Mayor Adams may relax 5-day office policy for City workers as agency vacancies rise

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is reconsidering his requirement that city employees work in the office five days a week as jobs go unfilled. 

“We are sending out a survey to our agencies, and we’re saying to our agencies, ‘Come up with creative ways of having flexibility,’” Adams said at a press conference on Tuesday. He was asked about the city’s work-from-home policy as some departments grapple with high vacancy rates. 

The survey is a concession of sorts to the realities of a still-competitive labor market where the ability to work from home is table stakes for people who don’t need to be on-site for their jobs. The lure to other more flexible, employers can be especially strong for city workers, whose salaries often don’t keep up with private sector pay. Hybrid work was highlighted as a key solution to agencies’ job vacancy crisis in a recent report by the Office of the New York City Comptroller. 

While some agencies, like the police and fire departments, have seen an uptick in retirements, others have experienced slow attrition. Adams highlighted two agencies as recruitment priorities – the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which manages the city’s affordable housing, and the Human Resources Administration, which provides social services. 

In earlier times, city agencies could expect a steady stream of applicants, Adams said. Now, though, government agencies must compete for workers just like every other business. Part of that strategy involves rethinking the remote work policy, in addition to stepping up recruitment efforts. “There’s a pulse shift that you have to go out now and compete,” Adams said. 

Adams rolled out a five-day return-to-office mandate last June while also trying to convince the CEOs of companies like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to bring their workers back to revive vacant Manhattan neighborhoods. “You can’t stay home in your pajamas all day,” Adams said of the city’s remote workforce at an event last year. 

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