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‘I smiled at somebody, they smiled back:’ Steelcase excited to have vaccinated employees back

State, MIOSHA announce fully-vaccinated people may return to work mask-free effective immediately
Posted at 5:28 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 21:44:28-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Monday morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stopped at the Steelcase headquarters to announce that fully vaccinated people may return to offices without masks.

The president and CEO Jim Keane said the news was “terrific" to hear.

“I think it's a great day for Michigan and a great day for people who work in offices,” Keane said during a Zoom interview on Monday afternoon. “The people in Michigan are very resilient, figuring out how to work at home, how to work through video conferences, how to outfit their homes to be able to support work. But, we had no choice.”

As soon as the pandemic hit in March 2020, Steelcase sent many of their employees home, Keane said. There were a few people who remained in the office and a few others in labs for operational purposes. However, for those who were home, Keane let them decide for themselves how they’d like to work.

Nevertheless, it was tough on many, he said.

“We know people had been struggling,” Keane said. “Some people were struggling more than others with all of this loneliness and some with the tensions that many people face at home.”

So, Monday’s news made him smile.

Keane said the fight against COVID isn’t over yet. Cases are still high and more people need to get vaccinated. In the meantime, he’s ready to have as many employees back as possible.

“I’m in my offices today and I can see people who are fully-vaccinated walking around with no masks. I smile at somebody they smile back,” Keane said. “You forget how long it’s been since we’ve been able to do that. And, it gives this emotional lift that’s hard to describe.”