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Red Thread Senior Vice President Strategic Accounts/Client Services Dawn Monde spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about the impact Red Thread has in Hartford and what the company is doing to help its customers prepare for a post-COVID workplace.

NAN PRICE: How does Red Thread add to economic development in the Hartford region?

DAWN MONDE: I’ll start by saying, we belong to the MetroHartford Alliance because it’s the right thing to do for the region. We need a strong region to create fertile ground for businesses. These kinds of collaborations enable people to do great work—and we want to help businesses create the best place to do that work.

Our collaboration with the Alliance has been amazing over the years. As Strategic Partners, we can engage with a larger community and help our customers understand what we’re learning.

NAN: Can you give us a pulse check on how individuals and companies are feeling about returning to the workplace?

DAWN: With the majority of the organizations we’re working with, we’re seeing that both workers and leaders have a desire to bring people back to the office—keeping health and safety at the forefront of their thinking. Most people want to return to an office they feel is less risky. Some people want to return as soon as it’s ready. And, some will likely continue to work from home in the near term future, until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of our customers are planning to bring people back in waves, so they’re not necessarily making major investments in temporary division and considerable changes in their infrastructure or their spaces. They’re focusing more on health and safety and a schedule to bring people back where social distancing is achievable and strong protocols are in place. That’s what we’re trying to help them through.

NAN: How do you guide companies through that process—especially as regulations are often changing?

DAWN: We try to stay up on our research. We firmly believe a lot of what happens next in the workplace will be defined by understanding infectious disease and understanding how that can better be controlled within a workplace. So, we’re trying to share a lot of information around that. We’re also sharing what other companies are doing to integrate strategies around bringing remote workers into the workplace and balancing that with those who will be in the office.

A lot of companies feel they’ve been relatively successful in continuing business with people working remotely and contributing to what needs to happen within each organization. While that’s moving businesses forward, many companies are adopting a wait-and-see approach and not making drastic changes to the good things they’ve implemented into their planning that support the growth of their business. They’re trying to understand how they can make it through this temporary period and come out the other side effectively able to safely meet and work within their space.

The other side is, the impact the workplace has on innovation, collaboration, and building the culture of an organization is very important. There’s a level of that generative collaboration that isn’t supported very well with so many team members working remotely. People are missing those serendipitous encounters with people they may not work with directly or those they may not have seen for a while.

NAN: Tell us about the “Now, Near, Far” methodology.

DAWN: When we first entered into this, this whole scenario was about approaching things in the Now—what companies need to do now to address the ability for people to work safely and effectively in their spaces, whether that’s sanitization stations, signage, barriers, or moving product around to de-densify spaces.

Moving into the Near means starting to think about what it would look like if more of your population comes back into the workspace. What types of changes does a company need to make to things like conference rooms or applications?

And then looking into the Far, determining how work will change with the assumption that a decent percentage of the workforce will still be remote, if not all of the time, at least a percentage of the time. So, this whole idea of bringing people together, even after work, can happen from anywhere, anytime, all the time.

NAN: How is your organization helping other businesses or other organizations?

DAWN: We to listen and understand each customer’s individual goals. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s really understanding where the organization is, what their challenges are, and what types of tools they may need based on their business to be able to move things forward. And, looking at how those elements of their architecture, furniture, and technology come together to help them through this process.

As they’re determining how they can create a flexible environment that will help them going forward even after COVID-19, organizations really need to be mindful of the health and safety component. We’re helping organizations create resilient spaces that enable them to morph during future issues. That means not making investments in things that are so fixed going forward, it’s keeping flexibility in mind and recognizing that integration of technology is going to continue to be critical.

NAN: As someone in a leadership position, what have you learned from this experience?

DAWN: It’s been interesting how we’ve been able to effectively collaborate over a virtual platform. It’s been inspiring to see the level of comradery and communication that can be built that way.

Sometimes, you can almost have richer conversations with people because everybody’s in the same boat. So, that’s been a really good nugget of this experience. And, I think having everybody just supporting each other in the community through this experience, trying to help and share ideas and be a part of a solution going forward.

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