HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — On Pratt Street in Hartford, the recently remodeled Sunberry Cafe & Catering has been reimagined into a restaurant and bar.
“We made our bread and butter through a lunch crowd,” said Jane Yon, of Sunberry Restaurant & Bar. “Now we’re seeing much more of a nightlife that we want to monetize on.”
Yon said the shift was necessary as many continue to work from home.
“It’s a downtown everywhere problem, you know?” Yon said. “A lot of corporations are not requiring their employees to come back to work.”
The percent of residents working from home nearly quadrupled in 2021 compared to 2019, according to the CT Data Collaborative. Now, about one in five people work from home.
“I suspect we will see remote work, hybrid work here to stay,” said Michelle Gilman, commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Administrative Services.
She said the flexibility has helped businesses with recruitment and retention.
“We average about 60-70% of our workforce is remote eligible, or tele-work eligible,” Gilman said. “We’re really now more competitive across the state and the country with private employers who have provided a hybrid work environment for many years.”
It also provides state workers with a sought after work-life balance.
“A lot of the new people coming out of college and the new people who are a little bit older love having the option,” said Travis Woodward, president of CSEA SCIU Local 2001.
But there’s a push from some to bring employees back.
At Bloomfield-based Cigna, about 90% of employees work remotely in some capacity. Starting in September, more employees will be required to be in the office the majority of the time.
“Clients and customers around the world count on us to do transformative work to support their health and vitality,” a spokesperson for The Cigna Group said in a written statement to News 8. “We see significant benefits to in-person work – fostering collaboration, inclusion, and strengthening our culture – which are necessary to support our growth and impact. Our intent is to bring more employees back to the office a majority of the time, while still supporting the flexibility they need to balance personal and professional responsibilities. We are taking these decisions very seriously, and are carefully evaluating The Cigna Group’s specific approach and plan.”
That push can be felt in communities across the state as well, including in Hartford.
“I can see that things are opening up and becoming livelier, which is pretty great to see,” said Uriah Sanchez, who works in downtown Hartford.
That, in turn, has been credited for helping businesses.
“I’ve definitely seen an increase of people during the afternoon,” said Karen Rokosa, director of Operations for Capital Spirits. “A few more people from coming back solely remotely.”
There are initiatives underway to bring people back to cities and towns, such as events on Pratt Street.
“We still see a great number of folks enjoying our downtown,” said Rodney Crockett, the operations director for the Hartford Business Improvement District Ambassador Program.