Times found. Some corporations are reopening offices in the spring, while many are saying they will remain flexible, will stage returns over several months and will allow some workers to continue to work from home for a few days a week or more. As nerve-racking as it was for people last year to be abruptly torn from their desks, many people find the prospect of returning distressing.

Here is what some of the country’s biggest companies are telling workers.

Ford Motor

Ford, which has more than 30,000 employees in the United States working remotely because of the pandemic, said in March that it would transition to a “flexible hybrid work model.” The company plans to let people stay home for focused work and come into the office for activities that require teamwork. The new protocol will start in July, when the company, which has its main campus in Dearborn, Mich., expects to gradually start bringing more employees back.

IBM

IBM, which employs about 346,000 people, hasn’t set a strict timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. It expects about 80 percent of its employees to work with some combination of remote and office schedules, depending largely on role.

JPMorgan Chase

The bank, which has more than 20,000 office employees in New York City, has told employees that the five-day office workweek is a relic. It is considering a rotational work model, meaning employees would switch between working remotely and in the office.

PwC

The consulting firm formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has about 284,000 employees, is set to open one office in each of its major cities in May and all of its offices in September. Even when the offices are formally reopened, PwC will allow some workers, depending on their job, to work remotely at least part time.

Walmart

Most of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees work at the retail giant’s stores, and a vast number have continued to go into work throughout the pandemic. It said on March 12 that it would start bringing workers back at its Bentonville, Ark., office campus no earlier than July. Its global technology employees will continue to work virtually “for the long-term.”

Wells Fargo

At Wells Fargo, 60,000 employees worked at bank branches and other facilities during the pandemic, but 200,000 more worked remotely. The company told its staff in a memo last month that it had set a Sept. 6 return-to-office target and was “optimistic” that conditions surrounding Covid-19 vaccinations and case levels would allow it to keep it.

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