On Monday, Facebook parent Meta Platforms announced that employees will not be able to return to their offices until Mar. 28 - and that documentation of a booster shot will be required to protect against the Omicron variant, which is on the rise.
The postponement of the return-to-work date, according to Meta, provides employees more flexibility in their work schedules due to the pandemic's lingering impacts.
Until Mar. 14, employees must decide whether to return to the office or continue working remotely on a temporary or permanent basis.
"We're focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current COVID-19 landscape," Janelle Gale, Meta VP of human resources, said in a statement.
"We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we're giving more time to choose what works best for them."
CEO Mark Zuckerberg first informed staff in December 2020 that they would not be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to work. At the time, the business predicted that remote work would be possible until at least July 2021, however, it later announced plans to open offices in May.
By June, Zuckerberg had issued a new directive: either request permission from a manager to work from home or come to the office for at least half of the week.
A month later, the Delta variant emerged, Zuckerberg revised his position on staff vaccine requirements, and the business announced a new goal date of October for a full reopening. It had pushed back its return to office date to January 2022 by August of last year.
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has led several of Meta's Silicon Valley neighbors to postpone their return-to-work plans, but Meta is one of the first large companies to inform its employees that proof of a booster shot will be necessary to work in the office.
Last month, Apple informed staff that it did not have a set timeline for returning to work. In December, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, postponed its return date of Jan. 10 indefinitely until a "stable, long-term working environment" could be established.
Although the number of Omicron-related COVID cases has risen dramatically across the country, there is hope that the number will fall just as quickly, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who spoke to the media last week at a media briefing.
The rise and fall of COVID diagnoses have traditionally been depicted as "waves," but Walensky suggests that the omicron surge in the U.S.may be better seen as an "ice pick," with a sudden rise and decrease in cases akin to South Africa, which has passed its Omicron surge.