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    Covid Variant Adds to Worker Anxieties

    Some see an undue rush by employers to get workplaces back to normal, whether by dropping precautions or imposing new rules.When Kelly Harris, a personal grocery shopper in Steubenville, Ohio, was vaccinated in March against Covid-19, it was a huge relief. “I felt the weight of the world off my shoulders,” she said.Her sense of relief has turned to dread. After most supermarkets eased masking requirements in May, mask wearing plummeted in her area. She worried about bringing the virus home to her school-age children.Then, as the Delta variant proliferated in recent weeks, her anxiety levels spiked again. “I try to stay away from everybody and use self-checkout,” she said. “It has me pretty stressed out.”Judging from the policies of the stores Ms. Harris frequents, many employers appear to regard the recent increase in Covid infections as a mere blip on the long-awaited road to normal.Some companies have intensified their efforts to return to a pandemic before-times, easing safety protocols while expecting employees to return to previous routines.But for many workers, the perception is quite different: a sense of rising vulnerability and frustration even for the vaccinated, who find themselves inundated with stories of breakthrough infections and long Covid.The gulf between employers’ actions and workers’ concerns appears to foreshadow a period of rising tensions between the two, and unions appear to be positioning themselves for it. Some unions are calling on companies to do more to keep members safe, while others are questioning new vaccination requirements. The two positions may seem at odds, but they send a common message: Not so fast.“I think we’re rushing to return to normal,” said Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has over one million members in industries like groceries and meatpacking.Many workers complain about a mismatch between plans their employers appear to have made before the rise of the variant and the reality of the past few weeks.For much of the pandemic, Amazon has offered free on-site Covid testing for employees. It incorporated a variety of design features into warehouses to promote social distancing. But a worker at an Amazon warehouse in Oregon, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said there had been a gradual reduction in safety features, like the removal of physical barriers to enforce social distancing.Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said that the company had removed barriers in some parts of warehouses where workers don’t spend much time in proximity, but that it had kept up distancing measures in other areas, like break rooms.“We’re continuously evaluating the temporary measures we implemented in response to Covid-19 and making adjustments in alignment with public health authority guidance,” Ms. Nantel said. She added that the company would “begin ramping down our U.S. testing operations by July 30, 2021.”At REI, the outdoor equipment and apparel retailer, four workers in different parts of the country, who asked not to be named for fear of workplace repercussions, complained that the company had recently enacted a potentially more punitive attendance policy it had planned to put in place just before the pandemic. Under the policy, part-time workers who use more than their allotted sick days are subject to discipline up to termination if the absences are unexcused. The workers also said they were concerned that many stores — after restricting capacity until this spring — had become more and more crowded.Halley Knigge, a spokeswoman for REI, said that under its new policies the company allowed part-time workers to accrue sick leave for the first time and that the disciplinary policy was not substantively new but merely reworded. The stores, she added, continue to restrict occupancy to no more than 50 percent capacity, as they have since June 2020.Workers elsewhere in the retail industry also complained about the growing crowds and difficulty of distancing inside stores like supermarkets. Karyn Johnson-Dorsey, a personal shopper from Riverside, Calif., who finds work on Instacart but also has her own roster of clients, said it had been increasingly difficult to maintain a safe distance from unmasked customers since the state eased masking and capacity restrictions in mid-June.“You have whole families who are picking out a pound of ground beef,” she said. “Children who are not vaccinated because of age are touching everything, not masked, either.”Amazon’s warehouse on Staten Island. Workers at Amazon have become concerned in recent weeks that the company is overly eager to wind down safety measures.Chang W. Lee/The New York TimesMs. Johnson-Dorsey, who had Covid last year and was vaccinated in March, said that what she was encountering in stores had become a major source of worry as the Delta variant spread. “I think it’s just showing that maybe we jumped too quickly to try and beat this imaginary deadline,” she said.On Tuesday, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided new guidance on masking, some employers said they would adjust their policies as warranted.“We’d always defer to state and local ordinances on capacity and masking mandates,” said a spokeswoman for Albertsons, which also owns Safeway and Jewel-Osco. “We don’t have a national mandate on capacity at this time.”Ms. Harris and Ms. Johnson-Dorsey, the personal shoppers, do not belong to a union, but Bob O’Toole, the president of the food workers local in Chicago, which represents more than 15,000 workers in the grocery, meatpacking and food-processing industries, said many of his members shared their sentiments.“The employees don’t feel as though the employers are doing anything to enhance safety after so many precautions were relaxed,” he wrote in a text message..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Mr. Perrone, the international president for the food workers union, said in a statement on Tuesday that the new C.D.C. guidance wasn’t sufficient and urged a national mask mandate.Public-sector workers, too, have expressed safety concerns as officials move to get government services back to prepandemic norms. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently brought back office-based city employees who had been working remotely during the pandemic.But one of the unions representing them, the Illinois council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has argued that more needs to be done to space workers apart and improve ventilation.“The workplaces where those people work could be sources of transmission because we live in a cubicle world where people are often very close together,” said Roberta Lynch, the union’s executive director in the state. “We want to ensure that people who have high-risk work locations are able to work safely.”A spokeswoman for the mayor did not respond to a request for comment.The Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents nurses who are increasingly subject to vaccine requirements around the country, is unlikely to take a position on the mandates per se but will seek to have a voice in setting policy to guarantee that employees are treated fairly, said Sandy Pope, its bargaining director. For example, the union wants to ensure that no workers are disciplined or fired for refusing the vaccine if they have legitimate reasons for doing so.