Workers go back to work as restrictions are dialed down

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Workers go back to work as restrictions are dialed down

Korean office workers are gradually returning to the office after more than two years of on-again, off-again remote working, as businesses are rolling back pandemic restrictions in tandem with those of the government.
Steel giant Posco on Monday ended its remote working policy in its Seoul office, believing that the Omicron surge has begun its descent and that the country is finally closer to the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Korean government relaxed its social distancing rules, starting Monday, to allow up to 10 people to gather indoors, and business establishment, such as cafes and restaurants, to operate until midnight, among others.
Office workers are embracing a familiar yet somewhat nervous working environment: long lines at the office cafeteria, jammed elevators and after-hours dining and drinking.
The steelmaker exempted immunocompromised workers, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions from the rules.
To lessen office crowding, the company also put in place flexible working hours and the “smart office” system where workers do not necessarily go to their office and work from the nearest office branch instead.
“I am glad to see my colleagues in-person again,” one employee at Posco said. Another was worried that it might take time to get used to pre-pandemic office life again after almost two years of remote working.
Other big companies are cautiously mulling a gradual return to the office in a safe manner, as the country has been reporting six-figure daily infection cases since mid-February.
On Monday, new virus cases fell to 127,190, the lowest in six weeks, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), with hospitalizations and deaths stable.
Samsung Electronics removed a requirement for its employees to fill in an online health form before coming to the office to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia relaxed their policies on domestic business trips, trainings and meetings. They no longer require business travelers to get vaccinated.
The three companies still keep some remote work policies as a precautionary measure, as many workplaces are daily experiencing coronavirus outbreaks, which often results in labor shortage.
Businesses, nevertheless, are moving to adapt to a post-pandemic normal where remote working is here to stay.
During recent talks with employees, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee said the tech giant will maintain its work-from-home policy to a certain degree and continue experimenting with various types of working environments to give workers more flexibility in the workplace.
SK hynix, the world’s second-largest memory chip maker, also recently said it will “streamline working hours and reduce constraints on workspace to innovate the way people work.” The chipmaker plans to expand the number of “smart offices.”
Battery maker SK Innovation is considering retaining its work-from-home policy for workers who do not need to be physically in the office to get their job done even after the pandemic ends.

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