In new age of remote work, Vt. businesses consider office space needs

Published: May. 28, 2020 at 5:12 PM EDT
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As Vermont's economy continues to reopen, company's with larger office buildings are waiting on guidance from the state. Right now, offices can operate with no more than 10 people as long as they comply with health and safety requirements. Our Dom Amato found out how one large employer is handling working form home and if it could become the new normal.

While working from home may have been a far-fetched dream for many before the pandemic, it is now very much the reality. While some are pushing for more businesses to adopt this policy even when its safe to go back to the office, remote working can still be difficult for some.

"There have been some employees who have found it to be a little challenging," said Ross Sneyd with National Life Group in Montpelier: The insurance company employs nearly 1,000 people at their Montpelier headquarters. Sneyd says most of them are getting their work done at home, but some are having a hard time while watching and educating their kids or caring for elderly loved ones. "We'll continue to be as flexible as we need to be going forward."

The company is working with employees to ensure success at home. Remote working is still preferred by the state and some hope it becomes the new normal.

"We've been advocating that we use this crisis as an opportunity to really create Vermont as the work-from-home capital of the universe," said Betsy Bishop, president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She says they've heard positive feedback from both employers and employees about working form home. "I think many employers who thought that this could never work, have learned really quickly that it is possible."

Bishop says some of the challenges of remote working are only temporary as the state continues to reopen, but others, like broadband connectivity, remain a serious problem. She says employees could also miss the office environment. "I do think they miss talking with their peers. Sometimes having close proximity with others sparks innovation, so that is a missing piece," she said.

National Life says face-to-face interactions are also a big part of what they do. "There's nothing like being able to turn your head and talk to a colleague about a question that happens to pop up in the middle of the day," Sneyd said.

He says they plan to start bringing some employees back to the office sometime in July, based on their best guess on what guidance they will get from the state, but they are also willing to push back that date if necessary.