“We will demand to be consulted on these things,” Ms. Pope said. “I know a couple of members who have legitimate health issues that have prevented them from being vaccinated.”The union, which also represents clerical workers at insurance companies, credit unions and universities, has employee-management committees pushing to arrange adequate ventilation systems for workers, with mixed results, she said. She added that the union was preparing for a potential standoff in September, when many employers have said they will end hybrid work arrangements and require full-time attendance.“I think that’s going to be the big fight,” Ms. Pope said. “A number of employers had September as the target date.”The Culinary Workers Union, which represents casino workers in Las Vegas, has been calling for the return of a mask requirement for all customers indoors since Nevada relaxed the rule in May.John Locher/Associated PressBy contrast, the United Automobile Workers union said it was working with major automakers through a Covid task force to help make safety decisions. General Motors and Ford Motor both recently reinstituted masking for all employees at separate sites in Missouri, and Ford reinstituted masking at offices in Florida, after the companies assessed virus-related data in those regions. And a number of employers, including Amazon and the meat processor JBS, have had vaccination facilities for workers on site.Some unions may have been spared a fight by the C.D.C.’s move on Tuesday. In Las Vegas, the Culinary Workers Union, which represents casino workers, has been calling for the return of a mask requirement for all customers indoors since Nevada relaxed the requirement in May. The casinos had not heeded the call, but after the C.D.C. announcement, the state said it would reimpose an indoor mask mandate.In other cases, a reckoning still looms. The federal government’s mask mandate on airplanes is set to expire after Sept. 13, and unions representing airplane personnel are uneasy about the possibility that it will lapse, though Tuesday’s C.D.C. announcement suggests it may be more likely to be extended. The unions have applauded the airlines for moving to stop the spread of the coronavirus on airplanes by installing more sophisticated air filtration systems, but maintain that they are not sufficient.“Filtration is helpful for circulated air in the cabin,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “But it doesn’t stop the general spread from one person to another sitting six inches apart.” More

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    Will the Delta Variant Wreck the Recovery?

    Probably not. But there are potential challenges with both supply and demand that put the economy at risk.Empty streets in downtown Boston last month. If the Delta variant plays havoc with companies’ return-to-work plans, such scenes could continue.Philip Keith for The New York TimesThe good economic news, when it comes to the ascendant Delta variant of the coronavirus, is that it puts the economy at risk in only two ways. The bad news: They are supply and demand.So far, the recovery remains robust by most available data. Real-time indicators of business activity show little evidence that Americans are pulling back their economic activity in any meaningful way.But while there is no reason to expect a repeat of the huge disruption of 2020, the new variant puts at risk the kind of rapid recovery that has been underway for months. Just as major parts of the economy were figuring out how to return to full functioning, this may amount to throwing sand in the gears.The emergence of the variant has already caused several wobbly days on Wall Street. And the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, is likely to face questions about the economic implications of Delta in a news conference Wednesday afternoon after a meeting of the Fed’s policy committee.At the White House, officials are monitoring the variant closely, but see no evidence that it is hurting the recovery — or that policymakers will need to inject another dose of short-term fiscal stimulus anytime soon.“Overall it looks like the risks are considerably diminished compared to the height of the crisis,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics. “But I do think you have to worry about the macroeconomic risks, and our experience over the last 18 months has shown that.”As economists and policymakers game out the nature of those risks, what stands out is not the chance of a major shutdown. Instead, the concerns are the constraints on the availability of workers and on the supply and demand for many services.On the supply side, there are already severe disruptions in many supply chains, especially those that rely on goods imported from Asia. These create ripple effects for the United States, such as a shortage of computer chips that is in turn hindering automobile production and contributing to high inflation.Many Asian nations — especially those behind the curve on vaccinating their populations — are putting in lockdowns to try to stop the spread of the Delta variant, which threatens to make those shortages and price spikes worse.“We had already expected that semiconductor shortages would continue into 2022, and that’s virtually assured now,” said Sara Johnson, the executive director of global economics for I.H.S. Markit. She noted that new restrictions were limiting production activity in countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.A more domestically focused supply-side risk comes with the U.S. labor supply.Employers have been complaining about labor shortages, and if the renewed risk of illness makes even vaccinated adults reluctant to enter or re-enter the work force, those shortages could worsen.That is particularly true if schools were to return to remote learning — even for brief periods — making it all the harder for parents to work.“What happens if you have a flare-up?” Ms. Bostjancic said. “Do you shut school for a week? That’s very disruptive to parents who want to return to the labor force.”On the demand side, there is some comfort in the seemingly robust spending from American consumers, who are flush with accumulated savings from the pandemic, federal stimulus dollars and rising wages.The consumer confidence index rose slightly in July, the Conference Board said Tuesday, suggesting that the emergence of the variant has so far done no major damage to consumers’ willingness to spend.There is even a perverse twist that could reduce the variant’s impact on demand for things like restaurant meals and concert tickets. The rate of infection has remained relatively low in places with high vaccination rates. In the places where infections are skyrocketing, public sentiment tends to be overwhelmingly against anything resembling a lockdown.Still, as noted by two Bank of America economists, Stephen Juneau and Anna Zhou, Michigan saw a pullback in consumer spending on services during its surge of infections earlier this year, even absent formal restrictions on activity.