Comcast employees returned to downtown last week as part of the company’s nationwide “back to the office” policy.
At lunchtime Thursday, the food court below Comcast’s headquarters was buzzing with a back-to-school vibe, with workers lining up at restaurant counters and Cafe Click restaurant’s outdoor tables full. The Sunseekers hung the public chairs in the plaza between 1700 and 1800 JFK Boulevard, and the Vernick Cafe at the Comcast Technology Center sat diners who hadn’t seen each other in person in months, if not years.
The return of Comcast employees to the office marks a remarkable moment in Philadelphia’s pandemic recovery, bringing thousands back to downtown after more than two years of working from home.
A company memo sent to Comcast employees in August said all staff — including the 8,000 who work in Comcast’s two Philadelphia towers — were to work in person on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
In practice, it is more flexible.
» READ MORE: Comcast employees must return to the office in person 3 days a week
A Comcast user experience engineer who works at Comcast’s Technology Center described the back-to-office policy as “pretty relaxed.”
“My boss told us we were flexible. Our team is flexible. We’re not going to be here all the time,” said the engineer, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The engineer said the team should be in the office for larger meetings or collaborating with other teams, but “The vibe I got was loose. We’re supposed to show up a few times a week or a month, but nobody gets fired” for not showing up.
Reviews on Glassdoor the first week back in the office showed that not all Comcast employees were happy with in-person work. At least one person, who said he was a Philadelphia-based senior executive, wrote that one of the downsides of working at the media giant was “forcing everyone back into the office for no reason.”
The campus is beginning to return to a normal post-pandemic situation, and a spokesperson said, “We are very flexible. We want to work with employees to understand their situation in order to get back into the office. Comcast would not say how many employees returned last week.
In recent weeks, more employees have been commuting downtown.
Placer.ai saw a steady increase in the number of workers returning to Philadelphia throughout 2022: August nonresident workers rose to 56% of the 2019 level from 53% in July. The highest numbers occur on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when some have designated days to work in offices. Placer.ai estimates the daily population in the city center based on anonymous cell phone location data, with separate estimates of the number of residents, workers, shoppers, and tourists physically present.
The concessions giant Aramark said all employees are now “fully back” in the office at its new headquarters at 2400 Market St. The company said its approximately 900 employees work “right here at our headquarters.” And no mandatory days, we are a fully-fledged working company,” according to a spokeswoman.
The FMC tower, across the river, has about 500 employees working in the chemical business and finished bringing everyone back to the office in mid-July 2021. “We have a flexible allocation of two days per week that many of our employees use. working from home, so our actual office population varies from day to day,” a company spokesperson said in an email.
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But Comcast’s return had an immediate impact.
Robert Zuritsky, chief of Parkway Corp., which owns thousands of downtown parking spaces, said downtown suburban garages were packed last week, “and people who work from home in suburbs also come on Fridays to go to dinner, or a show or to meet friends.
SEPTA ridership also increased by approximately 5% to more than 476,000 one-way trips. the week ending September 14, said spokesman Andrew Busch. That’s still about half of pre-COVID levels.
“When it comes to in-person return to work, we’re seeing customers in multi-family apartment buildings, especially developers, retrofitting buildings so people can work-play-live at home,” Dave said. Pearson, head of 215Security, citing 1001 South Broad and Washington Avenue, a Post Brothers development, for example. “It’s the model for the two days when people work from home, while working in the office three days.”
On Wednesday, representatives from the Center City District, a membership organization and lobby group for downtown employers, were in the Comcast lobby handing out information about restaurant week, discounts at theaters and museums. and other employee perks — some of whom hadn’t been downtown in over two years.
Early downtown data shows an increase in people walking around downtown, likely thanks to the return of Comcast. Pedestrian traffic on the 1700 block of John F. Kennedy Boulevard on Sept. 13 totaled just over 8,000 people, according to downtown pedestrian counters. That’s a 24% increase from August and nearly double from January.
The return of Comcast employees “has a significant impact,” said Paul Levy, president of the Center City District. “It’s great that they came back. It is important to set the standard” for other employers.
Levy said others would take inspiration from Comcast.
“Once a major employer starts coming back, those who haven’t can see what worked and what didn’t,” he added.
Still, whether or not more employees will return to offices will become clearer in the weeks and months to come, a recruiter said.
“It’s been a mixed bag,” said Sulaiman Rahman, president of DiverseForce, a staffing firm. “We’re seeing more and more companies asking their employees to return to the office on certain days of the week, but we’re hearing more and more candidates say they don’t see themselves going back to a traditional commute to the office” , Rahman said. “It will be interesting to see if companies can achieve this without paying the price in revenue.”