Photo of ​AlertMedia CEO Christopher Kenessey, CMO Alex Vaccaro, and founder and executive chairman Brian Cruver
AlertMedia CEO Christopher Kenessey is on the left, Alex Vaccaro, CMO, is in the middle and Brian Cruver, founder and Executive Chairman is on the right.

Is the pandemic ‘over’ at tech offices?

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. We’re still trying to decide how we feel about the Coworkers Attitude Matrix (HR, sales, PR: “Acts nice, is mean.” Leadership, operations, software engineers: “Acts mean, is mean.”) Today we look at whether the pandemic is “over” (in President Biden’s words), at tech offices. Plus, the surprising factor that tech workers value even more than a great remote work policy.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Is the pandemic ‘over’ at your office?

President Biden declared the pandemic “over” on Sunday’s “60 Minutes”: “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.” Whether or not the remarks downplayed the seriousness of a still-dangerous virus, they captured a shift closer to pre-pandemic normalcy in U.S. society.

That includes tech offices, it turns out. Many tech employers have relaxed their own COVID restrictions, including rolling back vaccine mandates and doing away with daily symptom questionnaires.

  • “Technology companies and leaders are behaving as if this is now a manageable problem,” said Joe Du Bey, co-founder and CEO of the workplace experience and people operations software maker Eden. “They are returning to the office and to corporate events in a meaningful way.”
  • Du Bey said this summer seemed like a “tipping point” for getting rid of these kinds of COVID precautions.
  • A few months ago, Eden saw “much higher engagement” for its vaccine tracking tools, and Du Bey was hearing more of his startup customers talk about requiring vaccines.

Officely, the desk-booking tool inside Slack, has seen similar trends. The symptom questionnaires that some employers require from workers headed to the office were being returned about half as much in August as they were in March, according to Officely co-founder and CEO Max Shepherd-Cross.

  • Officely users also conducted 70% fewer contact traces in August than they did in March, Shepherd-Cross said.
  • “I suggest this means that the actual amount of positive cases in offices is substantially down,” Shepherd-Cross told me in a DM. “However, people are still worried about it, hence the smaller drop in companies requiring health surveys.”

The emergency communication software maker AlertMedia is also being used for contact tracing less often. CEO Christopher Kenessey said customers who originally bought the product for COVID tracing are now using it for other emergency comms.

At AlertMedia’s own office in Austin, things are looking close to normal these days. The company no longer requires vaccination or daily health surveys to come to the office.

  • AlertMedia dropped those policies as other Austin-area businesses relaxed requirements like masks and vaccine cards, Kenessey said.
  • Once employees had a chance to get vaccinated, Kenessey said a vaccine mandate no longer seemed necessary.

Offices are getting busier, however slowly. The desk-booking software maker Robin found that in North America, workers booked 22% of available desks last week — a new record since the pandemic started. (However, as some companies cut back on office space, higher utilization rates don’t necessarily mean more office attendance.)

  • Different cities are seeing different return rates. New York offices saw a bigger jump in attendance this month than San Francisco, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Returns to the office might not have that much to do with lessening concern about getting sick. Research from Slack’s Future Forum found that virus concerns weren’t high on the list of reasons for continued remote work.

But as workers gather in person, COVID cases follow.Googlers have been getting notified of colleagues’ infections, CNBC reported last month.

  • Several AlertMedia employees caught the virus after returning from a trade show last week.
  • “We’re not ready to claim victory here at AlertMedia and say it’s over,” Kennessy said. “But we feel that it’s getting to the point now where you have to kind of live with it, work with it and be thoughtful of your peers, be respectful of them, and do it the right way.”

Read the full story on Protocol.


A company’s environmental impact is more important to tech workers than its remote work policy, a new report from Morning Consult found. Around 43% of tech workers consider a company’s impact on the climate to be “very important,” compared to 30% of the general population, Protocol’s Lisa Martine Jenkins reported.

Pay, benefits, and work-life balance topped the list for both tech workers and all U.S. adults. But unlike tech workers, U.S. adults generally valued remote work policies more highly than a company’s environmental impact.

Read the full story.


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By the numbers

The race for talent is still underway, and recruiters are racing to keep up. Almost half of recruiters said in June that their time-to-hire was shorter than in 2021, according to a new report from Employ. Here’s where recruiters are moving faster:

  • 63% said they were cutting time on interviewing with the team and hiring manager.
  • 62% were saving time on screening interviews.
  • 39% were spending less time on sourcing.

And 85% of recruiters said they were taking four weeks or less to close candidates, Employ found.

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating, or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬆️ American Express is hiring 1,500 tech professionals, mostly in the U.S. (Bloomberg)

⬇️ Meta and Google are cutting staff, giving affected employees 30 to 60 days to apply to another job within the company. (The Wall Street Journal)

⬇️ Real estate company Compass is laying off tech workers as the housing market slows down. (SFGate)

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Amazon and Uber are among the companies pledging to hire more refugees. (The Wall Street Journal)

The Harvard Business Review looks at how Black women can navigate being gaslit over pay gaps.

ICYMI: Startup recruiters are no longer seeking out Googlers. (The Information)


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