“So far we have seen little evidence of the Delta variant significantly affecting economic activity or spending on services,” they wrote in a recent research note. “However, survey data point to increased hesitancy of being in physical locations and concerns over the virus.”That could prove particularly relevant in a few segments of the economy that have been slowest to recover from the pandemic recession.Many white-collar employers have been on the verge of bringing workers back to offices. If those plans change because of the variant, offices and downtown streets risk staying emptier for longer, implying less demand for office space and downtown restaurant meals.There is a similar story in the business travel sector, which has lagged leisure travel in returning to health. Will conferences and trade shows return with the kind of robust attendance many hotels, convention centers and event planners have been hoping for?One particularly tricky thing is that the solution to these potential economic ripples lies in the public health arena. If the recovery stalls, fiscal and monetary policy are unlikely to play much of a constructive role. Already, enough money is flowing through the economy to make overheating and inflation a top-of-mind concern.There may be a demand shortfall for very specific things, like sandwiches from a downtown restaurant or rooms in a convention center hotel. But it is hard to argue in the summer of 2021 that there is much risk of inadequate aggregate demand.White House officials say vaccinations over the past several months — and strong support from the federal government for people and businesses — have set the foundation for the economy to maintain momentum even as Delta spreads. And they believe consumers will react differently this time to the spreading virus.In past waves, people who worried about a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 could either assume that risk and keep up their normal economic activities, or pull back spending in places like retail stores and restaurants. Now, the officials say, spooked consumers have a third choice. They can get vaccinated and largely maintain their typical routines — or, if they’re already vaccinated, just keep spending the way they have been.All of that means that the policy response to the Delta variant, as for Covid all along, relies more heavily on getting the best possible public health outcomes, with conventional economic policy a secondary concern.Just when it seemed that the pandemic policy story was finally winding down, in other words, it is starting to repeat itself.Jim Tankersley contributed reporting. More

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    The Pandemic Changed How We Spent Our Time

    A lonely year Average time spent per day during waking hours, May through December in 2020 vs. 2019 No time 2 hours 4 hours 6 hours 8 hours Alone +57 min. With household members only +31 min. With people outside household –1 hour and 33 min. 2019 2020 Note: Excludes time spent on personal grooming […] More

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    Inflation Has Arrived, but Washington Isn’t Racing to Limit Price Pops

    Policymakers, now more attuned to the costs of choking off growth early, are sticking by a patient approach as prices rise.Inflation has long been the boogeyman haunting the nightmares of economic policymakers from both parties — and controlling it has been a top economic priority. But as the economy reopens from pandemic shutdowns and prices spike, it is becoming clear just how much that conventional wisdom has shifted in recent years.After three decades of relative price stability and a long stretch of weak price gains, many economists and lawmakers had in recent years come to believe that trying too hard to avoid overheating the economy created its own risk by prematurely cooling growth and leaving workers on the sidelines.The tools that policymakers used to prevent overheating — raising interest rates and reining in government spending — also contributed to less hiring and slower wage growth. Policymakers have paid increasing attention to those trade-offs, especially as chronically slow price gains across the globe made government efforts to control inflation seem somewhere between futile and self-defeating.That view has remained mostly intact at the Federal Reserve and the White House even as prices pop, virus variants threaten to perpetuate supply-chain bottlenecks and some price increases, like rising rents, create the risk that high inflation might last for a while.The Biden administration is emphasizing the benefits of the current moment, which include higher wages and more bargaining power for workers, as it insists that inflation will fade over time. The Fed, which meets this week, is openly nervous about rising prices, but it isn’t doing anything abrupt to counteract them. It says it needs to weigh the risk of inflation against the threat of slowing a labor market that is still missing nearly seven million jobs compared with prepandemic levels.Republicans are condemning rising prices, warning that the administration needs to rein in its spending plans and that the Fed should withdraw support. Even some left-leaning economists have warned that things could get out of control and that central bank officials need to be on watch.Here is a snapshot of what is happening with inflation, including the risks, the rewards and how policymakers are thinking through a strange economic moment.Prices are up this year, and pretty markedly.Inflation is up across a variety of measures, and by significantly more than economists predicted earlier this year.The Consumer Price Index, a Labor Department gauge of how much a basket of goods and services costs to buy, rose 5.4 percent in the year through June. The Fed prefers a separate measure, the Personal Consumption Expenditures index. That gauge tracks both out-of-pocket expenses and the cost of things people consume but don’t directly pay for, like medical care. It climbed 3.9 percent through May.Prices have risen by more than Fed officials expected, based on both their public statements and their economic projections this year.Why the big jump? Some of it owes to temporary data quirks, which were expected to push inflation higher this year. Part of it has come as prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms and other pandemic-affected purchases rebound from last year, also as anticipated. But the surprisingly large part of the increase has come from a surge in consumer demand that is straining delivery routes and outstripping available supply for electronics, housing and laundry machines.That portion of the inflation is more tied to government policies, which put money into consumers’ pockets — and its future trajectory is a lot less predictable. Economists think the bottlenecks will fade, but by how much and how long it will take is uncertain.Those price increases could have a downside.Whether today’s