The designs Maggie MulCahy comes up with at her desk often become the home bases for frontline workers across the region.

“We do all sorts of work, but my main focus here is doing health care,” said MulCahy, who’s been an architect at Hyman Hayes Associates in Latham for the past eight years.

Like countless offices across the country, the architecture, design, and engineering firm went fully remote at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was hardest at the beginning,” MulCahy said. “We were kind of struck with it and it wasn’t something we planned for, so we kind of had to make it up as we went along.”

Since the middle of fall, MulCahy and most of her colleagues have been back in the office, collaborating in person once again.

“It just makes it much quicker if I can have a print here and I can point to multiple things, instead of saying over the phone, ‘Hey Dave, look at view number seven,’” MulCahy said, while reviewing a set of blueprints with the firm’s managing principal, David Loucks.

What You Need To Know

  • Hyman Hayes Associates in Latham is one of the many companies that recently welcomed employees back

  • The architecture, design, and engineering firm was able to secure a larger office space during the pandemic to help implement social distancing

  • The company worked with the human resources firm BST to establish many of its new safety protocols

Loucks says it’s impossible to replace in-person collaboration.

“Although we’ve learned to do it remotely, there’s really a benefit to being together,” Loucks said.

The office the staff returned to is very different from the one they left last spring. Although plans to move were already in the works before the pandemic, Hyman Hayes was able to secure a much larger space, which made social distancing and other safety measures easier to implement.

“Previously, we had people sitting back-to-back in the layout,” said MulCahy, who helped set up the layout for the new space. “Now, people are all facing the same direction and they are not sharing any surfaces.”

Hyman Hayes’s managers didn’t prepare to bring their employees back alone. They worked closely with Adam Lawrence from the human resources firm BST to set up some of the new safety protocols that are now in place.

“It’s incredibly helpful,” Loucks said. “Hyman Hayes is not a company that’s big enough to have a dedicated in-house HR person, so we rely on outside professional resources, such as BST, to provide that guidance for us.”

With more people being vaccinated, many companies are bringing their employees back. Lawrence said one of the greatest benefits a firm like his can provide is staying on top of ever-changing rules and medical guidance, and helping to keep employees informed.

“The more you can train, the more you can communicate those changes. It really helps them to prepare for that unknown as they come in,” Lawrence said.

The employees at Hyman Hayes are on a rotating schedule. Associate Jeremy Delabruere says it’s great to be around his co-workers again.

“We love the new space,” Delabruere said. “It is much bigger and more open, and it allows us to have a lot more freedom with our designs.”

As architecture and design specialists, the team here likely had an easier time than most creating an office that prioritizes social distancing.

MulCahy says it falls right in line with their mission of building safe spaces for the health care community.

“The health and safety of our staff is the most important thing,” MulCahy said. “We want to keep them as safe as possible. We want to keep them as comfortable as possible.”