Senior managers will report back to the office Dec. 6, and the insurer said it expects that “substantially more” employees to be back in the office, starting Jan. 18. The Hartford plans for many of its employees includes a work week that mixes coming into the office with working at home.
“Recent weeks have brought modestly encouraging signs of progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Suzanne Barlyn, a spokesperson for The Hartford, said. “With health trends improving, we are planning to welcome more employees back to the office.”
Meanwhile, CVS Health Corp., which owns Hartford-based health insurer Aetna and also is a major employer in the city, said Friday most of its workers in corporate offices will return beginning Jan. 10, also in a hybrid work arrangement. Managers are expected to test out the new working arrangement next month.
Aetna and its subsidiaries in Connecticut employ about 5,000, the majority of them in Hartford.
The plans by The Hartford and CVS Health to bring their workers back was seen Friday as a hopeful sign by business groups and city leaders, a first step in bringing more people back to downtown restaurants and other shops. Those businesses saw a big hit to their bottom lines as office workers went remote in early 2020.
“It means at least they have a date to look at and a target,” David Griggs, president and chief executive of the MetroHartford Alliance, said. “When you’re holding on, it’s always good to know how long you have to hold on for. The people coming back into downtown, just getting their cars in the direction of downtown is good because eventually it will mean evenings out and dinners out.”
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he looks forward to more companies opening up their workplaces, critical to getting the city’s revitalization back on track after the pandemic.
“A lot of companies were poised to bring in their teams after Labor Day and obviously delayed that and created some uncertainty,” Bronin said. “We are happy to see The Hartford will begin bringing its employees back in December, and we are hopeful many others will do the same.”
The Hartford said it is requiring all employees to report their vaccination status by Nov. 5. The insurer said it is preparing to comply with forthcoming federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement guidelines for large employers. The requirements were mandated by President Joe Biden in September.
Barlyn said The Hartford has closely analyzed the affect of the vaccine and has concluded that “increased vaccination rates are key to reducing the impact of COVID-19 on families, communities, the economy and our country as well as on our own workplace.”
Masks will continue to be required in The Hartford’s offices where necessary, Barlyn said.
The Hartford, which employs about 6,100 in Connecticut and thousands in the Hartford area, said initially a “few hundred” managers would come into the office in December with a broader, phased-in return following in January.
In August, The Hartford had said it was delaying indefinitely a planned Oct. 4 return. A small number of employees have been working in the office on a voluntary basis, as well as those who are considered essential to business operations.
Early on, large employers were optimistic that a return might happen in summer or early fall, but those plans were pushed back by the spread of the highly-contagious COVID-19 delta variant.
Property-casualty insurer Travelers Cos. Inc., which had delayed a return from mid-September to mid-October, said this week it has not yet set a date for a broader return of its workforce. In downtown Hartford, Travelers employs about 7,000.
Even with the prospect of more workers returning, it is becoming apparent that an increasing number of employers are adopting a “hybrid” workplace model that mixes both working at home and coming to the office.
Travelers is giving its employees the option of working at home two days a week. CVS Health said many of its office employees will work two or three days in the office and the remainder of the work week virtually. CVS is requiring its employees at the corporate office be vaccinated and wear a mask.
Stanley Black & Decker Inc. is shifting two-thirds of its office employees in Connecticut to work remotely full-time or split between the home and office.
Jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney said up to 80% of its 8,250 salaried employees in Connecticut, or about 6,600, will work remotely full- or part-time, with access to office space when needed. The remaining salaried employees will continue to work full time at the East Hartford campus. The majority of salaried employees in Connecticut worked in East Hartford before the pandemic.
At The Harford, Barlyn said about half of The Hartford’s employees will continue to work from home, as they did before the pandemic.
“Others who worked full-time in the office before the pandemic will move to a hybrid model, going to the office for purposeful activities that are better performed together and working remotely when focused time is needed to accomplish objectives and being in the office isn’t necessary,” Barlyn said.
The office will continue to be the primary workplace for certain jobs, such as “business essential” functions, Barlyn said.
While the hybrid workplace may remain after the pandemic, Bronin said companies are already discovering it can not completely replace workers coming into the office.
“You definitely lose something from the standpoint of teamwork, innovation and team building and partnership when everyone is separate and remote,” Bronin said.
Contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at [email protected].
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