inflation matters and warrants a response will depend on several factors.If, as the White House predicts, quick price gains fade as the economy returns to normal, they shouldn’t be terribly problematic. Households are likely to have to spend a little bit more on some goods and services but may also find that they are earning more. Workers are now seeing decent wage gains, though not quite enough to outpace price gains, and the labor market is expected to continue strengthening as inflation fades.The biggest price gains have also been concentrated in just a few categories, like used cars. Most families do not buy automobiles that often, so the hit from higher costs will not be as salient for consumers as an across-the-board rapid rise in prices for everything consumers buy, like clothing and milk.But if consumers and businesses come to expect higher prices and start accepting bigger price tags and demanding higher wages, that could broaden inflation and keep it elevated. That would be a problem. Rapid inflation makes life hard for people who live on savings, like retirees. If it outstrips pay gains, it can erode a consumer’s ability to buy goods and services. And if inflation becomes hard to predict, as it did in the 1970s and 1980s, it makes planning for the future hard for businesses and households.There are risks that inflation could take time to get back to normal.There are real reasons to worry that inflation could stick around. Supply-chain snarls are expected to fade with time, but new Covid-19 variants and renewed lockdowns in some countries could keep global trade chains from getting back to normal. That could keep prices for goods elevated. (On the flip side, Jason Furman at Harvard points out that renewed lockdowns would also probably drag down consumer demand, which could lead to softer price pressures.)There are other hot inflation risks. Wages are rising, which might feed into faster prices as employers try to cover costs. Rents — which were depressed — are accelerating, potentially a stickier source of inflationary pressure.If inflation becomes pernicious, the Fed has tools to contain it. The central bank is already coming up with a plan to slow its big bond purchases, which keep longer-term borrowing cheap and lift markets. It could also raise its main interest rate, which would trickle through the economy to slow lending and spending.“One way or another, we’re not going to be going into a period of high inflation for a long period of time, because, of course, we have tools to address that,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, testified this month. “But we don’t want to use them in a way that is unnecessary, or that interrupts the rebound of the economy.”A job fair in St. Louis last month. The Fed is nervous about rising prices, but it says it also needs to weigh the risk of slowing a labor market still missing seven million workers.Whitney Curtis for The New York TimesBut there are also real risks to premature action.As Mr. Powell alluded to, policymakers do not want to move too hastily in response to the recent data. Many officials argue that it does not make sense to react to what is expected to be a short-lived price pickup by dialing back fiscal ambitions or weakening monetary support — policy changes that would reduce demand and lead to slower hiring down the road.Should the Fed pull back support for the economy before many of the 6.8 million jobs that have gone missing since the start of the pandemic return, it could lead to a painful situation in which workers end up stuck out of work.That would cost families paychecks, hurt the country’s potential for growth and tip the economic scales toward employers, who benefit when many available workers are competing for jobs.For decades, “the sensible adult consensus — that the most important thing was to protect against inflation — had a huge cost, and that cost was wages stagnating,” said Benjamin Dulchin, director of the organizing group Fed Up. “The Fed can err on the side of corporate interests and keeping wages lower, or it can err on the side of workers’ interests.”Today’s inflation could offer benefits.Inflation does have some winners. People who owe debts find that they are easier to pay off, and middle-class households who own houses may find that their values appreciate. Research has suggested that inflation in advanced economies can shrink inequality, for instance.But that isn’t even the argument the Fed and the White House are making: They simply do not expect the higher prices to last forever, and they think the short-term costs are worth the long-term benefits of helping the economy through a tough period.Some Democrats think that voracious hiring bolstered by government spending and central bank support will give workers the power to bargain for higher wages — an ability that might last beyond the inflationary phase. And they have been trying to foster a swift recovery from the pandemic downturn, getting people back into jobs and businesses back into full swing quickly.Officials are being patient, even as inflation surprises them.Government officials are setting economic policy today with an eye on the last battle. After the deep 2007-9 recession, the government cut back on spending early and monetary policymakers lifted interest rates before price gains had returned to their 2 percent annual inflation goal. Price gains proceeded to get stuck below that target, and the labor market recovery may have taken longer than it needed to, since the economy had less support.As that episode underlined, slow-moving global trends — including aging demographics and free trade — seem to keep a lid on price gains these days. In Japan and in Europe, policymakers have spent years battling to coax inflation higher. They are worried in part by the looming threat of deflation, which discourages consumption and crushes debtors, who find their pay stagnating or declining as their debt loads remain unchanged.America’s current bout of price pressures actually seems to be helping to guide consumer expectations, which had been slipping lower, back into the comfort zone.And a few heady inflation numbers are a good problem to have, if you ask Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economist. The globe just experienced a devastating pandemic that was expected to wreck the economy.“In the current situation, the fact that the economy is booming and they didn’t quite plan for it is still a blessing,” he said. “It’s a rich man’s problem that we’re getting inflation.” More

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    Return to Office Hits a Snag: Young Resisters

