According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, only a third of U.S. employees have returned to the office because many workers prefer remote—and companies fear ordering them back.

The following news item by Peter Grant appeared in the Feb. 15, 2022, print edition of the Wall Street Journal as ‘Offices Shunned Even as Omicron Fades.’

Americans are dining again in restaurants, attending sporting events, and flying throughout the country. But most are still steering clear of their office building, a sign that more than health concerns are keeping workers away.

Millions of office employees who fled business districts in December after the Omicron variant surged continue to work at home, despite the plummeting rate of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations. Remote work remains the more popular option even as a number of states have announced plans to roll back mask requirements at indoor venues, businesses, and schools as the spread of the Omicron variant fades.

Thousands of companies that closed their offices in March 2020 have yet to announce return plans. An average of 33% of the workforce returned to the office during the first week of February in the 10 major cities monitored by Kastle Systems, which records building-access-card swipes.

The number has been slowly rising from 23% during the first week in January, when even companies that had brought back workers were sending them home because of renewed health risks. The office return rate for the second week of February fell slightly from the first week, Kastle said late Monday.

That rate is still well off the high of 41% in the first week of December, before the full force of the Omicron variant hit. That is true even in cities like New York, where the infection rate is closing in on the level it was at before Omicron.

Read the full article.