NYC to weigh hybrid work for city employees

City Hall softens stance on remote work in union negotiations

From left: SSEU Local 371 president Anthony Wells and Mayor of New York City Eric Adams (Getty, SSEU Local 371)
From left: SSEU Local 371 president Anthony Wells and Mayor of New York City Eric Adams (Getty, SSEU Local 371)

City Hall is slowly relenting on its resistance to hybrid work for municipal employees.

Officials agreed to consider a hybrid work scenario for DC 37 workers as negotiations with the union continue, Gothamist reported. The union’s social services branch, SSEU Local 371, announced the update on negotiations in a letter to members, while City Hall declined to comment on active negotiations.

Negotiations are ongoing. It’s unclear how many of the city’s 300,000 city employees would be affected by a hybrid-work policy.

But DC 37 is the city’s largest union of municipal workers, so a change could have big ramifications for office landlords, as well as for companies tempted to follow the lead of the city.

Mayor Eric Adams has publicly aired a hard-line stance against remote work, previously calling bankers back to the office and admonishing New Yorkers who avoided going into the office during the week, only to hit the clubs on the weekend. Adams’ chief of staff last summer called municipal employees back to the office to “lead by example” across sectors.

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Adams has posed remote work as a theat to the city’s central business districts, where retail leasing has withered in comparison to residential areas.

“We may not have central business districts anymore,” Adams admitted during a tech event over the summer. “I don’t know that, but we can’t stumble into this.”

The policy has likely not helped worsening turnover across city agencies, where vacancies in December were four times that of pre-pandemic figures. Several former city employees told Gothamist last May that the rigid work arrangements were at the center of their decisions to leave their posts.

It seems, however, City Hall is ready to come around on what much of the business world in New York City has already accepted: post-pandemic office work is never going to be the same. While some companies continue to try and bring back workers, many are accepting permanent hybrid and remote working environments, backing out of office leases or subletting unwanted space.

Office attendance across the country hit 50 percent in late January for the first time since March 2020. But despite the rise to pre-pandemic levels, attendance remains uneven throughout days of the week, with New York clocking 59.8 percent occupancy on Tuesday before 26.5 percent on Friday.

— Holden Walter-Warner