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Charter CEO details factors leading companies to delay return-to-office

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Kevin Delaney, Charter Co-Founder & CEO, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the looming return to office deadlines that companies like Ford and Alphabet are facing as the Omicron variant introduces more uncertainty.

Video transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. We've been watching closely the plans to return to the office that had been set up in January, but some employers, including some big ones, Apple and Google pushing back some of those plans after omicron caught on and was looking to spread. We're waiting to hear more about some of those decisions.

But for more on that, I want to bring on Charter co-founder and CEO Kevin Delaney for more about how businesses might be looking at a return to office in all this. And Kevin, obviously, you know, Google last time, when we were talking about the delta variant, I think they pushed back their return to office plans, too, or at least, relaxed some of the come back into office plans around it. So I mean it's rather important because that was a bellwether for what we saw a lot of other companies do. What are you making of the latest moves here?

KEVIN DELANEY: You know, these January-- a lot of companies have January and February return to office deadlines that are looming now, being as we're in the beginning of December. And there's just a period where we have a lot of uncertainty around omicron. We have two principal questions around it that everyone is trying to answer. The first one is just how transmissible it is. And the early indications are that it's actually quite transmissible.

And then the second question is the severity. So if you actually get it, do you, particularly if you have any other considerations or conditions or comorbidities, as the epidemiologists call them, just how severe is this variant? And so I think that, you know, we're still waiting. We're getting data and early analysis by public health officials. But they're still kind of parsing through these things.

And the result is that we're in a zone now for businesses where it's hard for them with confidence to bring workers back en masse starting in January. And, you know, I think what we're seeing is reflected in decisions by, as you said, Google and Apple. Uber and Ford also to delay their requiring return.

ZACK GUZMAN: You know, I guess one of the questions, too, around it is, you know, there's a few different layers to COVID cases and severity and everything like that. But the other layer, too, is around how companies set their policies around, I guess, testing, whether or not they would close down the office again if another case is discovered or policies all around all those questions you're highlighting. Obviously, there is time to kind of get those down on paper and maybe have those in place. But all this stuff shifts so quickly now when we look at another variant. So I mean, how does that maybe impact the reason why companies might be looking at it and just say, look, it's not worth it to get back in the office?

KEVIN DELANEY: You know, I think that's exactly the consideration. There are-- obviously, there's vaccination mandates. There's masking in the workplace. There's actually a consideration that relatively few people thought about before right now, which is ventilation in the workplace. All of these things actually play into the decision to be able to bring workers back into the workplace. And then you also have considerations as an employer. You have employees who might be traveling, going on business travel, being exposed, particularly if they're traveling internationally.

So there are a lot of considerations for people. And I think, you know, it's exactly the right decision, given the state of the information right now to actually put it on pause and say, you know, it's probably a little too soon for us to commit to coming back in January. We need a bit more time. And we're going to come back to you as a workforce and responsibly be able to answer some of the key questions before we require you to come back in.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and all this, too, on the assumption that a lot of these workers, we're talking about office jobs. A lot of them who aren't in offices have already gone back to work, too. So there's this weird dynamic playing out and flexibility obviously top of mind for a lot of these companies struggling to hire workers in some of these fields as well. Kevin Delaney, Charter co-founder and CEO, I appreciate you coming back on to chat with us today. Thanks again. Be well, man.

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