With fewer COVID-19 cases expected this summer, Eli Lilly to welcome all employees back to Indianapolis HQ

Eli Lilly will open its offices next month as it welcomes employees back to the workplace in a phased approach.

In downtown Indianapolis and joined by mayor Joe Hogsett, Lilly CEO David Ricks stepped out of corporate headquarters and took to the street on Monday to declare the company’s plan. Ricks also posted an open announcement on Linkedin.  

On June 1, Lilly will welcome 25% of its workforce back to offices with masking and distancing required along with proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

By July 12, offices at headquarters will be open to all employees. Those who return to work in July will not have to be vaccinated.  

“We will not require that but we do expect most employees of Lilly to be vaccinated. We’re encouraging that strongly,” Ricks said. “If they have a reason not to be, we’ll make an accommodation.”

RELATED: Even with the pandemic in retreat, Amgen will let most employees keep working from home

In a state of 6.7 million people, the Indiana Department of Health reports that more than 4.5 million shots have been administered and more than 2.1 million people have been fully vaccinated.

The move was influenced by an expected drop in new coronavirus cases and is subject to change, Ricks said. It comes more than a year after the pandemic forced millions of Americans to begin working from home last spring.

“Most projections now have (new cases) falling between now and the 4th of July and being quite low across the U.S. this summer,” Ricks said. “We’ll be data-based. If CDC or other authorities change their projections, we’ll change.” 

Since the pandemic was declared in March of last year, about 7,000 office-based Lilly employees in the United States have been working from home. Going forward, some employees will be required on site full time, others most of the time, while some will be allowed more flexibility, Ricks said.

“We’re embracing a new workplace strategy,” Ricks told reporters. “If you want a little more flexibility, you can exercise that and work from home. But at the same time, we’ll have many people downtown.”

RELATED: 2021 forecast: 'We will not return to the old ways of working': Drugmakers weigh in on returning to work, post-COVID-19 life

Lilly has taken an active role in responding to the pandemic. Early on, the drugmaker launched a drive-through testing facility at its headquarters and made its presence felt by establishing testing centers in the state. It also set out researching potential treatments for the novel coronavirus, and has scored two FDA emergency use authorizations. 

Now the company hopes to lead other businesses back to work in the city.

“Their return will accompany an increased weekday economy for our city and especially for our downtown,” Hogsett said. “I’m sure many other employers will be close behind.”

Last week, in less public fashion, California-based Amgen laid out its plan going forward post-pandemic. It includes allowing most employees to work from home for the foreseeable future.

Lilly, apparently, will not be as open to that option.

“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,” Ricks said. “But we know some activities, like learning, apprenticeship, team alignment are best done all in person.”