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Amidst new CDC guidelines and health directive, companies planning out return to office strategy

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 6:35 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some companies are starting to phase more employees back into the office. Companies across the world abruptly moved to a remote working model when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.

With more vaccinations and fewer COVID-19 cases, some Memphis corporations plan to get more employees back into the office by summer.

However, at the moment, some of Memphis’ top employers have most employees remaining on a remote working plan.

International Paper said about 90 percent of employees continue to work from home.

A spokesperson for the company said “Our Memphis-area offices have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of our employees still working remotely. We are working with the new CDC guidelines and developing a plan to return more staff to the office safely.”

Nationwide, about 57 percent of employees were still working from home a year after the pandemic began, but there’s an expectation about two fifths of those workers will be back in the office by the end of the year according to benefits consulting firm Willis Towers Watson.

“I think, setting aside for a moment what everybody knows now is indoor places with poor ventilation are a bad thing in general, vaccinations have brought about a protection so good that even an internal workplace is safe for those who are vaccinated,” Baptist Memorial Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld said.

Locally, a survey done by the Greater Memphis Chamber, in the first quarter of the year, shows 87 percent of respondents have physical workspace open to employees and 67 percent plan to have more than 50 percent of staff back in the office by this summer.

A survey by the Downtown Memphis Commission of those who live and work downtown said 42 percent say they have not been given a return to the office date.

According to a Teminix spokesperson, most Memphis-based corporate employees are still working from home, but the company plans to have most of them back in the office around the Labor Day holiday. More Terminix employees have been going into the company’s downtown office building recently and they will begin to phase in more as things continue getting back to normal.

WMC also reached out to Autozone but did not hear back.

FedEx said this about their return to the office plan:

“Each of our FedEx operating companies has teams that are hard at work designing the future state of their workforce and exploring options for some level of ongoing flexibility that meets their particular business needs,” said Davina Cole, Senior Communications Specialist. “We will continue to follow CDC and state and local government guidance related to COVID-19 safety measures.”

St. Jude said it will be preparing a statement or release about its return to work plan.

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