The gloom of those who prefer the office is on the rise. Delta variant's intrusion frustrates workers who just can't wait to go back.

Before the pandemic, Roya Joseph's days at the office were defined by interaction. She looked forward to casual conversations with co-workers, mentorship sessions with managers and periodic, freewheeling chats - known as ''teatime'' - in the office kitchen.

All that was sweat away when Ms. Joseph, a water engineer for Black & Veatch, an engineering firm, was sent home from her Walnut Creek, Calif., office, along with rest of her colleagues as the coronavirus began spreading through the United States last year.

She jumped at the opportunity to return when her office reopened to some employees in June.

But two weeks ago, the rug was pulled out from under her again. Black & Veatch shut its offices as virus cases rose nationwide, driven by the contagious Delta variant.

''It's depressing,'' Ms. Joseph, 32, said.''I feel like we're being pushed back to that isolation bubble. I feel like, mentally, I'm not ready to face that again.''

While workers who want to stay at home forever have been especially vocal about their demands, a silent majority of Americans do want to get back to the office, at least for a few days a week.

But as the latest coronavirus surge has led employers to delay return-to-office plans, that larger group is growing increasingly glum.

In a national survey of more than 950 workers, conducted in mid-August by Morning Consult on behalf of. The New York Times, 31 percent said they would prefer to work from home full time. By comparison, 45 percent said they wanted to be in a workplace or an office full time. The remaining 24 percent said they wanted to split time between work and home.

Morning Consult surveyed workers from a variety of industries, so white-collar office workers were represented alongside those working in other fields, like retail. The data intelligence company's findings echoed recent internal surveys by employers like Google and Twitter, as well as outside surveys by firms like Eden Workplace.

Certainly, some people have thrived in their new remote work lives. They have saved time and money and sometimes increased productivity. The degree to which employees have embraced permanent remote or hybrid work models has been ''stunning'' to company executives, said Tsedal Neeley, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied remote work for decades.

But for others, Professor Neeley said , it has removed needed barriers between work and home life, increased a sense of isolation and led to burnout. ''Some people just dislike the screen - their physicality and their proximity to others is a big part of what work looks like,'' she said.

But an increasing number of high profile companies like Hollywood studios, Wall Street banks and Silicon Valley tech giants, have delayed their returns. For the pro-return-to-office crowd, the fits and starts have been excruciating, Professor Nelley said.

''We are in this perpetual state of waiting, and that now has been extended with more uncertainty,'' she said.

David Pantera, an incoming assistant product marketing manager at Google said the company had decided to keep the September orientation for him and other new hires a virtual event, as it has been since the beginning of the pandemic.

Google's process, known as ''Noogler orientation,'' is usually a social, community-building event meant to acquaint employees with one another and acclimate them to the company's culture.

In Toronto, Allethea Bakogeorge is counting the days until she can return to her job at a musical theater company. Working from home, she said, has ''eroded the boundaries between work space and home space,'' even causing her to occasionally skip meals to avoid spending more time in the kitchen, which doubles as her office.

Ms.Bakogeorge, 25, has cerebral palsy, a condition that causes chronic pain. Her daily walking commutes to the office, she said, provided a form of mild exercise that helped her cope.

''I didn't realize how much of an impact that had on my physical wealth as a disabled person, and how much I missed it when it was no longer there,'' she said.

But the spike in coronavirus virus cases has dashed her hopes of a summer return.

''In May, I thought we might be trending in a direction where I could go back to the office,'' she said. ''Now, with the Delta variant being what it is, I think it is far less realistic for me to hope for a return to office anytime in the near future.''

 The World Students Society thanks author Kellen Browning.


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