Return to Office: CT Design Experts Detail Post-Pandemic Workspace Needs

NBC Universal, Inc.

The office as we’ve known it is changing.

Experts say forget cubicles when you could do that focus work on your couch.

“There has to be a reason for the employees to come back to the office space,” said Corey Edwards, the director of client relations for Infinity Group, a workplace design company based in Hartford.

The company says it aims to help businesses all over Connecticut and beyond reimagine their office space.

Edwards says showing up to the office in the post COVID-19 era will have to mean some sort of experience: a place where employees can collaborate and socialize and feel welcome, comfortable and safe.

“We realize, and studies have shown through employee engagement, that employees are not going to be at the office five days a week, but about 70% of employees say they want to be at the office at least three days a week,” said Edwards.

So with all that in mind, he and his colleagues say the layout of the space is critical.

“They’re rethinking their space. They’re shrinking their space. Some companies are growing and they have a lot of opportunity because there is a lot of real estate that is available now,” said Infinity Group Director of Design Laura Merrill of the companies she’s helping decorate.

Jerry Fossey, the general manager of Fairview Architectural in Bloomfield, said his company completely gutted their office space when folks were working from home.

“We did well at home. We did. We had a good team, but you just can’t beat being back in the office,” said Fossey.

He worked with Infinity Group on their interior to update the office they once took for granted before the COVID crisis.  

“Everything is wide open now, everything is lots of space,” explained Fossey.

As for his employees, he says “I’m not telling anyone they have to come back. It’s a test of my leadership whether they come and join me here. I’m trying to make it attractive for them and make it so they want to come here instead of their nice office at home.”

A situation managers around Connecticut are struggling with right now.

NBC Connecticut reached out to some of Connecticut's largest companies about their return to work status.

Matthew Sturdevant, a spokesman for The Hartford, said,

“As the pandemic continues to evolve, we are focused on a fact-based, phased return-to-worksite plan for our employees in various offices in Connecticut, across the U.S., and globally that prioritizes employee health and safety. We expect to meaningfully increase the number of employees coming into the offices starting in late summer or early fall. Our decisions are, and will continue to be, informed by experts within our organization as well as public health officials at all levels of government.”

A spokesperson for Travelers also released a statement:

"The majority of our employees continue to work remotely, and we don't expect that to change in the very near term. We've been closely monitoring the changing regulations and developments across all our locations, and we continue to consider recommendations from federal and state health officials as we make decisions in the best interests of our employees."

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