Many employers plan a typical day at the office during NATO Summit
BY FRANCINE KNOWLES Business Reporter email@example.com May 15, 2012 12:00AM
Commuters and pedestrians cross the Madison Street bridge at rush hour Monday May 14, 2012. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
- The NATO Summit: Latest news, protests and events
- Map: NATO Summit road closures and parking restrictions
Updated: June 16, 2012 8:10AM
For some it’s an opportunity to work from home in their PJs.
For others, it will translate into free lunch and paid time off.
For many, it’s still a question whether they’ll work in the office or at home during the NATO summit.
But most employers contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times said their workers can expect a typical day at the office, despite transportation headaches, protesters and stepped-up security.
At Locke Lord law firm, staff has been informed the firm “will provide us lunch, so we don’t have to leave the building,” said legal secretary Christina Maas.
The firm’s office at 111 S. Wacker will close early on Friday, and “depending on what comes up, they did say they would send us a global email and voice-mail messages to let us know whether or not we’re going to have the office open on Monday,” she added.
The summit takes place Sunday and Monday with some of the visitors arriving this week.
Investment research firm Morningstar Inc. will remain open Friday and Monday, but most employees are equipped to work from home, said spokeswoman Margaret Kirch Cohen. During the summit, “We’ve told them if they want to work from home, they need to make their managers aware of their plans.” she said.
She was uncertain how many of the company’s 1,300 downtown workers planned to telecommute, but she’s considering doing so Friday.
Lisa Erickson, who works for the accounting firm Crowe Horwath is concerned about potential lengthy delays and crowded trains during the summit and will probably work from home.
“Our office will be open, but I believe most workers will be working remotely from home,” she said. She commutes from North Chicago.
A spokesman for Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages 20 commercial buildings downtown, including the Aon Center, NBC Tower and 77 W. Wacker Drive, said “buildings will be open and the various employers can come and go as they please.”
The story is the same at Willis Tower, where United Continental Holdings has offices. United said its offices there and at its United headquarters at Wacker and Clark will remain open.
On Monday, Gov. Quinn’s office said state agencies will operate as usual.
Banks have been a popular target of protests recently.
Some banks said they will close some branches. Among them is PNC Bank, which is closing its DePaul Loop campus branch at 338 S. State on Friday and Monday because DePaul will be closed. The branch is the only one out of 38 downtown branches that will close, said a spokesman.
BMO Harris Bank will close three of its 30 downtown branches Friday and Monday at 111. W. Monroe, 141 W. Jackson Blvd. and 99 W. Washington, said spokesman Jim Kappel.
“These branches are located in areas where demonstrations could take place, so we wanted to help ensure the safety of our employees, customers and assets,” he said. “The employees in the branches that are closing will be supporting our customers in other areas.”
Bank of America hasn’t “made any determinations on closures” but expects business as usual, said spokeswoman Diane Wagner. That’s also the case at JPMorgan Chase, said spokeswoman Christine Holevas.
It was announced last week the Field Museum will be closed to the public on Sunday due to a NATO event. The Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium will be closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Spokespeople for the Art Institute and Adler would not comment on whether their employees will get paid time off. But at the Shedd, Monday will be a paid holiday for employees, said spokeswoman Andrea Smalec. Staff will work on the weekend caring for the animals, she said.
Building management at 115 S. LaSalle, where the offices of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago are housed, have suggested to tenants “that they consider allowing their employees to work from home on those days,” said Executive Vice President Michael Cornicelli. The building also houses law and architectectural firms.
Cornicelli expects most downtown area employers to operate normally. But he said since the U.S. Secret Service announced planned road closures, parking restrictions and that some rail lines could be closed as needed during the summit and days before, he anticipates more telecommuting happening than he initially expected. Two weeks ago, he said he thought it would “clearly be business as usual. I’m still saying that, but I think that more people are expressing concern about how difficult it might be to get around in the city on Monday. I think more people now are considering at least working from home, taking the day off, not making unnecessary trips into downtown on the weekend and on that Monday.”
Experts say workers who endure traffic tie-ups, bus and train re-routes or other stressful situations should refrain from blowing off steam at the NATO protesters and take extra precautions like dressing casually until they get into the office and not carrying bags or boxes with corporate logos on them.
“I was in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street protests, and I couldn’t resist walking around the corner to see what was happening when I was dressed in a suit,” said Jay Taylor, a security expert with Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. “I immediately felt that it wasn’t a good idea to get too close.”
“If you think you’re going to talk some sense into a protestor’s head, you’re not going to,” he said. “Use your street smarts and don’t think you’re going to argue someone into a different position.”
Contributing: Sandra Guy