Mayor London N. Breed and business leaders announced plans to commit to returning to in-person work in San Francisco throughout the month of March. Mayor Breed has worked with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and business leaders on implementing return to in-person work policies through the “Welcome Back to SF” pledge as the Omicron surge subsides.
As one of the highest vaccinated cities in the country, San Francisco is poised to welcome workers back to the office. The Omicron surge tested and proved the efficacy of vaccines-despite a peak case rate 6.5 times the peak of the largest previous surge in January 2021, San Francisco’s COVID mortality rate during the same period was less than half what it was in January 2021 and even lower amongst vaccinated individuals. After two years of primarily remote work policies by office-based industries, San Francisco’s office core, comprised of the Financial District, East Cut, Union Square, Yerba Buena, Civic Center, and Mission Bay neighborhoods, has not shown the same degree of economic recovery as that of other City neighborhoods. The decrease in the number of workers has had significant repercussions for the small businesses that cater to offices and their employees.
City and County of San Francisco workers, many of whom have been telecommuting since the start of the Omicron surge, are scheduled to return to the office in varied capacities beginning Monday, March 7. Joining the City in this commitment to implement policies to bring employees back to offices are companies including Bank of America, Blackrock, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, FibroGen, Gap, the Golden State Warriors, Google, HOK, Invitae, JP Morgan Chase, Kilroy, Mastercard, Meta, Microsoft, Orrick, Salesforce, the San Francisco Giants, the San Francisco Symphony, SPUR, Uber, United Airlines, University of California San Francisco, Visa, and Wells Fargo.
By pledging to Welcome Back to SF, each of these companies is committed to implementing return to in-person work policies in March. However, in the wake of widespread telecommute policies adopted during the pandemic, return to office policies may vary across companies. Regardless, the Welcome Back to SF pledge signifies a critical milestone in the resumption of economic activity and progression towards adopting long-term operating models that respond to the needs and considerations of individual businesses and their employees.
“By committing to San Francisco, these businesses and many more are investing in this City and what makes it special – the people who live and work here,” said Mayor Breed. “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. 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.”
“We cannot overstate how important workers returning to their offices is to our survival and ultimately to the richness of San Francisco,” said Denise Tran from Bun Mee. “We have been tightening our belts and doing the best we can over the last two years, but without workers filling our downtown, it has been difficult. We’ve missed the bustle, the laughter, and the energy of having a full house each day. We depend on each other and can’t wait to welcome the return of employees downtown.”
The City has also partnered with several downtown stakeholders, including Boston Properties at Embarcadero Center, East Cut Community Benefits District, the Ferry Building, Union Square Alliance, Transbay Joint Powers Authority, Westfield San Francisco Centre, and the Crossing at East Cut to curate a series of events spanning the last week of March as part of efforts to welcome workers back downtown. More details on programming will be announced soon.
Additionally, through a $12.2 million investment by the City, Welcome Ambassadors are stationed throughout San Francisco’s office core, including transit hubs and popular congregation points, to provide a welcoming atmosphere for returning office workers, residents, and tourists. Welcome Ambassadors also assist with street cleanliness, and maintenance. These Ambassadors supplement similar existing programs within each of the four Community Benefits Districts that serve San Francisco’s office core.
Support from the Business Community on Returning to SF
Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap Inc: “Our culture is fueled by teams connecting meaningfully with each other to create and innovate for our customers. With that as our north star, we have spent the last year and a half completely redesigning our 2 Folsom San Francisco office with more agile workspaces, supported by technology that enables new ways of working. As we welcome more employees back to the office, there’s a palpable energy with teams working together in a new, beautiful environment where they are inspired to do their best work. And we look forward to contributing to the revival of downtown San Francisco through the opening of four new retail stores – Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta – on the ground floor of our 2 Folsom building later this year.”
Enrique Conterno, Chief Executive Officer of FibroGen: “We are proud to be part of the vibrant Mission Bay community, which is a factor in our attraction and retention of great talent. We have remained open throughout the pandemic, and we’re delighted that more of our employees feel safe returning to the office, which we believe helps to deepen connection, foster collaboration, progress our science and invest in the local community in which we operate.”
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO: “One thing that the pandemic has taught us is that the benefits of in-person collaboration and camaraderie cannot be replaced. While we have not yet mandated in-person work, more and more colleagues have been returning voluntarily to our Mission Bay offices recently, and it has been reinvigorating to be with them in person again. As this trend continues, the city of San Francisco will benefit as well. Employees heading back to the office – and the coffee they may grab along the way – directly impacts small businesses and services, only strengthening the backbone of our economy. Alongside other company leaders, I have been working regularly from the office each week, and will be encouraging my team to do so. While we’ve made things work virtually the last two years, better days are ahead for the Bay Area.”
