Agencies pause office returns as Omicron variant surges

Many creative and PR firms have extended remote work into the new year as COVID-19 cases surge across the nation.

Agencies pause office returns as Omicron variant surges

As COVID-19 cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant surge across the country, creative and PR firms are re-evaluating their plans to return to the office.

Big tech companies including Apple and Google have already pushed back office returns indefinitely. Meanwhile in Zurich, the World Economic Forum said Monday it has postponed its annual conference in Davos, scheduled for January, until mid-2022.

While many agencies had already opened their office spaces up to employees on a voluntary or hybrid basis, others expected to reopen officially in January. But as COVID continues to pose a public health threat, agencies are shutting their doors yet again as a third year of the pandemic approaches.

Campaign US will keep you in the know on the latest changes to agency office policies with this continuously updated list.

Publicis Groupe

Going into the office remains optional for all Publicis Groupe employees in the U.S. A spokesperson said the holding company continues to “actively plan for [the] future with employees’ health and well-being at the forefront.”

“While several federal, state and city orders are evolving, we’re continuing to keep our people informed and engaged with tools and processes to ensure their safety, including a dedicated resource center in Marcel and regular communication around local guidance,  protocols and safety measures,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Forsman & Bodenfors

In light of the spread of the Omicrom variant, Lyndsey Corona, president of Forsman & Bodenfors NY, says employees have been asked to work from home through the new year.

While the office was open on a voluntary basis, and had seen a steady increase in attendance throughout the fall, it will now remain closed until further notice and leadership will “reassess in January,” Corona said.

“Stating the obvious here, but everything continues to be a fluid situation,” she said. “We’ve found that when making these decisions, clear and responsive communication helps everyone feel more at ease.

MKG 

Experiential agency MKG was planning to reopen its New York office and mandate people come in for three days per week in early December. That strategy has since been postponed. 

Instead, president Christine Capone says the creative shop will open voluntarily until further notice. The agency has also required that employees that are exposed to COVID contact HR for contact tracing. 

Exposed individuals won’t be able to return to the office, an on-site job or MKG-related activities without proof of a negative PCR test after their isolation period ends. MKG is also requiring all employees who must work in the office or travel for business be fully vaccinated. 

MKG is evaluating policy on booster vaccines and has encouraged employees to get boosters if they haven’t already.

“At MKG, we specialize in not only helping brands take action, but also bringing people physically together to experience life,” Capone said in an email. “This is core to who we are and what we do, so while the ongoing changes with the Omicron variant is new territory for us all, working with our team to take action toward creating a safer community and world through every possible measure has come very naturally to us.”  

Real Chemistry

Real Chemistry’s offices were open on a voluntary basis this fall, but the PR and healthcare agency shut its physical doors for the remainder of 2021, effective December 17, according to internal communications. 

The firm has also asked employees to suspend or reschedule client meetings and company sponsored social events planned to take place in its offices. According to the memo, Real Chemistry’s London office has also closed “at the direction of local authorities” 

“As we have throughout the pandemic, we are prioritizing keeping everyone across our network healthy, particularly going into the holidays,” the memo says. 

Real Chemistry still plans to reopen voluntarily on January 3, but that plan is subject to change.

Weber Shandwick

While Weber Shandick’s offices have been open on a voluntary basis and kept at limited capacity, in light of Omicron, the agency has encouraged employees in North America to work remotely and hold planned in-person meetings or celebrations virtually through the end of the year. 

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation as we plan for 2022,” a spokesperson said in an email. 

Ruder Finn 

Ruder Finn has a vaccination requirement for employees who wish to work from the office. This year, it planned to host an in-person holiday party for vaccinated employees, but flipped the event to virtual due to concerns over Omicron.

“We’ve heard from staff that they feel a sense of relief at the precautions being taken to prioritize their health and wellbeing, and we’re incredibly grateful for everyone’s eagerness to come together, even if only virtually, to celebrate the holidays and this past year’s successes” a spokesperson said in an email. 

Zeno Group  

Zeno Group continues to maintain a flexible work policy despite the evolving situation with Omicron. Employees can choose whether they want to work remotely or in the office, but the vaccinations are required to work in person. 

“We continue to prioritize health and safety by requiring vaccination and following CDC guidance,” a spokesperson said in an email. 

Havas Formula

Since November 1, Havas Formula has followed parent company Havas’ mandate that employees spend three days a week in the office and two remotely.

Due to the surge of Omicron, however, the California government has instituted an in-office mask mandate, which has forced the firm to “re-think [its] protocol given it completely changes the overall experience within the office,” said CEO Michael Olguin in an email. 

So Havas Formula has opened its office voluntarily through mid-January, when it will “re-evaluate next steps,” Olguin said.

“Our plan is to always be fluid in our decision making knowing there are many considerations that are outside our control, however, we will always work within CDC guidelines,” he said. 

Havas 

Havas mandated employees across all of its agencies return to the office three days per week in November. 

In the wake of Omicron, however, the parent company has added “full remote work flexibility” through the end of 2021 “to allow for space and time between holiday gatherings and travel,” a spokesperson said in an email. 

The company will also watch the regulatory guidance that unfolds over the next few weeks, the spokesperson said.

This story first appeared on campaignlive.com.

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