Mayor Adams wants municipal workers back in office to set example

It has been about four months since the height of the omicron surge of the coronavirus pandemic but New Yorkers are slow to return to the office. A recent poll released by the Partnership for New York City found that only 8% of employees are coming to the office for a full five-day workweek.

"The longer the pandemic has gone on, the harder it's been to get people back to the office," Partnership for New York City CEO Kathryn Wylde said. "They've got a new normal that they're evidently satisfied with."

Workers say that concerns over public safety are a leading reason why they are wary to leave their home office. But 38% of Manhattan office employees are working a hybrid model, so part of the week remote and a few days in person. Wylde expects that number to jump after September but said other issues need to be tackled first when it comes to the city's economic recovery.

"Return to the office is not the solution to the problems facing the city, which tend to be more public safety and the homelessness crisis," Wylde said. "Affordability is a big issue, quality of life, people feeling the city is clean and that they're safe. These are all issues that have a bearing on return to the office."

Mayor Eric Adams has been meeting with top business leaders, urging them that the city is safe enough to bring their employees back full time and that the city's economic recovery depends on it. He said he wants city employees to lead by example and to be back at work for the full five-day workweek.

"How does that look? That city employees are home while I'm telling everyone else it's time to get back to work," Adams said. "When you go to Lower Manhattan with all of those city offices, if they remain empty, Duane Reade is not going to have customers. The café is not going to have the customers."

But James Parrott, an economist at the New School's Center for New York City Affairs, said this policy could have the opposite effect.

"The city already has a staffing shortage that's arisen during COVID, so I think the mayor leaning heavily on people to come back into the office full time is not going to help that situation," Potter said.

The mayor did say a time may come when workers could have a more flexible work schedule but as it stands now, city employees must report in person for a five-day workweek and hybrid schedules are not permitted.