News Press

Op-ed: Getting workers back in the office

April 23, 2021


New York Daily News
Kathryn Wylde

In 2019, Manhattan was the epicenter of the downstate region’s $1.3 trillion economy, with over a million workers making a daily commute to jobs in its towering office buildings. Today, 90% of the borough’s office employees have been working remotely for more than a year, many from locations outside the city and state. As a result, formerly bustling central business districts feel very much like ghost towns.

If this becomes a permanent condition, it’ll reshape the city profoundly. The hollowing out of Manhattan cannot become the “new normal.”

We all know how we got here. Within days of the pandemic reaching American shores, the city’s leading industries — financial and professional services, media and information technology — pivoted to remote work, business travel went virtual, and the retailers, restaurants and services that relied on commuter foot traffic went dark. Many companies discovered that they were just as productive and often more profitable with 99% of their people working from home.

Since the “pandemic pause” began last March, the Partnership for New York City has regularly surveyed Manhattan office employers. At first, companies were optimistic that office workers would be back in force by September 2020.

But the resurgence of the pandemic and its variant strains proved those predictions wrong. Our recent surveys suggest that only 45% of office workers will return by Fall 2021, and more than half of them will work remotely at least part of the week on a permanent basis.