Granite State Employers Manage Tricky Transition Back To In-Person Work
After an unprecedented year, employers across the Granite State are contending with questions like whether to require COVID-19 vaccinations or masks, or whether to require their employees to return to in-person work at all.
For some, the transition has gone well, like Don Bergeron, co-founder of SkyTerra Technologies, an IT service provider in Nashua.
The company worked remotely for a year. Last month, they invited all their employees, over 20 total, back to work in the office together for a day.
"Everybody was collaborating and asking questions. So we saw that it was definitely missed," Bergeron says. "A lot of them hadn't seen each other, because we hired so many people during COVID. So it was nice to see everybody get together."
Bergeron said most of his employees are back in the office now, and he’s not requiring masks or asking about vaccination status. He said employees are advised to work from home or wear a mask if they aren’t vaccinated.
For other companies, the return to in-person work offers a unique opportunity to reimagine their work spaces entirely.
Kathy Sevigny is the CEO of Altos, a digital marketing firm in Bedford. Before the coronavirus pandemic, her office worked entirely in-person. But when the lease on their office space ended in February 2021, she decided not to renew it for financial reasons. She says the hybrid model will likely be her company's approach in the future.
Now, she's reconsidering what Altos's next office space should look like and sees it as an exciting moment.
"I think it's more about the spatial arrangement and having something that could be spatially spread out even more, should it need to be in the future. We'll have to consider all those factors moving forward," she says.
But Phil Suter, president and CEO of the Greater Keene and Peterborough Chamber, pointed out that local businesses are doing more than grappling with mask and vaccination policies at this point.
He sees employers struggling to restore their usual workflow after all the changes they made during the pandemic.
"I think the challenge for a lot of small businesses is kind of reactivating things that they have put on hold for a year," he says. "And now we've got to go find that sort of bandwidth within our organization to kind of stuff that back into our daily operation."
As the state begins to return to work in person, Suter said it’s also important to remember how the usual factors like finding child care and workforce shortages are also impacting employers, in addition to the COVID-19 challenges.