The Hartford, which employs over 6,000 people in Connecticut, is the first of the major Hartford-area employers to act in response to the omicron variant. The delay deals a blow to local leaders and businesses, who were hopeful the return of employees to Hartford would beget the capital city’s long-awaited revitalization.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are delaying the return of senior leaders to the office as scientists and medical experts work to understand the new virus variant, Omicron, and its implications for transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness,” Matthew Sturdevant, a spokesperson for The Hartford, said in a statement.
A “few hundred” senior leaders of The Hartford had been scheduled to return to the office next Monday, ahead of other employees. Sturdevant said there is no scheduled new date for them to return but that all employees are still expected to do so Jan. 18, as previously planned.
“As we have said all along, we will continue to make decisions and take action based on guidance from public health experts,” Sturdevant said.
COVID-related shutdowns have decimated foot traffic in downtown Hartford, leading to fewer patrons for local restaurants and retail shops.
The omicron variant has not yet been identified in Connecticut, but The Hartford’s announcement Thursday upends the optimism leaders had for the city to receive a breath of life before the year’s end.
Property-casualty insurer Travelers Cos. Inc. indicated Thursday that plans for its 7,000 Hartford employees will remain the same while the company monitors the latest guidance from federal and state officials.
“We continue to target Jan. 18 for our broader return, when our employees will have the option of a hybrid work arrangement,” a Travelers spokesperson told The Courant.
Travelers previously eyed a mid-September to mid-October date for a broad return to its downtown offices, but shelved those plans due to concerns over the delta variant. The company’s offices are open to employees who want to come in on a voluntary basis.
CVS Health Corp., which owns Hartford-based insurer Aetna, said previously most corporate office workers could begin to return in a hybrid model beginning Jan. 10.
Outside of Hartford, Pratt & Whitney has not made changes to its remote work model either, a company spokesperson told The Courant. Up to 80% of the jet engine manufacturer’s 8,250 Connecticut employees will continue to work remotely either full- or part-time, with the rest working full time in East Hartford.
New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker will continue its hybrid model. Only about one-third of its employees will work in-person full time, with another third splitting between in-person and remote.
Connecticut has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, as the state’s positivity rate has reached its highest level in nearly a year.
The omicron variant, believed to be more transmissible than other COVID-19 strains, has spread quickly in other parts of the world and was identified Wednesday in California.
Courant staff Seamus McAvoy contributed to this report.
Alex Putterman can be reached at [email protected].
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