Philly COVID: Only 50% of Center City office employees have returned for in-person work

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Center City has come a long way to recover from the depths of the 2020 pandemic lockdown, but it still has a long way to go.

Center City District President Paul Levy says that while tourism and residential life are near pre-pandemic levels, face-to-face office worker numbers are still only 50% to 52% of pre-COVID numbers.

However, Levy is optimistic that Comcast’s decision to call around 8,000 employees back into the office, if only for three days a week, will inspire other large companies to do the same.

“The world has changed, but I think there are some really important things through collaboration, business mentoring of employees, creativity. It comes from face-to-face interaction,” Levy said.

And the available data shows the trend in this direction.

Action News’ data journalism team found that cell phone data activity involving non-residential workers in Center City increased 38% compared to July of this year.

And that’s music to the ears of Devon Sellers, general manager of the Misconduct Tavern on JFK Boulevard.

He says this trend and the return of Comcast workers is huge.

“I heard they come Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Then I know that this will happen. I know the employees from back then and I can assume that we will be busy on these days. I can’t wait,” Sellers said.

And Levy says it’s also music to the ears of the many other workers and industries that depend on a vibrant, personal workforce.

“If office workers are remote, we lose office building maintenance jobs,” he says. “We are losing security jobs. We’re losing retail jobs. We’re losing Uber and Lyft drivers.”

Comcast employees are expected to return the week of September 12th.

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