Here’s how many days a week Bay Area businesses want their employees to come back to the office

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With the ebb of the omicron wave and the COVID-19 pandemic entering a more rampant phase, Bay Area businesses are increasingly planning for employees to return to the office.

A recent Bay Area Council survey of about 200 employers shows that more than 70% of those companies have started bringing non-essential workers back into their offices, or plan to do so by mid-March.

Of businesses surveyed last month, more than 40% said they plan to bring people back in person three days a week. He came in response to a question asking how many days a week they expected a typical employee to show up, “Once the pandemic is behind us.”

The most recent data found that only 15% of companies planned to bring workers back five full days a week, compared to 70% to 75% that required workers to show up full-time before the pandemic.

The survey included members of the Bay Area Council and was conducted in conjunction with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and EMC Research.

Companies responding to the survey came from all nine Bay Area counties and ranged in size from a handful of employees to thousands. The survey included a range of industries and businesses from hotels and restaurants to technology companies and law firms and others, said Gwen Litvak, the Bay Area Council’s senior vice president for public policy.

Most companies said throughout the ongoing survey, which dates back to early last year, that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday would be the most common days when employees should report.

The number of people returning to offices and downtowns has significant implications for small businesses, tax revenues and public transit.

San Francisco recently announced a list of companies that will encourage or require their employees to return to downtown offices, amid a push to revitalize a downtown that has been mostly shut down during the pandemic.

The survey also found businesses are less concerned about the risk of taking public transit during a pandemic. While masks are still mandatory on trains and buses, San Francisco said it would drop its vaccination mandate for indoor restaurants and bars, a further sign or a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

Many job seekers also fear catching the virus. A quarter of unemployed people not looking for work who responded to a recent university survey cited infection concerns as a reason for staying away.

The same report found that socializing and in-person collaboration were frequently cited as the top three benefits of showing up to a job site in person.

But workers returning a few days a week are unlikely to be enough to reinject fares into beleaguered transit agencies that have seen ridership remain consistently below 2019 and early 2020 levels.

“I think this will help public transit get back on track,” Bay Area Council’s Litvak said, but morning, afternoon and evening rush hours that saw packed trains coming in and going out of city centers might not come back.

She said it raises a litany of questions about transit funding and whether the state should take a more active role in operating and developing funding sources for local agencies.

Although driving and traffic patterns have changed significantly during the pandemic, one of the main factors that could push more commuters to public transport rather than cars is the skyrocketing price of gasoline. and is expected to rise due to inflation as well as the ongoing Russian crisis. invasion of Ukraine.

Still, many Bay Area residents have internalized the risks of a crowded train or bus during a dangerous pandemic, and some are finding different ways to get to work than a daily BART commute.

Carpooling, a risky move at the height of the pandemic, could also make a comeback as the risk of contracting the virus decreases but gasoline prices remain high, Litvak said.

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @ChaseDiFelice

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