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Remote, hybrid or IRL? Where Center City companies stand in 2022

While a quarter of these Philly companies are still working fully remote, about 60% are either mandating or "encouraging" some in-office work. Here's a snapshot of the current vibe.

Center City Philadelphia.

(Photo courtesy of C. Smyth/Visit Philly)

While the early days of the pandemic meant stay-at-home orders and offices closing, that’s no longer the case. Now, employees can choose the work setup that works best for them — for the most part.

Center City District, the institution tasked with tracking the health and well being of Philadelphia’s downtown core, recently surveyed companies representing nearly 25,000 workers to find out their current stance on remote work. And as we begin 2022, leaders at 114 companies — from small firms to corporations with thousands of employees — in Center City and University City have shared their plans for the next few months.

The results were quite split.

Read the full report

Remote or IRL?

The survey found that the most common situation — 25% of companies — continue to operate fully remotely. The second most common was a hybrid of two days of in-office work (19%), followed closely by three days of in-office work (18%). The least common setup was four days of in-office work (11%), and 15% of companies have chosen full in-office work.

Some employers are mandating a certain number of days of in-office work per week (33%), while others are encouraging them to do so (28%) and some have employees choosing to do so (31%). Only 8% had a directive for all employees to work from home.

“If we are fortunate enough to be entering a period in which threats of COVID recede, vaccination rates continue to rise and no new, disruptive variants emerge,” the report said, “we will have a clearer view as to how much the balance has actually shifted in favor of employees having a greater say in their terms of employment.”

For companies that did favor in-person work, face-t0-face meetings for the sake of collaboration ranked the highest priority. It was followed by the ability to supervise and mentor staff, maintain company culture and gain professional development.

That echoes what Technical.ly has reported previously: Junior staffers are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to mentorship, and companies that have returned to the office have cited company culture as a driving reason.

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Vaccine policies

Vaccination status is playing into these work setups: A full third of companies mandated that employees be vaccinated to come into the office, while 28% of companies made vaccination a condition of employment. Another quarter “strongly encouraged” their employees to get vaccinated.

The remaining 15% of companies said they’re considering a vaccine mandate in 2022, would comply with a national mandate if one is upheld in the courts, or fell into “other” category. Of the latter group, respondents indicated they lead a very small company and knew their employees were vaccinated on their own or didn’t have a need for a mandate.

Size matters

And the size of the company did seem the impact the current remote or hybrid situation, results found. Larger companies were more likely to consider fully remote work, while only a quarter of firms with 50 or fewer employees would.

Smaller companies were more likely to require a minimum number of days in the office, and said it was easier to adapt to current local guidelines, compared to large companies that might have to stick to federal guidelines. Health and safety, retaining strong employees, childcare and ease of technologies were all ranked highest as factors for continuing remote work.

The outlook

And while we’ve seen companies downgrade how much space they’ll need for an office throughout the pandemic, only 21% of respondents said they would be doing so in 2022. Most — 63% — said they expect to need the same amount of room, and 16% indicated they’ll actually be growing their footprint in 2022.

But, as COVID has shown us before, conditions are subject to change.

“Given how conditions and expectations have varied dramatically in the last two years, these findings should be considered more as a snapshot than a definitive portrait,” the report said.

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