    A generation gap has emerged between them and colleagues who value the workplace over the advantages of remote work. Bridging it may require flexibility.David Gross, an executive at a New York-based advertising agency, convened the troops over Zoom this month to deliver a message he and his fellow partners were eager to share: It was time to think about coming back to the office.Mr. Gross, 40, wasn’t sure how employees, many in their 20s and early 30s, would take it. The initial response — dead silence — wasn’t encouraging. Then one young man signaled he had a question. “Is the policy mandatory?” he wanted to know.Yes, it is mandatory, for three days a week, he was told.Thus began a tricky conversation at Anchor Worldwide, Mr. Gross’s firm, that is being replicated this summer at businesses big and small across the country. While workers of all ages have become accustomed to dialing in and skipping the wearying commute, younger ones have grown especially attached to the new way of doing business.And in many cases, the decision to return pits older managers who view working in the office as the natural order of things against younger employees who’ve come to see operating remotely as completely normal in the 16 months since the pandemic hit. Some new hires have never gone into their employers’ workplace at all.“Frankly, they don’t know what they’re missing, because we have a strong culture,” Mr. Gross said. “Creative development and production requires face-to-face collaboration. It’s hard to have a brainstorm on a Zoom call.”Some industries, like banking and finance, are taking a harder line and insisting workers young and old return. The chief executives of Wall Street giants like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have signaled they expect employees to go back to their cubicles and offices in the months ahead.Other companies, most notably those in technology and media, are being more flexible. As much as Mr. Gross wants people back at his ad agency, he is worried about retaining young talent at a time when churn is increasing, so he has been making clear there is room for accommodation.“We’re in a really progressive industry, and some companies have gone fully remote,” he explained. “You have to frame it in terms of flexibility.”In a recent survey by the Conference Board, 55 percent of millennials, defined as people born between 1981 and 1996, questioned the wisdom of returning to the office. Among members of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, 45 percent had doubts about going back, while only 36 percent of baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, felt that way.And if anything, the rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in recent days may fuel resistance among reluctant officegoers of all ages.“Among the generations, millennials are the most concerned about their health and psychological well-being,” said Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president for human capital at the Conference Board. “Companies would be well served to be as flexible as possible.”Matthew Yeager, 33, quit his job as a web developer at an insurance company in May after it told him he needed to return to the office as vaccination rates in his city, Columbus, Ohio, were rising. He limited his job hunting to opportunities that offered fully remote work and, in June, started at a hiring and human resources company based in New York.“It was tough because I really liked my job and the people I worked with, but I didn’t want to lose that flexibility of being able to work remotely,” Mr. Yeager said. “The office has all these distractions that are removed when you’re working from home.”Mr. Yeager said he would also like the option to work remotely in any positions he considered in the future. “More companies should give the opportunity for people to work and be productive in the best way that they can,” he said.Even as the age split has managers looking for ways to persuade younger hires to venture back, there are other divides. Many parents and other caregivers are concerned about leaving home when school plans are still up in the air, a consideration that has disproportionately affected women during the pandemic.At the same time, more than a few older workers welcome the flexibility of working from home after years in a cubicle, even as some in their 20s yearn for the camaraderie of the office or the dynamism of an urban setting.Still, that so many young people are working from home is a reversal of longstanding habits, said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, the online employment marketplace.“The norm for so long is that remote work in office jobs has been reserved for the oldest and most senior and most trusted,” she said. “It’s interesting how quickly young workers have embraced this.”When they work apart, younger employees lose chances to network, develop mentors and gain valuable experience by watching colleagues close-up, veteran managers say.In some cases, older millennials like Jonathan Singer, 37, a real estate lawyer in Portland, Ore., find themselves making the case for returning to the office to skeptical younger colleagues who have grown accustomed to working from home.“As a manager, it’s really hard to get cohesion and collegiality without being together on a regular basis, and it’s difficult to mentor without being in the same place,” Mr. Singer said. But persuading younger workers to see things his way has not been easy..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“With the leverage that employees have, and the proof that they can work from home, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube,” he said.Fearful of losing one more junior employee in what has become a tight job market, Mr. Singer has allowed a young colleague to work from home one day a week with an understanding that they would revisit the issue in the future.“It’s just not possible to say no to some remote work,” Mr. Singer explained. “It’s simply not worth risking losing a good employee because of a doctrinaire view that folks need to be in the office.”Amanda Diaz, 28, feels relieved she doesn’t have to go back to the office, at least for now. She works for the health insurance company Humana in San Juan, P.R., but has been getting the job done in her home in Trujillo Alto, which is about a 40-minute drive from the office.Humana offers its employees the option to work from the office or their home, and Ms. Diaz said she would continue to work remotely as long as she had the option.“Think about all the time you spend getting ready and commuting to work,” she said. “Instead I’m using those two or so hours to prepare a healthy lunch, exercising or rest.”Alexander Fleiss, 38, chief executive of the investment management firm Rebellion Research, said some employees had resisted going back into the office. He hopes peer pressure and the fear of missing out on a promotion for lack of face-to-face interactions entices people back.“Those people might lose their jobs because of natural selection,” Mr. Fleiss said. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if workers began suing companies because they felt they had been laid off for refusing to go back to the office.Mr. Fleiss also tries to persuade his staff members who are working on projects to come back by focusing on the benefits of face-to-face collaborations, but many employees would still rather stick to Zoom calls.“If that’s what they want, that’s what they want,” he said. “You can’t force anyone to do anything these days. You can only urge.” More

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    QR Codes Are Here to Stay. So Is the Tracking They Allow.

