Although Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have made it clear they want people back in offices as soon as possible, other local leaders believe that’s unnecessary.
This week, the state Assembly passed a bill that would create a permanent remote option for New York State employees.
“Banks have pulled their people back. No one has to tell them that, regardless of what the mayor or anybody else has to say,” said Wayne Spence, the president of the Public Employees Federation. “How about we have some empathy and compassion for the people who carried us through. If you can work remotely? Keep them home!”
The Public Employees Federation represents about 50,000 New York State workers, about 20,000 of whom are eligible for telework. Working from home was something many of them did successfully during the shelter-in-place COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020.
“So, I think that if we are reimagining the workplace post-pandemic, one of the options that we have to look at is teleworking for every worker, both in the public and private sector,” explained Queens Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. “It really is the future of work.”
For some, the struggle for adequate childcare has made a remote work day their only option. Even now with omicron surging, some school districts have gone virtual.
“When school districts shut down and their kids are working remote, we have a lot of women in the state workforce. They are telling them no, that’s not a viable reason. You have to charge sick time,” Spence said.
But Hochul has insisted that workplace in-person attendance should continue, even if the virus recedes. She believes getting back to normal includes people back in office settings.
“My preference — and obviously if there is legislation, I’ll look at it, as I always do with an eye towards what’s best for New Yorkers — but my view is that remote work is up to individual employers, if that works better for them, but it should not be a requirement,” Hochul said.
The Assembly bill passed unanimously, and without debate. But so far it hasn’t gotten out of committee in the state Senate. There is a separate bill that that’s been introduced that would allow New York City employees to work remotely, but that’s likely a bigger lift in Albany.