Biden Administration pressing the pedal on returning to the office

Getting people back into the office has been more a slow-go for the Downtown D.C. but the Biden Administration is pressing the gas pedal. Friday, June 18 is the deadline for all federal agencies to provide the Office of Management and Budget with a draft of their "proposed approaches to post-reentry personnel policies and work environment."

READ MORE: Downtown businesses feeling inauguration security shutdown

The Office of Management and Budget confirmed as of January 2021, 304,897 federal employees were counted working in the National Capital Region. Administration heads say that workforce went from around 3% to nearly 60% teleworking due to the COVID19 pandemic.

FOX 5 asked but could not get a clear figure how many workers are still currently working remotely.

The Friday deadline was announced last week in an Executive Memo that was also shared with local D.C. officials.  The memo said the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, created by President Joe Biden’s January 2021 executive order, has charged all agencies with completing the planning for office re-entry by July 19, 2021.

READ MORE: Study warns that post-pandemic era remote work trend could see loss of Capital region downtown revenues

The Biden administration is strongly encouraging federal workers to get vaccinated, but it is not required and neither is it required for federal workers to disclose whether they are vaccinated.

"I was sick of sitting-being at home and I just wanted to get back to some normalcy," said Durand Branch on his first day back into the office since the pandemic on Wednesday. Still even Branch told FOX 5 he feels employers (including the federal government) should provide some kind of hybrid work model for those not able to return to the office.

Michael Nicholas told FOX 5 he’s working with Door Dash to keep minimal contact with people and doesn’t think offices should return to full in-person for a few more months.

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"Everybody’s not straight yet. Okay, everybody ain’t take the time to go out ,at least I think, you know, they haven’t gotten vaccinated. So not yet. Just to be sure, just to be certain about everything, I would wait ‘till the end of the year," said Nicholas.

Judith Thorman was in Downtown D.C. for a business meeting but still hasn’t returned to the office yet. The Virginia resident does not think the downtown area will return to normal for a while. Thorman noted how works do need the flexibility but also added, "…a lot of people have said to me after all the disruptions that they saw downtown they don’t really want to come out here anymore and you’re always worried about – you’re going to get a parking ticket, you’re going to get towed."

Interestingly Kastle Systems, that’s the key card or key fob company tracking office swipes in their buildings (over 2,600 buildings in 138 cities) found in April that law firms were leading the return to the office. They also keep a weekly "Back to work Barometer" that shows D.C. ranking 6th out 10 cities last week  – below New York City but above Philly with around 26.8% going into their offices. 

The federal phase-in deadlines are a bit of good news for Chocolate Chocolate owner Ginger Park. Park tells FOX 5 her family business has been in D.C. for 37-years and that the fate of small businesses like their own depends on the downtown workforce foot traffic.  

"You know we’ve endured everything, 9-11, everything. You know the crash of 2008. You know in the Chocolate business, snow storms can just knock you out. One Valentine’s Day, the whole week we lost. So we had hearts in spring, you know! So it was really tough but, this has been the worst," said Park. She also understands the need for some to continue working remotely and says they will try their best to continue adapting.

Park told FOX 5 she just checked their numbers on Wednesday and that revenue is just as low as it was in March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns went into place.