    Fueled by a desire for touchless transactions, QR codes popped up everywhere in the pandemic. Businesses don’t want to give them up.SAN FRANCISCO — When people enter Teeth, a bar in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, the bouncer gives them options. They can order food and drinks at the bar, he says, or they can order via a QR code.Each table at Teeth has a card emblazoned with the code, a pixelated black-and-white square. Customers simply scan it with their phone camera to open a website for the online menu. Then they can input their credit card information to pay, all without touching a paper menu or interacting with a server.A scene like this was a rarity 18 months ago, but not anymore. “In 13 years of bar ownership in San Francisco, I’ve never seen a sea change like this that brought the majority of customers into a new behavior so quickly,” said Ben Bleiman, Teeth’s owner.QR codes — essentially a kind of bar code that allows transactions to be touchless — have emerged as a permanent tech fixture from the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants have adopted them en masse, retailers including CVS and Foot Locker have added them to checkout registers, and marketers have splashed them all over retail packaging, direct mail, billboards and TV advertisements.But the spread of the codes has also let businesses integrate more tools for tracking, targeting and analytics, raising red flags for privacy experts. That’s because QR codes can store digital information such as when, where and how often a scan occurs. They can also open an app or a website that then tracks people’s personal information or requires them to input it.As a result, QR codes have allowed some restaurants to build a database of their customers’ order histories and contact information. At retail chains, people may soon be confronted by personalized offers and incentives marketed within QR code payment systems.“People don’t understand that when you use a QR code, it inserts the entire apparatus of online tracking between you and your meal,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Suddenly your offline activity of sitting down for a meal has become part of the online advertising empire.”“I’ve never seen a sea change like this that brought the majority of customers into a new behavior so quickly,” Ben Bleiman, Teeth’s owner, said of QR codes.Ulysses Ortega for The New York TimesQR codes may be new to many American shoppers, but they have been popular internationally for years. Invented in 1994 to streamline car manufacturing at a Japanese company, QR codes became widely used in China in recent years after being integrated into the AliPay and WeChat Pay digital payment apps.In the United States, the technology was hampered by clumsy marketing, a lack of consumer understanding and the hassle of needing a special app to scan the codes, said Scott Stratten, who wrote the 2013 business book “QR Codes Kill Kittens” with his wife, Alison Stratten.That has changed for two reasons, Mr. Stratten said. In 2017, he said, Apple made it possible for the cameras in iPhones to recognize QR codes, spreading the technology more widely. Then came the “pandemic, and it’s amazing what a pandemic can make us do,” he said.Half of all full-service restaurant operators in the United States have added QR code menus since the start of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. In May 2020, PayPal introduced QR code payments and has since added them at CVS, Nike, Foot Locker and around one million small businesses. Square, another digital payments firm, rolled out a QR code ordering system for restaurants and retailers in September.Businesses don’t want to give up the benefits that QR codes have brought to their bottom line, said Sharat Potharaju, the chief executive of the digital marketing company MobStac. Deals and special offers can be bundled with QR code systems and are easy to get in front of people when they look at their phones, he said. Businesses also can gather data on consumer spending patterns through QR codes..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-1rh1sk1{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-1rh1sk1 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-1rh1sk1 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1rh1sk1 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#ccd9e3;text-decoration-color:#ccd9e3;}.css-1rh1sk1 a:visited{color:#333;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#ccc;text-decoration-color:#ccc;}.css-1rh1sk1 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“With traditional media, like a billboard or TV, you can estimate how many people may have seen it, but you don’t know how people actually interacted with it,” said Sarah Cucchiara, a senior vice president at BrandMuscle, a marketing firm that introduced a QR code menu product last year. “With QR codes, we can get reporting on those scans.”Tom Sharon, right, and Jamie Sunderland, founders of Cheqout. Mr. Sharon said restaurants that used QR code menus could save 30 percent to 50 percent on labor costs.Ulysses Ortega for The New York TimesCheqout and Mr. Yum, two start-ups that sell technology for creating QR code menus at restaurants, also said the codes had brought advantages to businesses.Restaurants that use QR code menus can save 30 percent to 50 percent on labor costs by reducing or eliminating the need for servers to take orders and collect payments, said Tom Sharon, a co-founder of Cheqout.Digital menus also make it easier to persuade people to spend more with offers to add fries or substitute more expensive spirits in a cocktail, with photographs of menu items to make them more appealing, said Kim Teo, a Mr. Yum co-founder. Orders placed through the QR code menu also let Mr. Yum inform restaurants what items are selling, so they can add a menu section with the most popular items or highlight dishes they want to sell.These increased digital abilities are what worry privacy experts. Mr. Yum, for instance, uses cookies in the digital menu to track a customer’s purchase history and gives restaurants access to that information, tied to the customer’s phone number and credit cards. It