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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/MICHAEL WOODS @NWAMICHAELW The Walmart Home office Friday, January 20, 2017 in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Walmart Inc.'s corporate employees will continue working remotely through at least Jan. 31, the company said Thursday. This is a change in plans for the retailer, which previously said that it would allow some workers back into its U.S. offices in mid-August.

"During this period, we have collectively accomplished so much and have adapted to new ways of working," Donna Morris, Walmart's chief people officer, said in a memo to employees. "Teams across the business are working with increased speed, productivity and a focus on innovation."

"For those of you with children at home, you are in the process of adapting to your kids returning to school," Morris said. "The status of the pandemic across the country remains dynamic, and we are continuing to actively monitor developments to slow the spread of the virus," she said.

Given these factors, she said, the company decided to keep employees at all its U.S. campuses primarily working remotely.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Besides its Bentonville headquarters, Walmart has offices in Silicon Valley area south of San Francisco and in Hoboken, N.J.

Morris said the company is still working, though, to prepare its offices for employees and teams who may occasionally need to use office space. Those in Northwest Arkansas will need to reserve a spot in advance to maintain physical distancing and keep the number of workers below the office's maximum capacity, she said. They also will need to complete a health screening before entering a Walmart office building.

Outside Northwest Arkansas, the retailer is preparing to rework office spaces to be set up safely when employees return, Morris said.

In late June, Morris sent a memo saying the company was preparing to enter phase two of a plan to transition its Northwest Arkansas workers back into offices. She said the company could accommodate only up to 50% of the employees who worked in its buildings, and that the earliest this phase could begin was Aug. 17, which is Monday.

[RELATED » Interactive: Economic impacts of covid-19 » arkansasonline.com/economy/]

"We will see how things develop between now and then before firming up that date," Morris said in the June memo.

"While our goal remains to transition the majority of our associates back to working in our offices, we will only do so when we're confident this can be done in a safe manner."

The first phase allowed some workers into campus buildings to access equipment or technology needed to do their jobs. The company also introduced safety measures such as requiring face coverings, practicing social distancing and completing the daily health screening.

Employees outside Northwest Arkansas were told that they would get site-specific communications regarding a timeline for return.

Suresh Kumar, Walmart's global chief technology officer, said in May that Walmart's tech employees would continue working remotely indefinitely because the arrangement was so successful.

"As we've moved to virtual work, we haven't just coped, we've actually thrived," Kumar told his team in a May 28 memo. "We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact for our customers, associates and the business."

Kumar also said that the team is quicker to make decisions and act on them, and meetings now include more people regardless of their locations.

"This unusual time has many companies, largely those in tech and services, thinking differently about the future of work," Kumar said, "and working virtually will be the new normal."

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