This week, Mick Magsino released his playlist with Arcade Fire and U2 as he resumed his 40-minute subway ride to work. For the first time since the pandemic began, Mr Magcino has decided he will return twice a week to his office near Times Square.
His company wasn’t asking to go back, and Mr Magcino described the once again teeming Times Square area as “appalling”. But after two and a half years working from home in Brooklyn, he said he missed lunchtime for halal carts and the camaraderie to talk about sports with his colleagues.
“I want to change the atmosphere,” said Mr. Magsino, who works in media sales. “As a New Yorker, I think it’s important to come back, to support local businesses and takeaway and cart workers,” he added.
In New York, where white-collar workers have been slower to return to their offices than in other cities across the country, this month provided initial signs that employees are finally returning in earnest.
Offices in the New York City area were nearly full this week, jumping from about 38 percent over the previous week, the largest increase since Labor Day in any major metropolitan area, according to Kastle Systems, an office security company.
On Wednesday, the number of subway riders exceeded 3.7 million for the first time since March 2020. Weekday ridership on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, which transports suburban commuters into the city, also reached pandemic-era highs in the last two. weeks. New Jersey Transit officials said the system is on track for its highest month in fare revenue since the start of the health crisis.
Momentum shift coincided with New York City Schools Beginning After Labor Day, parents release during the working day. City officials and employers have also called on workers to return, as the city has seen a steady decline in Covid-19 cases since July. Last upload of mask authorizations In metro cars, taxis and shared ride vehicles.
“We have a long way to go, but we are already proving wrong many of the most disastrous predictions,” said Mark Levine, president of the Manhattan District.
The coming months will be crucial to gauge what the new work week will look like in the country’s most populous city, whose central business districts have long relied on an influx of millions of commuters on five days a week.
New office culture
The past two years have changed the way we work in profound ways.
The sustainability of the return is uncertain, with unpredictable virus variants thwarting previous efforts to recall workers again. Few companies have indicated exactly how they will do force their return policies, and many tech, financial and legal firms have been forced to accept emerging standards for the mixed workplace. While more workers have recently been returning to the office, only 9 percent are back on the standard five-day-week schedule, according to a survey released this week by the New York City Partnership, a business advocacy group.
For months, Mayor Eric Adams publicly berated office workers, famously criticizing them for staying home in their pajamas all day. Some lawmakers say the lack of a hybrid option for city government workers has contributed to this exodus of employeesThis led to difficulties in providing basic services.
At a press conference this week, Mr. Adams said continued remote work was exacerbating the city’s income gap. Returning to the office has often been described as a stock issue, arguing that many low-income jobs depend on white-collar workers showing up at their desks.
“It’s time to go back.” “I’m really happy to hear corporate leaders start saying that,” Mr. Adams said.
Several Wall Street banks, among the city’s largest private sector employers, have been pushing to get back into the office since last year. Calls have intensified in recent weeks, with some easing restrictions imposed over Covid-19.
Goldman Sachs, which has about 10,000 employees in New York City and requires them to come into the office five days a week, announced that as of this month, employees no longer need to hide or participate in testing to enter its offices. The company has also scaled back some perks, such as a free lunch, which were used to lure workers back in the past year.
JPMorgan Chase—which is in the middle of building its new $3 billion headquarters on Park Avenue—has been asking many of its 17,000 employees in New York City to return to the office at least a few days each week since the summer of 2021. At Google, which employs about 12,000 New York employees, many of whom spend about three days a week in the office.
Office areas across the city, from Midtown West to Lower Manhattan, have seen an increase in foot traffic since Labor Day, according to neighborhood pedestrian and office occupancy data.
The return of corporate expense accounts has helped small businesses like Pomodoro, an Italian fast-food restaurant in midtown Manhattan. Yuanlin Liu, a co-owner who acts as a cashier there, has noticed an increase in orders for dinner-time noodles to be delivered to bank offices, starting last month. He is cautiously optimistic but says the rise is not enough to offset the pandemic losses.
“Your primary customers are no longer here,” he said. “You can’t kind of take the place of that.”
Between February and August, there was a 65 percent increase in transaction volumes from quick-service restaurants in New York City, according to payments company Square.
Despite steady increases, the number of weekday subway riders remains only about 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Caused slow return Big financial crisis for Urban Transport Authoritywhich expects passengers to return to just 79 percent of pre-pandemic levels by 2026.
Meanwhile, more New Yorkers are riding their bikes to work. Citi Bike data last week showed that the number of people using the Citi Bike in the weekdays after Labor Day was 35% higher compared to the same period in 2019.
Car ownership has also skyrocketed, with about 53,000 more cars registered in New York City since the pandemic began, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Michelle Pham, 28, who works in technology, was asked to start going to the office at least two days a week this summer, and said she found it comforting to have more organic interactions with colleagues. She takes a short subway ride, just 15 minutes from Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood to Bryant Park, but she sometimes rents a ride-sharing service home at night, in part because she’s concerned about hate crimes against Asian Americans.
“I no longer feel safe on the subway,” Ms Pham said. “Backs happen and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
In March, a New York City Partnership survey found that Public safety concerns, especially in terms of the transportation system, has been the single biggest obstacle to getting more people back into the office. But the latest poll this week showed that the most common objection now is that Employees felt more productive at home.
Many workers, like Donna Sombunlacana, are slow to return to the office for other reasons.
Earlier this year, the agency where Ms Sombonlacana works as an environmental engineer asked staff to return at least one day a week. Ms Sombonlacana, 60, chose Mondays because it would line up with long weekends when she didn’t have to go anyway.
She is still worried about possible exposure to Covid-19, especially because she has lost many friends during the pandemic and her young grandson has not yet been vaccinated. She is frustrated with the nearly two hours she has to make a round trip from her home in New Rochelle, New York, to lower Manhattan, which she has been doing for decades.
“Time is so precious,” she said, “and we’re so short of it.”
The New York metropolitan area has the longest average commute in the country, with 23 percent of workers commuting for at least one hour, according to 2019 census data.
The transit recovery was much greater on holidays and weekends, thanks to tourists and day travelers. On Labor Day, foot traffic at the entrance to Grand Central Station was actually 38 percent higher than the same holiday in 2019, according to the Grand Central Partnership. But the following Wednesday, it was 31 percent lower than it was on a similar day in 2019.
After Labor Day, Bruce Caulfield, owner of Tracks Raw Bar & Grill, noticed regular employees from nearby office buildings who had not been back for long. But work at Tracks is still two-thirds of what it was before the pandemic, when commuters flocked to the pub after work before boarding their trains home from Penn Station.
The tape has survived by cutting costs. On Fridays, now noticeably more empty, Mr. Caulfield has fewer kitchen staff, doing one dishwasher instead of two. And to cut back on the stock, he offers a smaller selection of oysters and clams.
Mr. Caulfield agreed that many of his former clients may never return to their offices – or to his union. “I’m ready to do it for the long term,” he said.
“Beer buff. Devoted pop culture scholar. Coffee ninja. Evil zombie fan. Organizer.”