Preparing for the Great Return?

Here's how Morningstar is navigating its office reopening this fall.
Written by Brendan Meyer
September 15, 2021Updated: September 15, 2021

For some, it’s time to reunite with the comfortable desk chairs their backs have sorely missed. 

Once more, some employees can drink cold brew coffee on tap, unwind on their office patios, and finally throw out the nearly 2-year-old snacks they left in their desk drawers. 

As a number of tech professionals across the country begin to return to their offices, some are dubbing this fall and winter “The Great Return.” For many, it’s exciting.

“There is something energizing about it,” Laura Kohl, the chief information officer at Morningstar, said.

Over the past few months, the Chicago office for the financial services firm that provides investment research and management services has been open for employees to come in on a voluntary basis, greeting them with the familiar office surroundings they’ve missed, along with new additions, like individual libraries on each floor and new beverage machines.

To reveal some of the exciting changes, Kohl gave Built In Chicago a glimpse of Morningstar’s new and improved in-office experience, and detailed what she missed most about working from the office.


Laura Kohl
Chief Information Officer

What is the in-office experience like at your company right now?

When you step inside our office, a change of mindset is probably one of the first things you will notice. We are doing more asynchronous work and more virtual collaboration, resulting in the need for a more curated in-person experience. 

The reimagining of our workplace is a first step toward our future workplace design. We have converted the patio from using it as a lounge function to a collaborative space. The IT service desk is no longer a closed room; it is now a centric, fresh and branded space. Small conference rooms are now focus rooms for people to do heads-down work.

We also introduced individual libraries on each floor. A large investment also went into enhancing our desks and technology — more sit-stand desks, 38-inch monitors, virtual phones, upgraded Wi-Fi, assigned lockers, touchless bathroom doors, and new beverage machines.

And we’re not done. We expect to be in constant adaptation mode for the foreseeable future.

When you step inside our office, a change of mindset is probably one of the first things you will notice.’’


What aspect of the office did you miss the most?

Though the ways we work together have changed, Morningstar has embraced this change and is investing to make working from anywhere more supported. I’m excited to be part of this journey. But as I’ve had the opportunity to come into the office more frequently, I would say nothing can replace seeing people face-to-face. There is something energizing about it. And when we do meet physically in the office, I am impressed at how we are making our facilities and workspaces comfortable and safe.



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