Fidelity Investments and tech company Klaviyo are the latest Boston firms to change up their return-to-work protocols. In the past week, both companies have decided to close their local offices due to growing COVID-19 concerns.
Fidelity paused its back-to-work pilot programs that were underway in Boston, Smithfield, R.I., and Merrimack, N.H., on Friday, a move that impacted several thousand employees. And last week, Klaviyo said it was closing its downtown Boston office until January, following a handful of COVID cases among employees and uncertainty around the emerging Omicron variant.
Several businesses told The Boston Globe over the past few weeks that they are keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 situation, and at least one other firm plans to close its offices later this month as a precaution.
Erika Tower, a spokeswoman for TJX Cos. — the Framinghamparent company of the T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods stores — said Monday that the firm’s office-based employees will work remotely during the last week of December and the first week of January. The temporary office closure is timed for when the company anticipates many workers may be “gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holidays,” she wrote in an e-mail.
TJX also announced a booster-shot mandate for its office-based employees last week. The thousands of TJX employees who work in the company’s retail stores are not required to be vaccinated.
Michael Aalto, a spokesman for Fidelity, said the company decided to close its New England locations over what he called “rising COVID risk scores.” Other voluntary return-to-office programs are still taking place in other parts of the country, he said.
Essential workers at Fidelity, including those employed in security and facilities management positions, will still be allowed to go in, Aalto said. Fidelity has about 5,400 employees in Massachusetts.
Marketing technology firm Klaviyo told employees last week that it would shut down its office until Jan. 10. The decision came after four employees, who had been in the office, self-reported positive COVID-19 test results over the past three weeks, said Lacey Berrien, Klaviyo’s director of public relations.
“It was just, ‘This hadn’t been happening. It’s happening now. We need to reassess our strategy,’” Berrien said. “Our goal is for people in our office operations team to implement new guidelines and policies surrounding safety.”
Berrien said Klaviyo’s new protocols would include a new vaccination verification system, and a booster shot requirement. Previously, Klaviyo required employees to be vaccinated and kept every other desk closed for social distancing. The company had lifted its mask mandate and did not require employees to get tested for COVID-19.
On average, about 80 people worked at the company’s office each day during the seven weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, across four floors in the 125 Summer St. building. Klaviyo has more than 580 employees based in Massachusetts and nearly 1,000 globally.
With a $9 billion valuation, Klaviyo is one of the most prominent private tech companies in the state. The firm offers analytics tools and software for e-mail or text messaging to help businesses reach and understand their customers.
Other organizations on Monday reported no changes to their back-to-office policies, including HubSpot, Biogen, MassMutual, Rapid7, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; each allows employees to come into its offices, under its own safety protocols.
Massachusetts businesses have been mostly on their own when it comes to crafting and implementing COVID-19 safety measures. In late May, state officials lifted most rules that limited building occupancy and required social distancing.
Until scientists know more about the Omicron variant, some experts have said people should take extra precautions. Health experts have also said there is nothing particularly dangerous about working in office buildings, compared to places like restaurants, gyms, and large entertainment venues that have been able to reopen safely.
Determining whether any environment is safe, though, hinges on factors such as prevalence of the virus in a community, whether people are vaccinated, and the standard of ventilation systems.