It’s been almost a year since the first COVID cases in Michigan, and emergency rules that prohibited the reopening of most office spaces went into effect last April. But those rules will be up for renewal – or could expire next month. While many people have been working from home, the business community is eager for things to change.
Rich Studley with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce says, “It will be 12 months since the Governor used her temporary emergency powers to issue a statewide declaration of emergency.” And many people have been working from home ever since. Now, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure the state lets workers get back to business.
Studley says, “The administration is coming up on a crucial decision. In mid-April the current MIOSHA rule, which is one of the most restrictive in the country, in terms of directing employees to work from home if it is at all possible, will come up for expiration or renewal.”
The Michigan Chamber says the administration might simply renew the order. But they argue that would be the wrong choice. “One option is the administration might simply renew that order for another six months. We think that is unnecessary and unhelpful. It is time to pivot, to job creation and economic growth and reopening our economy safely.”
Studley is announcing a new statewide economic coalition of eight other chamber groups from all over the state. It’s called “Reopen Michigan Safely,” and they’re hoping the Governor and MIOSHA get the message that employers want their workers back in the building. “Our members across the state are ready to reopen safely. We know from 12 months of experience that we can do this by working together.”
But the Chamber says it has had very little communication from the administration and doesn’t know which direction the MIOSHA rules could be headed. “Employers across the state of every size and type have worked morning, noon, and night, to protect their employees, their customers, to engage in social distancing, to wear mask.” Studley says they’ve gone to extraordinary measures to guarantee a safe workplace, and it’s time to go back.
One example, at our brand new downtown Traverse City 9&10 offices, most of our Traverse City employees have spent much of the last year working from home. With room for dozens of employees, just a handful are here on a regular basis.
Warren Call is the TraverseConnect President & CEO. He says, “Companies and employees have learned to embrace new technologies in incredible ways that have pushed us into the future in productive ways. At the same time… you can’t do everything over zoom.”
Call says remote work is not a sustainable approach. “There are many things that can be done productively, virtually. There are many things that frankly cannot be done productively, virtually. I think what we’re asking for here is to let our businesses and their employees work together on what the right approach is in each community and for each business.”
Employers are noticing too – that their workers may be growing tired of work from home. Keri Amlotte with 20Fathoms says, “What we’re hearing from people is they’re interested in getting back into a professional environment, and back into a community. There are distractions at home, they’re feeling very isolated.”
20Fathoms is a co-working space in Traverse City, and Amlotte says the change in attitude is noticeable. “There’s definitely been a big shift working from home. In the past month or two though, we’ve been seeing an increase in inquiries from people interested in getting back into our co-working space.”
Amlotte says an office atmosphere is a place where many workers thrive. “It just feels good to be working among other people. There is increased energy, there’s often increased creativity. And a lot of people, we’re also hearing, there’s increased productivity here. They’re able to get more done in an office environment.” She adds, “You can brainstorm with other people, or see what other people are doing. It helps generate ideas.”
MIOSHA will have to announce any rules changes by mid-April.