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More big-name Boston companies delay their return to the office until January

John Hancock, Tufts, and Harvard Pilgrim rethink September reopenings amid quick spread of Delta variant

John Hancock on Friday became the latest major Boston company to push back its planned reopening of offices until January, amid the surge in COVID-19 cases tied to the Delta variant.
John Hancock on Friday became the latest major Boston company to push back its planned reopening of offices until January, amid the surge in COVID-19 cases tied to the Delta variant.Scott Eisen/Bloomberg

Add insurers John Hancock, Tufts Health Plan, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care to the growing list of white-collar employers postponing their return-to-office plans because of rising COVID-19 case counts.

John Hancock, a life insurance and investment arm of Manulife Financial Corp., had planned to reopen its Back Bay headquarters on a voluntary basis Sept. 20. But on Friday, president Marianne Harrison told John Hancock’s 5,000 US employees, including 3,500 in Massachusetts, that the company is pushing that reopening back until January 2022.

Only essential workers will be allowed in offices in Atlanta, Boston, and Tempe, Ariz., for the rest of 2021. The company eventually will adopt more of a hybrid model, with many workers coming in three days a week while working remotely the other two. John Hancock has encouraged office staff to take COVID-19 vaccines but has not required it..

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“I know some of you were looking forward to being back in the office, so this news will be disappointing,” Harrison wrote. “However, we do feel this is the right choice for our colleagues’ well-being and in support of public health in the communities where we live and work.”

Meanwhile, Point32Health, the newly formed parent of the Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts health insurers, said Friday that it’s delaying the phased opening of its new Canton headquarters as well as its Quincy office from early September until early November, and it closed its other regional offices that had been open at half capacity this summer. The nonprofit employs about 4,400, including about 2,500 people who will eventually be based in Canton. As with John Hancock’s headquarters, Point32Health will adopt a hybrid model for Canton for most employees there. All individuals, including contractors and visitors, will need to wear masks, for now at least, and everyone will need to provide proof of vaccination before entering an office as of Nov. 1.

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Other large local employers with recently delayed returns include Liberty Mutual, which said it would keep most US employees remote for the rest of 2021 rather than bringing them back next month, and Dell Technologies, which was planning to reopen offices next month but pushed that off to an unspecified later date. Smaller tech firms are doing it, too: Fuze delayed the reopening of its 200-person Boston office from September to January, for example, and Wasabi shelved its fall return-to-office plans for its 130 workers in favor of a long-term shift toward a more flexible mix of in-office and remote work.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.