Let NYC municipal workers do their jobs at home

City Hall has repeatedly tried to defend the city’s mandatory, full-time return to office buildings by declaring a need to get people back at their desks. But by continuing to move ahead with a pre-pandemic idea of employment, ignoring the new workplace reality, this administration is ultimately...


26 · 7 days ago · Reddit

Eric adams ran on the message of letting municipal workers have at the minimum a hybrid schedule! Nice campaign promise, terrible execution.

21 · 7 days ago · Reddit

City Hall has repeatedly tried to defend the city’s mandatory, full-time return to office buildings by declaring a need to get people back at their desks. But by continuing to move ahead with a pre-pandemic idea of employment, ignoring the new workplace reality, this administration is ultimately helping to empty desks across the city’s workforce.

I often agree with the mayor when he speaks about the need to change strategies and tools in the battle with COVID-19 as the virus threat itself changes. By insisting on full-time in person work for all city employees and refusing to embrace a hybrid model of work, however, he is fighting an old war. Employees and employers alike now know that remote work is not only possible, but in many cases preferable. The city has an opportunity to lead. Instead, it is rapidly falling behind.

A May survey of 160 major employers found that only 8% of Manhattan workers were in the office five days a week, and despite the city’s push, that number was only expected to rise a single percentage point by September. Employers are adapting, with nearly 80% intending to move forward with a hybrid model. The administration is attempting to lead in the wrong direction, and the results are clear.

According to the most recent data, the city’s municipal-worker job vacancy rate is 7.7%, more than five times higher than it was pre-pandemic. Those job openings aren’t abstract. When there aren’t enough people on staff at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, homes can fall into disrepair and tenants are left without recourse. When there’s a shortage of civil rights attorneys, New Yorkers are vulnerable to discrimination. Without enough mental health workers, people in crisis could reach out and find no one at the other end of the line.

Government has a responsibility to work for the good of the people it serves, and it can only do that if there are people working — remotely, when necessary. It’s true commuting benefits the workplace economy, and remote work is good for an employee’s local neighborhood. Hybrid achieves both.

While clearly not all municipal jobs have the potential for hybrid work — emergency services, sanitation, mass transit and others will always require a physical presence, as will most public education jobs — exploring and enabling hybrid systems wherever possible is essential for a safer city and stronger workforce.

The administration should immediately conduct a detailed review of municipal positions, identifying areas where hybrid models are feasible and urgently implementing them where possible; my office is pursuing legislation to require this analysis. Just this week, a study found that at a large tech company, hybrid work reduced employee attrition by a third. The longer we delay, the more people will leave a largely Black and Brown city workforce for other opportunities with more flexible, adaptable, modern workplace policies.

Bringing talented people into public service and retaining their talent is critical to the immediate and long-term success of our city. The administration’s mandate should be to attract people with the skills, inspiration and dedication needed to serve New York.

Pressed on this issue, the administration has extolled the virtues of in-office work and chastised or dismissed anyone pushing back. But the answer to these concerns is not to lecture, it’s to listen.

When City Hall sent an email to municipal employees pushing for a full return in-person, it contained an implicit acknowledgement that remote options work and are both effective here to stay — a note that the memo would be followed by a Zoom meeting.

To be clear, the lack of hybrid and remote work options is far from the only factor leading to an exodus from the city’s workforce. Lack of competitive salaries, slow hiring practices and overall morale are all factors — but many of those factors predated the pandemic, and this surge in vacancies. Hybrid work is something that we can change today by setting an example.

My office, as a non-mayoral agency, is currently remote. When we return to the office, it will be on a hybrid schedule. We recognize that our employees were able to be just as productive while working remotely, and we want to retain that option, that flexibility, for them to maintain a healthier work-life balance, as well as to provide the kind of framework we need to adjust based on COVID surges or other causes.

Embracing hybrid work isn’t a concession. Creating more modern, flexible workplaces does nothing to undercut the city’s image of “New York Tough.” But for an administration that has admirably staked its own image on an ability to get stuff done, it’s past time to focus more on having enough talented people to do the work, and less on where they’re doing it.

11 · 7 days ago · Reddit

Just shows how useless DC37 really is IMO when it comes to advocating for members.

5 · 7 days ago · Reddit

The vacancies problem is caused by the city’s archaic law of using civil service lists. It doesn’t help that some lists do not require an exam and is solely based on experience. You can have a mediocre candidate that has 15 years of experience and barely knows anything wind up higher on the list over a eager young go-getter with less than 3 year of experience. Even from there, the city is forced to use the “one in three” rule, which means if there is one position and candidates 50, 51 and 52 all happen to terrible, one of them (presumably the least-worst) is guaranteed to get hired. The other two candidate that were not chosen will remain on the list until they either get hired by the city or decline to attend subsequent interviews.

From personal experience after being called on a list and attending several interviews like this, I can attest that the candidates that show up are closer to retirement age and are more interested in job security and post-retirement benefits than the potential pay raises or even doing a good job. Being a young person that halves the average age of all the candidates in the room definitely sticks out like a sore thumb and it’s clear that this problem is more about the city’s hiring methods than the ability to work from home.