While many U.S. companies had targeted September 7 as the "return to the office" date for their workers, the Delta variant changed all that. Some companies have stuck with a return in September while others have pushed the date out into October or even into the beginning of 2022. This recent article in The New York Times explains how this discussion has taken place inside companies, articulates the various factors that are at play, depicts just how complicated it has gotten, and why this is such a challenging decision for leaders. If you are still looking at a hybrid work model, here are 5 options to consider!

The Delta variant has also resurfaced the concern about office space. Not knowing what the next 12 to 24 months has in store makes it very difficult to take on a long-term lease commitment or reconfigure the office. In a recent CNBC poll, top executives in human resources, finance and technology indicated that just under half of their companies want to use a hybrid work model in the second half of 2021, while roughly one-third say their company leans towards being “in person-first." It also shared that real estate and technology costs were not top factors in their considerations at that point.

While this has been a busy peak season, how is the Delta variant impacting your mobility programs? Are you moving forward with any big initiatives or waiting things out? Has volume tapered off with office returns being delayed or is the business moving forward (so to speak) with getting talent to specific locations? With the world in flux, how is mobility flexing?

Global companies are having to navigate this from location to location. So let's take a look around, ICYMI, to explore what could be impacting your mobility programs:

  1. Canada: As of September 7, Canada has implemented new measures for fully vaccinated international travelers, now allowing fully vaccinated foreign nationals meeting the conditions to enter Canada for discretionary (non-essential) purposes. There are seven elements all travelers must consider. There are no changes to testing and quarantine requirements for travelers who are not fully vaccinated and they are still subject to quarantine, all testing requirements (pre-arrival, upon arrival/day 1 and on day 8) and the mandatory submission of travel, contact and quarantine information via ArriveCAN
  2. EU countries: Bulgaria placed U.S. citizens in the "red zone" and are only allowing visitors with a valid exception regardless of vaccination status. As of September 4, vaccinated U.S. travelers heading to the Netherlands must quarantine for 10 days. Portugal remains open to U.S. citizens with a negative COVID test within 72 hours of boarding their flight. Soon after the EU Council’s recommendation to remove the U.S. from the EU Safe Travel List, a number of EU countries made adjustments to entry restrictions for U.S travelers. This article provides a concise summary of the changes by country for entry, quarantine, and vaccine requirements. 
  3. Japan: Japan plans to extend the state of emergency in and around Tokyo through the end of September. According to Reuters, "Japan last month expanded emergency curbs to cover about 80% of its population until Sept 12, but the number of severe cases and the strain on the medical system have not eased sufficiently in Tokyo and surrounding areas to allow the restrictions to be lifted."  Japan is also likely to get knocked off the "safe travel list" of the EU.
  4. Vietnam: Hanoi has divided the city into "red", "orange" and "green" zones based on infection risk and just extended COVID-19 restrictions for an additional 2 weeks while ramping up testing in higher risk areas of the capital in an effort to curb climbing infections. 
  5. South Korea: With one of the biggest holidays approaching soon, (Chuseok, or "Korean Thanksgiving" on Sept 20 and lasting for three days,) South Korea has extended social distancing curbs for several weeks to rein in COVID-19 outbreaks nationwide as the country supercharges its vaccination campaign.
  6. AustraliaSydney is seeing cases now topping 2,000 a day while the country continues to try to ramp up vaccinations. The country is moving towards a new policy of "living with" as opposed to "eliminating" COVID-19. Melbourne has extended their lockdown to Sept 23, but are moving toward "rapid vaccination drives" rather then suppression strategies.
  7. United States: The Washington Post reports that hospitalizations in the U.S. have more than doubled since last Labor Day. In some places things have gotten so bad that (#Idaho) public health officials are activating "crisis standards of care." New Mexico and Hawaii may be next! While many non-vaccinated people are taking the brunt of that decision, others are being won over by the reality that inoculations offer the greatest chance to live with the disease without dying. This article in The New York Times gives a great overview of what is happening across the nation. Many wonder where infection rates will go as schools begin opening!

Health officials are adamant that the best thing anyone can do is get vaccinated. Many companies are considering making this mandatory. Will mobility programs consider it, too? As of today, per Time, about 53.2% of Americans have been completely vaccinated. 

For an additional resource, we share with you this information from TPG regarding the ever-changing entry requirements. Many countries are using color-coded lists, maps or so-called traffic light systems to manage the risk and ongoing changes occurring with infection rates. The article will help you understand what each COVID-19 color code means and how it might impact your global mobility population.