Va. companies construct plans to bring employees back in office

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 5:32 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - The decline in COVID-19 cases has many Virginia companies looking to bring employees back into the office.

This includes one of the area’s largest employers – Markel Corporation – based in Glen Allen.

The Fortune 500 company will test out a hybrid format for its white collar workforce come June 1.

However, the first step in the process was holding the company’s annual shareholder meeting in person at the Richmond Raceway.

Typically, the CEOs hold the event indoors, but due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 shareholders meeting was help at Virginia Credit Union LIVE! – the amphitheater at the raceway.

“This is great,” said Markel Co-CEO Tom Gayner.

For many, this is the first time in more than a year these shareholders were able to see one another in-person.

“I’m so glad that we’re finally able to gather in person to begin reclaiming the relationships that need in-person, face-to-face connection to flourish fully,” Gayner said during the meeting.

Markel is an insurance-based company which also has 17 other businesses dabbling in the manufacturing of baking equipment, trailers and IT consulting.

For employees in manufacturing, they have been coming into work throughout the pandemic.

However, for office employees, many have been working remotely since last year.

“We’ve been anxious to try and help people find their way back to the office; find their way back to person-to-person,” Gayner said.

Monday’s in-person shareholder meeting was the first step in the process. All attendees were asked to socially distance for the outdoor event.

“Vaccines have rolled out, restrictions are being lifted,” Gayner said. “Our plan to try and connect look like they’re all going to come together so we’re just delighted to be able to see people together in-person.”

More of that could be happening in the near future as long as COVID-19 cases remain low and vaccination rates stay steady.

“We plan to lift our mitigation measures, capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements on June the 15th,” said Gov. Ralph Northam at the May 6 COVID-19 news briefing.

However, many companies have plans in place to bring a sense of normalcy back to the work life.

“Starting June 1, we would expect another big swath of people to be headed back,” Gayner said. “We’ll manage the total capacity of the building so that no more than 50% are there at any one time. So that’s June 1 and then September 1 we would hope that would go up another notch.

Several other companies have created plans to bring employees back into the office as early as September, however, that was before Northam announced these eased restrictions.

Meanwhile, Northam has asked other businesses to start putting plans together in case those capacity limits are lifted.

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