Management at T-Mobile and AT&T are slowly but surely working to get their employees back into the office, albeit with vaccine mandates firmly in place. Verizon, however, has remained tightlipped about its own plans.
First up is T-Mobile, which is working to get its employees to return to its Seattle and Kansas City offices by the end of October, after having delayed a previous goal to get workers back to the office by September 1. The company is requiring employees who return to the office to be fully vaccinated. However, it is also allowing employees to request to continue to work remotely, though such requests "will be approved based on their role and circumstances," according to a T-Mobile representative who spoke with the Kansas City Business Journal.
"We have found, hands-down, that we are at our best ... when we are collaborating in person at least some of the time," T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert wrote in an August email obtained by the Seattle Times. "Our spaces are open and ready for you, and it is time to come back regularly."
Continued Sievert: "I understand that this pandemic is far from over, but the data is crystal-clear that the vaccines are HIGHLY effective at preventing the kinds of infections that result in serious illness, hospitalizations, and death. ... And limiting our physical spaces to fully vaccinated-only people further reduces the risk, because unvaccinated people comprise the vast majority of cases and serious illnesses."
T-Mobile joins AT&T in requiring its office employees to be vaccinated. AT&T recently announced that its union-represented employees also will need to be fully vaccinated before entering their work locations starting in February 2022. The carrier has one of the country's most unionized workplaces, with 150,000 out of its 230,000 employees belonging to the Communication Workers of America.
AT&T is also working to return to office life. "We opened most of our office work locations in July and have an opening process that will continue to unfold over the months ahead, bringing more employees back in a measured way, based on customer and business needs and with safety in mind," an AT&T representative told Light Reading. "The health and safety of our employees and customers will remain a top priority throughout the process."
The efforts are noteworthy considering other businesses are shifting the other way. For example, accounting and consulting firm PwC told Reuters that it would allow all its 40,000 US client services employees to work virtually and live anywhere they want, permanently.
Verizon, meanwhile, did not respond to repeated questions from Light Reading on the topic of vaccine requirements and a return to the office. The company in August said that it had not enacted any mandate regarding vaccines.
As for the major equipment vendors in the US wireless industry, Ericsson officials reiterated that the company is not requiring vaccines. "As for return to the office, Ericsson has decided that working from home will continue to be the main principle for a majority of our employees through end of 2021," an Ericsson official wrote in response to questions from Light Reading. "Back to office plans will be communicated per country."
Nokia is taking a similar approach. "We acknowledge that vaccination is everyone’s personal choice, however we strongly encourage everyone to be fully vaccinated," a Nokia official told Light Reading. "As a global company, we will continue to follow and comply with all local laws and regulations related to vaccinations and monitor the situation. And as the COVID-19 situation keeps evolving, we may need to update our guidance."
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