is piloting software in Australia so restaurants can offer people a “recommended to you” section based on their previous orders, Ms. Teo said.QR codes “are an important first step toward making your experience in physical space outside of your home feel just like being tracked by Google on your screen,” said Lucy Bernholz, the director of Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab.Ms. Teo said that each restaurant’s customer data was available only to that establishment and that Mr. Yum did not use the information to reach out to customers. It also does not sell the data to any third-party brokers, she said.Cheqout collects only customers’ names, phone numbers and protected payment information, which it does not sell to third parties, Mr. Sharon said.At Teeth, customers can order food and drinks at the counter or via QR code menus. Ulysses Ortega for The New York TimesOn a recent blustery evening at Teeth, customers shared mixed reviews of the QR code ordering system from Cheqout, which the bar had installed in August. Some said it was convenient, but added that they would prefer a traditional menu at a fine dining establishment.“If you’re on a date and you’re whipping your phone out, it’s a distraction,” Daniela Sernich, 29, said.Jonathan Brooner-Contreras, 26, said that QR code ordering was convenient but that he feared the technology would put him out of his job as a bartender at a different bar in the neighborhood.“It’s like if a factory replaced all of its workers with robots,” he said. “People depend on those 40 hours.”Regardless of customers’ feelings, Mr. Bleiman said Cheqout’s data showed that about half of Teeth’s orders — and as much as 65 percent during televised sports games — were coming through the QR code system.“They may not like it,” he said in a text message. “But they’re doing it!” More

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    Delays, More Masks and Mandatory Shots: Virus Surge Disrupts Office-Return Plans

    A wave of the contagious Delta variant is causing companies to reconsider when they will require employees to return, and what health requirements should be in place when they do.Several hospital systems that previously held off making vaccines mandatory for health care workers are now willing to do so. Google employees in California who have voluntarily returned to the office are again wearing masks indoors. Goldman Sachs is considering whether to reinstitute testing for fully vaccinated employees in the company’s New York City offices, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because nothing had been decided. And on Monday, Apple told its work force that it would push back its return-to-office date from September to October.When companies began announcing tentative return-to-office plans this spring, there was a sense of optimism behind the messages. Covid cases were dwindling in the United States as the vaccine rollout picked up pace. Employers largely hoped their workers would get shots on their own, motivated by raffle tickets, paid time off and other perks, if not by the consensus of the medical community.In recent days, that tone has suddenly shifted. The Delta variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus, is sweeping through the country. Fewer than half of Americans are fully vaccinated, exacerbating the situation. Nationally, the daily average of new coronavirus infections surged 180 percent in 14 days to 45,343 by Thursday, and deaths — a lagging number — are up 30 percent from two weeks ago, to nearly 252, according to New York Times case counts. Vaccines are still unavailable for children under 12, many of whom are preparing for an in-person return to school this fall.America’s business leaders are being forced to decide whether to reverse reopening plans or to mandate vaccinations.George Etheredge for The New York TimesIt all adds up to a difficult calculation for America’s business leaders, who hoped the country would already be fully on a path to normalcy, with employees getting back to offices. Instead, individual companies are now being forced to make tough decisions that they had hoped could be avoided, such as whether to reverse reopening plans or institute vaccine mandates for employees. All the while, they continue to grapple with the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.“It’s emotionally draining on all of us, and it drives the top management teams crazy,” said Bob Sutton, a psychology professor at Stanford University who studies leadership and organizations. He said some executives he had advised were “pulling their hair out” over what to do.For employers wary of the legal ramifications and political backlash of mandating a vaccine, the tide has begun to turn, if ever so slightly.“At the beginning, there were a lot of employers that were concerned about jumping in too soon and being the one out front — it is a divisive issue,” said David Barron, a labor and employment lawyer at the law firm Cozen O’Connor. “The calculus starts to shift a little bit when you see another spike.”Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York on Friday encouraged private employers to require workers to get vaccinated. He also said the city might broaden the number of city workers required to get vaccinated or to be tested weekly.Recent court decisions have upheld employers’ rights to require vaccinations, including a ruling that said Houston Methodist Hospital could require health care workers to get shots. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that Indiana University could require students to be vaccinated as well.At a vaccination center in New York. Vaccine mandates are still far from the dominant approach that executives are taking.Kevin Hagen for The New York Times“The legal authority continues to line up on the side of employers being allowed to mandate vaccines if they choose to,” said Douglas Brayley, an employment lawyer at the global law firm Ropes & Gray.When Twitter reopened its San Francisco office this month at 50 percent capacity for those who wanted to go back, only vaccinated workers were allowed inside. In June, a civilian group that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department was examining the possibility of requiring police officers to get shots. And numerous colleges have required students and staff to be fully inoculated before they step foot on campus in the fall.