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Supporting downtown businesses is not a reason to return to the office for most city employees.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A model of "Portlandia" inside the Portland Building at the beginning of the pandemic.The majority of city of Portland employees who work remotely would consider quitting if they are required to come to the office more than two days a week.

And few employees believe that helping to revitalize downtown businesses suffering economically is a reason to return to the office.

Those are two takeaways from a City of Portland Workplace Survey released Tuesday, July 19. The survey sought to measure employee attitudes about office work. It was first reported by Willamette Week.

Of the 3,447 employees who responded to the survey, 64% are currently working hybrid schedules and 8% are exclusively remote. According to the survey, of those workers:

• About 34% of hybrid respondents say they would consider applying for other jobs if the city required more than one day per week of on-site work. If the city required more than two days per week of on-site work, 64% would look for work elsewhere.

• About 38% of remote workers with exceptions say they would consider applying for other jobs if the city required them to perform any on-site work. If the city required more than one day per week of on-site work, 73% of remote workers with exceptions would look for work elsewhere.

Portland elected and business leaders have called for city workers to return to their offices to help support retailers and restaurants hurt by the pandemic and protests. The city and the Portland Business Alliance — the region's biggest business chamber — teamed up on an initiative in May called "Downtown Workers Are Here for Portland," an effort to get downtown workers spending money in the area again. Mayor Ted Wheeler has repeatedly said the return of these workers is critical to the health of the urban core.

City employees do not believe that is a priority, however, according to the survey.

"There is overwhelming sentiment that while city employees enjoy playing a part in a vibrant citywide economy, workplace decisions should not be based on that possibility. Respondents by and large said that they should not be placed in the position of being seen as a vehicle for economic stimulus — as many of them have their own financial issues as well," the survey said.

Other topics mentioned in the survey included concerns about workplace and downtown safety, concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks, and micro-aggressions experienced by people of color and LGBTQIA+ employees.

In his email to city employees Tuesday afternoon, Chief Administrative Officer Michael Jordan wrote, "City leaders will use this feedback as they chart the path forward, and I will keep you updated each step of the way."

The City Council has been meeting in person at City Hall. Employees are still working split schedules in the Portland Building, despite receiving a $195 million renovation that was completed at the beginning of the pandemic. A previous Portland Tribune story on the renovation can be found here.

The survey can be found here.


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