State Could Allow Return to Offices Ahead of Mid-April Deadline

The offices at HR Collaborative in Grand Rapids are ready for social-distanced staffing.

As it stands now, the emergency rule imposed by the state banning in-office work for businesses who can work from home is scheduled to expire April 14.

But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on a local radio show that she hopes businesses can start bringing back workers ahead of that date.

Whitmer said on Paul W. Smith’s show on WJR that she’d like to start bringing workers back earlier.

Whitmer said she’s was working with business leaders, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Department of Health and Human Services on a strategy to make it possible. 

“It is my hope, if our positivity numbers stay low where they are and our vaccination rates are high where they are, that we will be able to do that in the coming weeks,” Whitmer told Smith.

The Reopen Michigan Safely coalition last week called on Whitmer to end the office ban and “allow job creators and employees across all industries to work together toward reopening safely.”

Reopen Michigan Safely was started by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Traverse Connect, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce and Southern Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

The coalition is sounding the alarm that Michigan jobs are being permanently lost due to current restrictions, and is asking others to join the movement to reopen Michigan now.

“It is time to safely reopen Michigan for business,” Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley said. “With the widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and a substantial decrease in COVID caseloads, it is time for state government to be more proactive about saving jobs and allowing businesses to reopen. Given everything we have learned over the last year, it is time to let job creators and employees put that information to work and safely reopen our offices and other businesses.”

Scott Ryan, Vice President and General Counsel of Gentex, a Zeeland-based company that provides custom, high-tech electronic products for the automotive, aerospace and commercial fire protection industries, said current restrictions are holding the economy back.

“Michigan’s remote working requirement has curtailed new product development efforts, hampered our ability to respond to operational concerns, negatively affected our ability to compete, and left many office employees battling isolation and depression,” said Ryan. “We’ve done the hard work to protect our employees and working together to get back to our offices safely is a major priority for us.”