‘A lot of us are aligned in thinking this is inappropriate’: AbbVie staff question return-to-work plans

Many AbbVie employees don’t feel comfortable with the drugmaker’s recent request that they return to in-office work, according to CNBC.

The company sent employees home March 17 and began bringing back essential lab employees, manufacturing staff and some executives in early June. AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez sent an email to employees Aug. 27 detailing the process for bringing the rest of them back to in-person work. 

“A lot of us are aligned in thinking this is inappropriate,” an anonymous AbbVie employee told CNBC.

Research and development workers, sales staff and marketing employees were asked to return to work July 13, but many decided against it, according to CNBC. Jeff Stewart, AbbVie’s U.S. president, and other company leaders sent a letter Aug. 31 saying these employees are expected to return Sept. 14.

The COVID-19 positivity rate in the Chicago metro area, where AbbVie is based, has remained above 5 percent for months.

“Many employees are commuters who don’t feel comfortable about taking the metro,” a different anonymous employee told CNBC. “We feel that there could be consequences if we don’t go in.” 

Mr. Stewart said AbbVie, which employs more than 12,000 employees in the U.S. across four states, will enforce safety measures in its offices and provide child care and learning resources for employees with children.

AbbVie will also survey employees Sept. 22 to see how they feel about its return-to-work plan, planning to release results in November, according to CNBC. However, these results will be coming months after many employees are already expected to return to the office.

“I don’t think I’d be fired immediately if I didn’t come in,” another anonymous employee told CNBC. “But I do worry that I’d be known as a dissenter.”

AbbVie declined CNBC‘s request for comment.

The reluctance of some AbbVie employees highlights a larger trend of workers countrywide feeling COVID-19 contraction after prematurely returning to office work. One salient example is the EHR giant Epic, which walked back its order Aug. 12 after it had previously ordered employees back to work.

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