Many New Jersey businesses were planning to start bringing workers back into the office at the start of the New Year, but those plans have been put on hold thanks to the recent COVID surge.

As the highly infectious omicron variant continues to spread across the Garden State, with new positive case rates continuing to skyrocket and hospitalizations rising rapidly, Michele Siekerka, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the lack of predictability with the pandemic has created real challenges.

“Our business community is significantly resilient and frankly has accepted the fact that we are where we are today. We’re in it, nobody is walking in tomorrow and flipping a switch and changing the rules,” she said.

Siekerka said as a result, everyone has learned to go with the flow but “that doesn’t mean that it’s easy for them and it doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting them, particularly when it comes to the workforce.”

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A silver lining?

Tom Bracken, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said it’s unfortunate we’re facing yet another COVID surge right now because it’s way past time for our economy to start moving forward again.

He stressed if people are reluctant to go into an office or a retail establishment, that’s exactly what we don’t need.

“It’s just one more hurdle we’re going to have to face and let’s hope we get over it soon and we get back to some kind of normalcy,” he said.

Flexibility is key

Siekerka said as the COVID drama continues to ebb and flow, “companies will continue to organically shift their business model to a model that works for them, people have realized that those who can work remote are productive in doing so.”

She added, however, “that does not help retail and those on the front line who can’t work remote, and we have to be conscious about having to keep our workforce at the front-line so we can continue to move our economy forward.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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