Hybrid plan will bring senate staff back to state house

Boston State House

Boston State House

BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS) – The Senate plans to welcome its staff back into the State House “in a hybrid manner” after Labor Day, Senate President Karen Spilka said in a Thursday email to staffers that cited “widespread support” for such a work model.

The email follows a Monday discussion with Senate employees and a meeting the previous week with chiefs of staff, both hosted by a reopening working group helmed by Majority Leader Cindy Creem.

The State House remains closed to the public, and Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano said last month that the Legislature is working on a plan aimed at “returning employees and the public safely to the State House in the fall.”

In her email, Spilka said the Senate “plans to maintain benefits of flexibility by balancing time in the State House and district offices with working from home.”

“Senators and Chiefs of Staff were informed in June, and asked to share with their staffs, that we hope to be able to welcome staff back into the State House in a hybrid manner after Labor Day. Our timeline for this first phase has not changed in recent weeks,” Spilka wrote in the message, a copy of which was obtained by the News Service.

“All staff should expect that they may at times be asked by their Senator or Chief of Staff to be working in-person in the State House and district offices after Labor Day,” she said. “I know many of you may currently be making plans regarding housing, transportation, family care, or other unique needs. I am confident our continued collaboration will make this return as seamless and productive as possible.”

Sens. Joe Boncore, Jason Lewis, Adam Gomez, Joan Lovely and Mark Montigny, and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr also serve on the Senate’s reopening group.

On the House side, Speaker Pro Tempore Kate Hogan has been taking the lead on reopening planning. A House spokesperson said that the efforts involve “due diligence on constitutional and legal questions about requiring vaccinations for Members and the public (the staff question is separate and distinct).”

On Wednesday, the House opened up a State House hearing room as temporary workspace for this year’s newly elected representatives. Informing the first-term lawmakers of that plan on Monday, Hogan wrote, “Please be reminded that the State House remains closed to staff other than those in Core Offices and we continue to encourage remote work, so the office space will be limited to Members only.”

Neither Hogan’s Monday email about the office space nor Spilka’s message on Thursday offered more details about when the State House might reopen to the public, a decision Beacon Hill officials have said is complex because of the way the building serves as a workplace, tourist destination, and public gathering space.

While arenas, bars and malls are filling up again as the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rate rises higher and higher, many private employers whose employees are able to work remotely have adopted a slower approach to office reopenings and appear poised to embrace hybrid work options in the future.

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