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As Offices Ease Covid Safety Measures, Workers Worry


Employers are embracing a workplace atmosphere reminiscent of prepandemic times — elevators jammed, snack tables brimming, face coverings optional — even as a new subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus spurs concerns about health and safety. Across the country, office occupancy has hit a pandemic high, 40 percent, reached just once before in early December, at the same time that indoor mask mandates drop.After several false starts in calling workers back, company leaders now seem eager to press forward. A flurry of return to office plans have rolled out in recent weeks, with businesses including American Express, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft calling some workers back to their desks. Many of those companies followed state and local governments in easing Covid-19 restrictions, arguing that ending mask mandates could make workplaces more pleasant. But some workers, especially those with compromised immunity or unvaccinated children, feel uncomfortable with the rush back to open floor plans.“Masks have created a real psychological barrier to getting back to office culture,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City, a business group. “As long as things are going in a positive direction with Covid, I th …

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