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Eli Lilly will reopen with 25% of employees on June 1 and fully reopen July 12

Eli Lilly will reopen with 25% of employees on June 1 and fully reopen July 12


Eli Lilly and Company CEO David Ricks talks about the back-to-work plan for the company. Indianapolis Star

Eli Lilly and Co. announced Monday that 25% of its office workers, or about 1,800 people, will return June 1 amid increasing vaccinations rates and expectations that COVID-19 infections will drop in the summer.

The company will allow all of its workers back into the office by July 12, said CEO David Ricks during a news conference outside of its downtown office with Mayor Joe Hogsett.

“I know, like most of you, we’re looking forward to seeing downtown Indianapolis thrive again as more people return to their offices or shops and restaurants,” he said. “And the best way for all of us to expedite that process is for Hoosiers to get vaccinated.”

The move could signal the start of office workers returning to a downtown that has been mostly empty and struggling since the pandemic prompted businesses to send workers home to avoid infections.

Hogsett said that he expects other businesses will follow Eli Lilly in returning to offices.

“So it really is no surprise that Lilly is helping lead the transition of remote employees back to the office,” he said. “Their return will accompany an increased weekday economy for our city and especially for our downtown in the coming weeks and months.”

The year of remote work will have lasting impacts on many company policies and cultures as employees showed they can be productive working from home for long stretches of time.

Last year, one in five Indiana employers surveyed said they would allow more remote work. Earlier this year, San Francisco-based SalesForce announced it would not require the majority of its workers to return to the office full time after the pandemic, including those in Indianapolis.

Ricks said on Monday that managers at Eli Lilly will also allow for more flexibility even after workers return to the office.

“We’ve learned a lot about how to do remote work during this pandemic and we want to embrace the opportunity to have more flexibility for our employees, while maintaining a vibrant workplace where collaboration, innovation and just the joy of being in each other’s company can be a part of our company again,” he said.

Vaccinations required by June 1

The company will require vaccinations for those who are either called back to the office or prefer to work in the office in June. However, managers will continue to accommodate employees who want to work remotely.

Company officials said plans may change if infections and community spread is not as low as they anticipate.

About 5% of COVID-19 tests are positive in May, down from the peak of 14% at the start of the year. Deaths from infections have also been declining since vaccinations began late last year. Ricks said projections show those rates will continue falling and stay low through the summer.

About 40% of the state’s 16-and-older population has been fully vaccinated. But herd immunity — when enough people are vaccinated or immune to prevent widespread infections — requires significantly more people to be vaccinated. It’s unclear when or even if herd immunity can be achieved in Indiana because of people declining to get vaccinated.

But the company is expecting that the risk of infections will be low enough to drop both the mask and vaccination requirement for office workers by July, when it plans to allow all office workers back.

“We believe that the spread of the disease will be at a point there where our employees will be safe,” said Steve Fry, senior vice president of human resources and diversity at Eli Lilly. 

But the desire for remote work will become more clear in the fall, when employees are called back to the office.

Before the pandemic, about 70% of local Eli Lilly office employees worked in the physical building. Ricks expects that number to be lower going forward.

“We have the ability to do a hybrid workforce so they can use platforms like zoom and teams to dial into meetings and our meetings here can enable that, but we know some activities, like learning, apprenticeship, team alignment are best done all in person,” he said.

Contact IndyStar reporter Binghui Huang at 317-385-1595 or Follow her on Twitter @Binghuihuang

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Published at Mon, 10 May 2021 21:22:47 +0000

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