“The recent news of Delta surging in some places is just adding to that determination to be as safe as we possibly can,” said Tim Killeen, the president of the University of Illinois System, which instituted a vaccine requirement Wednesday.Novant Health, a North Carolina-based health care company with more than 35,000 employees, said Thursday that it would make vaccinations mandatory for its workers by Sept. 15. Its efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy through education and making shots easily accessible had stagnated.“Now that almost four billion doses of vaccine have been given around the world, and we see that it’s safe and effective, we see that the Delta variant is obviously here, and we have it in our communities, and that almost all the patients being added to our hospitals are unvaccinated, the time was right to say, ‘We’ve got to move forward with requiring vaccines of our team members,’” Dr. David Priest, the company’s chief safety officer, said.For others, high voluntary vaccination rates among employees have made requiring the shot simpler. Morgan Stanley, the investment banking firm, is requiring employees and guests at its New York offices to be fully vaccinated, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss company protocols. By the time it imposed the mandate in June, 90 percent of its employees were vaccinated.Vaccine mandates are still not the approach that most companies are taking. And the risk that the coronavirus poses to much of the population is far from what it was at the worst of the pandemic. New cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain at a small fraction of their previous peaks, largely localized to areas with low vaccination rates. Vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including from the Delta variant.“The big question is not so much ‘Can we keep workers safe in our buildings?’ but ‘Will workers feel comfortable enough coming back, even if good controls are in place?’” said Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who advises companies on Covid-19 strategies. “There’s a renewed anxiety that maybe started to dissipate in the spring — but it’s back.”When Twitter reopened its San Francisco office at half capacity for those who wanted to return, only vaccinated workers were allowed inside.Cayce Clifford for The New York TimesThat tension may make it more difficult to persuade workers to return to the office. In California’s Silicon Valley, tech companies largely embraced the new era of remote work during the pandemic. But not all have been eager to let their employees stay home for good..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}In June, Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, told employees that they would be required to return to the office at least three days a week, starting in September. About 1,800 employees sent Mr. Cook a letter calling for a more flexible approach.He did not respond, but days later Apple posted an internal video in which company executives doubled down on bringing workers back to the office. In the video, Dr. Sumbul Desai, who helps run Apple’s digital health division, encouraged workers to get vaccinated but stopped short of saying they would be required to, according to a transcript viewed by The Times.The video didn’t sit well with some employees.“OK, you want me to put my life on the line to come back to the office, which will also decrease my productivity, and you’re not giving me any logic on why I actually need to do that?” said Ashley Gjovik, a senior engineering program manager.When the company delayed its return-to-office date on Monday, a group of employees drafted a new letter, proposing a one-year pilot program in which people could work from home full time if they chose to. The letter said an informal survey of more than 1,000 Apple employees found that roughly two-thirds would question their future at the company if they were required to return to the office. In Los Angeles, Endeavor, the parent company of the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, reopened its Beverly Hills headquarters this month. But it decided to shut down again last week when the county reimposed its indoor mask mandate in the face of surging case counts. An Endeavor spokesman said the company had decided that enforcement would be too difficult and would hinder group meetings.The employment website Indeed had been targeting Sept. 7 as the date when it would start bringing workers back on a hybrid basis. Now it has begun to reconsider those plans, the company’s senior vice president of human resources, Paul Wolfe, said, “because of the Delta variant.”Some companies said the recent spike in cases had not yet affected their return-to-office planning. Facebook still intends to reopen at 50 percent capacity by early September. IBM plans to open its U.S. offices in early September, with fully vaccinated employees free to go without a mask, and Royal Dutch Shell, the gas company, has been gradually lifting restrictions in its Houston offices, prompting more of its workers to return.Hewlett Packard Enterprise began allowing employees to return to its offices Monday, bolstered by a survey of its California employees that found 94 percent were fully vaccinated.“That gives us an added layer of comfort,” a company spokesman, Adam Bauer, said.Wells Fargo told its employees on July 16 that it would begin to bring employees currently working remotely back to the office on Sept. 7. But unlike banks that earlier called workers back with declarative language ringing in a new stage of the pandemic, the memo, sent by the bank’s chief operating officer, Scott Powell, had a notable degree of caution.“The timing communicated in this message is dependent on our assumption that the pandemic continues to remain stable or further improves,” Mr. Powell wrote. “We continue to actively monitor the situation and any developments, including new variants.”Reporting was contributed by More