Comcast workers are back in Center City. Their return is ‘flexible’ — but it’s already rejuvenating downtown
The return of Comcast employees to the office signals a noteworthy moment in Philadelphia’s pandemic recovery, bringing thousands of people back into Center City after more than two years of working from home.
Comcast sent a corporate memo to all employees in August stating that all staffers, including the 8,000 who work in Comcast’s two Philadelphia towers, were expected to work in person on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The policy, it turns out, is more flexible in practice, as one Comcast worker in the Comcast Technology Center reported that the return-to-office policy was rather relaxed.
The engineer said the team is expected to be in the office for larger meetings or to collaborate with other teams, but “the vibe I got was loosey-goosey. We’re supposed to show face a few times a week or a month, but no one’s getting fired” for not coming in.
In recent weeks, a lot more employees have been commuting back into Center City. Placer.ai found a steady increase in workers returning to Philadelphia throughout 2022: in August, nonresident workers increased to 56% of the 2019 level, up from 53% in July. The highest numbers occur on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, when some have designated days to work in offices.
But Comcast’s return had an immediate impact. Parkway Corp., which owns thousands of parking spots downtown, said commuter garages in Center City were packed this past week, “and people who work from home in the suburbs are also coming in Fridays to go to dinner, or a show or meet friends,” said Robert Zuritsky, head of Parkway.
Early data from Center City District show an increase in people walking around downtown, likely thanks to Comcast’s return. Foot traffic on the 1700 block of John F. Kennedy Boulevard on Sept. 13 totaled just over 8,000 people, according to the Center City District pedestrian counters. That’s up 24% from August, and nearly double that of January.
SEPTA’s ridership also increased by approximately 5% to over 476,000 one-way trips the week ending Sept. 14, said spokesman Andrew Busch, while on Wednesday, representatives from Center City District, a membership organization and lobbying group for downtown employers, were in Comcast’s lobby to hand out information about Restaurant Week, discounts to theaters and museums and other perks to employees — some of whom had not been downtown in over two years.
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The Philadelphia Inquirer, Erin Arvedlund