Travelers Indefinitely Delays Office Return For Thousands In Hartford
Hartford Courant (CT)
Insurance giant Travelers Cos., which employs thousands in downtown Hartford, is delaying indefinitely its broad-based return to the office as concerns grow about the COVID-19 omicron variant and a recent spike in infection rates.
The Hartford insurer had planned a return to downtown offices beginning Jan. 18.
In an internal letter Monday obtained by the Courant and confirmed by the insurer, Travelers chairman chief executive Alan Schnitzer told employees that “we will need to hit the pause once again on our return-to-office plans.”
“Your next question is no doubt, ‘Until when?’ Schnitzer wrote. “I wish I could tell you. Until we have a better sense of what the course of the pandemic is going to take, we don’t have clarity to answer that question.”
Travelers, the property-casualty insurer, employs about 7,000 in and around the downtown Hartford area and is a major contributor to foot traffic during the workday that fuels patrons for downtown restaurants, shops and other businesses.
Schnitzer acknowledged the “false starts” in returning the office, stretching back early in the fall and wrote he hoped employees would be ready to return when “the time is right.”
Schnitzer said all employees who need it will have at least a month’s notice before they are expected to return to the office.
Travelers’ delay amid the stunning recent increase COVID-19 infections is the latest among corporate employers in the city who are cautiously tracking the course of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, The Hartford Financial Services Group, the property-casualty insurer that employs about 6,000 in Connecticut and thousands at its headquarters in Hartford’s Asylum Hill, said it would delay the return of senior managers to the office. At that time, a broad-based return to the office was still set for Jan. 18.
The return of office workers is seen as crucial by some downtown residential developers because the workers give a firm foundation for restaurants and other businesses. In turn those restaurants, shops and entertainment venues are seen as key to attracting more people to rent an increasing number of apartments under construction.
In his letter, Schnitzer expressed optimism about the future and a return to the office. He noted Moderna’s announcement this week that its booster shot is “highly effective in preventing infection, severe disease and death from omicron,” following a similar announcement from Pfizer earlier this month.
Schnitzer encouraged all employees to get the vaccine and a booster.
“In the meantime, our office remain open for those of you who would like to come in,” Schnitzer wrote. “For now, we are limiting access to employees who have confirmed their status in Workday as fully vaccinated.”
Schnitzer wrote: “Omicron isn’t the first curveball the pandemic has thrown our way, and it might not be the last. But with each new twist and turn since March, 2020, you’ve shown extraordinary resilience, dedication and professionalism.”