COVID Chicago: Many businesses pushing back return to work plans amid omicron surge

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With no end in sight just yet to this omicron-fueled COVID surge, many businesses are rethinking or pausing their return to work plans.

Commute times are down and there is easy parking for train commuters as many who can work from home are.

SEE ALSO | Chicago Public Schools cancels classes after CTU votes for remote learning

We found insurance agent Adam Garcia working from home. His kids were home, too, with CPS cancelling classes. Fortunately, 5-year-old Nash has a Lego project so Dad can get some work done.

With sudden childcare changes and this omicron surge, Garcia is grateful for the remote option.

"The ability to say, hey, I have my work computer, I can do my job and take care of my family has been a huge benefit," he said.

SEE ALSO | A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November

"I've been walking around downtown every once in a while and it's pretty quiet," said Andy Challenger, with Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "It felt like things were really starting to come back for a while and now it feels empty."

Employment expert Challenger said most of his staff is working remotely and he sees many companies maintaining "work from home" as they push back plans to return to the office.

"It feels like the new normal," Challenger said. "Companies set their date every quarter when everyone is expected to come back into the office, even if it is a couple days a week, and that goal line keeps getting moved."

Steve Droll heads the taskforce at his architecture firm to determine when it's safe to return fully. He said they miss in-person collaborating and mentoring, but for now, they aren't scheduled to come back until January 17.

"We are not sure if we are going to hold that date or not, a lot of it depends on omicron and how statistics trend," Droll said.

While some companies have discovered new ways to work remotely and may be leaning on that, a recent University of Chicago Booth School of Business study found nearly two-thirds of the workers do not have that option, with jobs requiring attendance in-person regardless of COVID trends or childcare challenges.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.