Brandon Schneider, Warriors President & Chief Operating Officer: “In the live entertainment industry, it is no secret that nothing tops in-person interactions and experiences. I am so proud of how the Warriors organization has responded throughout the pandemic in a virtual setting, offering resources for all different facets of our community in need. However, our return to the office has elevated our ability to impact the community’s ongoing needs, offer world-class events and games at Chase Center, and foster a more inclusive, engaging and exciting future for Dub Nation, San Francisco, and the entire Bay Area community. We applaud Mayor Breed’s leadership throughout the pandemic in keeping San Franciscans safe, and are excited for this next phase of welcoming our employees back to the office!”
Brent Hyder, Salesforce President and Chief People Officer: “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. As the largest private employer in San Francisco, we are deeply committed to the city and are excited our offices are buzzing again.”
Thomas Li, Meta’s San Francisco Community Engagement Lead: “Bringing the world closer together and connecting people – is our mission and our business. It’s about more than just working remotely; the future of work has community-building at its heart. We look forward to continuing to build that community right here in San Francisco both in and out of the office. We’ve always taken pride in creating vibrant office communities for employees, clients, and partners. We’re committed to San Francisco – as are many of our employees who live here, raise families here and put down roots here. We can’t wait to welcome our teams back to the office as well as this new chapter of the future of work.”
Andrew Livingston, Orrick’s San Francisco Office Leader: “We are excited to make our offices more accessible this month and expect to transition to the next phase of our hybrid working model in April. While our approach to the workplace will change, we will always have a strong presence in this great community to which we trace our roots. Our team is greatly looking forward to reconnecting in person.”
Ed McLaughlin, Mastercard’s President of Operations and Technology: “As much as technology has helped us collaborate throughout the pandemic, there’s no replacing human connections. They help reinforce who we are and what defines our culture. We look forward to our teams continuing to come together in our San Francisco office to maximize all the city, its small businesses and the broader Bay Area have to offer.”
Shawn Villaron, Microsoft Bay Area Regional Site Leader and Vice President for PowerPoint: “At Microsoft, we understand there is a deep connection between the community and the work we are doing to achieve our mission. We are excited to join other businesses and fully open our facilities in San Francisco to employees, visitors, and guests, as we value the ability to bring people together. With flexibility and inclusion at the core of our workplace approach, we look forward to this next chapter of our hybrid journey.”
Joshua Adler, MD, Chief Clinical Officer of UCSF Health: “Since the pandemic began two years ago, thousands of our care providers, researchers, and frontline workers have continued to come on site every day to our hospitals, clinics and laboratories to serve our public mission. With all that we have learned about preventing transmission in the workplace, we feel very confident about bringing more of our workers back on site.”
Rob Tibbets, Marketing Principle for HOK: “HOK is thrilled to welcome its entire staff back to San Francisco – the city we all love. We look forward to the regeneration of our small business neighbors.”
Dave Graham, head of Google’s San Francisco office: “We’ve long believed in the power that comes from having people come together in person to build community, drive innovation, support creativity and solve complex problems — it’s why our campus will play an important role in supporting a flexible hybrid future. Many of our employees in San Francisco have already been coming into the office voluntarily to work and connect with colleagues, and we’re excited that our local Google community will grow even more vibrant as we soon embark on our new hybrid work week journey in the city.”
Jason Strle, CIO Enterprise Functions Technology and San Francisco Bay Area Site Leader for Wells Fargo: “The health and safety of our employees is our top priority and we have prepared for a safe return into the office after two years. We believe in individual and collective benefits from in-person interactions and human connections, including networking, career development, team building, and key business collaboration. We also believe that we benefit from flexibility and will offer flexible schedules to many of our employees. Our customers, clients and company benefit from employees who are empowered to work in a way that fits, including balancing personal schedules, caring for their wellbeing, and pursuing their passions.”
Matthew Spivey, Interim Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco Symphony: “Ever since the San Francisco Symphony returned to giving in-person performances at Davies Symphony Hall last spring, our musicians have been sharing the joy and energy of live music making with our community again. We see firsthand the vibrancy and liveliness that the arts and our audiences bring to our neighborhood and our city as a whole. This month, the rest of the Symphony staff will also be returning to our offices, joining many of our neighbors in collaborating safely in person again in the heart of San Francisco.”
Alicia John-Baptiste, SPUR President and CEO: “At SPUR, we believe that part of what makes cities so important is the way they bring people together. During the pandemic, we’ve seen many neighborhoods pull together as people started living much more local lives, and that community cohesion has been a real benefit to many. But there is something special about downtowns – where hundreds of thousands of people can come together in community, for arts and culture, for work, to make their voices heard, to explore and learn – and that’s been missing for so much of the past two years. I’m looking forward to seeing our downtowns return, with all their vitality.”
Rodney Fong, President and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce: “San Francisco’s business districts are the economic core of our city and their vibrance is key to the economic recovery. The Chamber of Commerce is back in the office in a hybrid model. We are eager to work with our member businesses and Mayor Breed to bring San Franciscans and Bay Area residents back to the office to reinvigorate neighborhoods that have suffered during the pandemic.”