Mayor London Breed and a coalition of major San Francisco companies on Thursday announced a new initiative to bring employees back to in-office work starting this month.
The program—dubbed “Welcome Back to SF”—will require city and county employees to return to the office in a mix of schedules starting March 7. Among the companies that have pledged to bring workers back to the office this month are Salesforce, Gap Inc., Visa, Wells Fargo and Blackrock.
“We are excited to welcome people back to downtown to work, to dine, and to experience the arts and culture that make this city special,” Breed said in a statement. “This March is the start of a new beginning for this city, and I want to thank all the businesses and workers who are committed to supporting our city and our small businesses.”
Salesforce, the largest private employer in San Francisco, has around 10,600 workers in the city. Throughout the pandemic, business activity at its iconic tower, which functions as the company’s headquarters, has been largely muted. But leaders indicated Thursday that things are starting to change.
“Our employees are looking for ways to safely connect in person, and we’re proud to welcome hundreds and soon-to-be thousands of employees to Salesforce Tower daily,” said Brent Hyder, the company’s president and chief people officer “As the largest private employer in San Francisco, we are deeply committed to the city and are excited our offices are buzzing again.”
Breed has made the economic recovery of downtown a key part of her strategy for bringing San Francisco back from the pandemic downturn.
That staggered return has had a number of downstream economic effects, according to Ted Egan, the city’s chief economist. These include less spending from office workers to support the businesses downtown, as well as the operations to run downtown offices themselves, including the supply chain around building maintenance, office supplies and furniture.
At a San Francisco Business Times event last month, Breed said she was working with the Chamber of Commerce to target a specific date when workers were due to come back to offices, as well as specific days that workers on hybrid schedules would work in the office.
Thursday’s announcement did not provide any guarantees, as officials instead said the “return to office policies may vary across companies” because of the widespread adoption of telecommuting.
San Francisco workers’ return to offices has lagged behind peer cities like New York, Los Angeles and Austin. According to the Back to Work barometer from access card company Kastle Systems, only 27.6% of San Francisco’s workers have returned to the office during the week of March 2.
There are signs of a potential turning point. Google told its employees in the Bay Area and elsewhere that it expects them to begin returning to physical offices April 4, with most employees going in-person three days a week.
To attract more workers downtown and activate surrounding neighborhoods, San Francisco is also partnering with commercial developers, retailers and business groups to launch a series of events across the last week of March.
Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap Inc., said the company has spent the last year and a half redesigning its offices for hybrid work. The company plans to convert the ground floor of its headquarters at 2 Folsom St. into Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta retail locations.Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected].