Although the promise of COVID-19 vaccines remains, lagging vaccination rates and increasing case numbers among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike have put the brakes on returning to the office. In the spring of 2021, many firms in the IT and financial sectors were pushing hard, if not publicly, for a return to business as usual. But surging Delta and Lambda variants of COVID-19 have pressed majors like Apple to delay a return to the office. Will COVID surges make hybrid offices permanent?

The Surge

Scientists have always acknowledged the possibility of different variants as a fact of life for viruses. But for the first time, people worldwide are dealing with these facts on a global scale. Unlike a passing flu season, COVID surges can happen anytime, in any place, with an unknown duration. Add factors like variable vaccination rates and effectiveness among vaccines variants, and a game whose rules are constantly changing emerges.

Not So Fast

Pushing for pre-pandemic normalcy was to be expected, especially as new vaccines arrived. Early return-to-office efforts faced people enjoying work-from-home (WHF) with better work/life balance. Although businesses quietly eroded WFH momentum with promises of a 3-day office, 2-day home (boss picks your days at home) compromise, nobody expected the counterattack the Delta variant would mount.

Forever Hybrid

To date, the only widely accepted protocols for dealing with the pandemic include vaccines, social distancing, and masks. But, with one, social distancing makes returning to the office even in a hybrid model difficult. So, will there be a forever hybrid model or a plan that keeps workers constantly shifting between in-office and WFH styles? Will an A-team, B-team style of office shift work evolve? Only time will tell.

Only adaptability, cross-training, and communication can create the agility modern businesses need to survive. There are plenty of characters left in the Greek alphabet for the yet unnamed COVID variants. Delta was first. Lambda is around the corner. Will you be ready?

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