How St. Louis Companies Are Pandemic-Proofing Their Offices
Bob Harrison enjoys working in the office. He thinks this fits in with the corporate culture and contributes to better collaboration.
Harrison is chairman and president of Daniel and Henry Co., an insurance broker and risk management company in St. Louis with 170 employees.
“Over time, the euphoria of the apparent efficiency diminishes somewhat,” Harrison told St. Louis about air host Sarah Fenske. “We really realized that we are a company whose culture is best fostered by working in the office.”
Harrison’s company remains empathetic to employees who are forced to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly due to health issues, as well as childcare and elderly care reasons. But he encourages employees to get back to the office safely by making sure people respect personal space and wear masks in public areas.
“I think for one person, most of them think that the opportunity for collaboration, informal communication, and spontaneous communication is really in the office,” he said.
Harrison isn’t alone when it comes to getting workers back to the office.
Megan Ridgeway is an architect and builder at Arcturis, a St. Louis-based architecture firm. In the past four months, she has spent much of her time with companies creating a safe environment for workers. She works with clients on everything from installing touchless doors and temperature test stations to designing boardrooms and break rooms.
“What has happened in the past few months, when this pandemic has lasted longer than any of us expected, or at least hoped, has changed our minds about why we want to get back to work,” she said.
Ridgeway stated that the companies she works with are very thoughtful about why they want their people to work together and how they consider custom solutions.
“We have a number of companies in the region who are systematically going through the ‘why’ with them, highlighting their top priorities, being together, and then working strategically with those individual companies to come up with the right plan for back-to-work and find the safe working environment for them, ”she said.
In addition to working with Daniel and Henry Co., Ridgeway worked on the design of the new Benson Hill headquarters. The ag-tech company’s $ 52 million building is located at 39 North, a 600-acre innovation in Creve Coeur that also houses the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
“After the building was completed and slightly delayed, we made a number of decisions to take a cautious, staged approach to getting people back to work,” said Matt Crisp, Co-Founder and CEO of Benson Hill.
At the eleventh hour, Ridgeway and her team recommended and made various changes to address the pandemic, which included the placement of furniture, the addition of a temperature control station when entering the building, and doors that open with a flick of the hand.
“We’re a startup – we’d like to say we’ve retained the agility, acted quickly, respected the problem and found solutions,” said Crisp.
When you return to work in the office, we will be interested in your experience. What steps is your employer taking to work in the age of COVID-19? Tweet us (@STLonAir), email us at [email protected] or share your thoughts on our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group and let us know about our coverage.
“St. Louis on the Air “tells you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.