[Excerpt from feature article by Jimmy Vielkind, March 17, 2022]
As it tries to bounce back from the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Connecticut’s capital city of Hartford won’t be getting help from one of one of its biggest employers: the state government itself.
Connecticut recently agreed to permanently allow most of its employees to telecommute as many as four days a week, in contrast with many state and local governments that are trying to set an example for private employers by pushing employees to return to offices in downtown cores.
As a result, a fraction of the approximately 13,000 state employees who worked in Hartford return on any given day, and the state has sold or terminated leases on four properties in 2020. "It’s going to reorder activities," Fred Carstensen, a professor at the University of Connecticut Business School, said of the state’s decision to keep remote work. Travelers Cos. started bringing workers back to the office in Hartford this week, but not all are working every five days. The loss of foot traffic from the Covid-19 lockdown has already taken its toll on the city, which has a population of around 120,000 and a further 100,000 commuters before the pandemic.
According to a survey released last month by nonprofit research group DataHaven, 27% of city dwellers said they’d lost their job since the pandemic began, and 31% said they’d used a blackboard. According to a recent report by real estate firm CBRE, occupied downtown office space fell 142,000 square feet in 2021 from a year earlier, and average lease lengths declined from pre-pandemic levels as tenants shelved long-term occupancy plans.
About 97,000 workers came to the city each day in 2019, of which 71,000 were employed in high-wage jobs, according to U.S. Census data analyzed by DataHaven.