Coming back to the office in downtown Dayton? Here’s what companies are saying

Dayton stakeholders unveiled a plan Friday to continue downtown Dayton’s growth as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Caption
Dayton stakeholders unveiled a plan Friday to continue downtown Dayton’s growth as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: Staff

Dayton stakeholders unveiled a plan Friday to continue downtown Dayton’s growth as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rediscover Downtown Dayton Action Plan is a collaborative effort between public and private community leaders to identify short-term and long-term recommendations and to set a vision for downtown’s recovering following the pandemic shutdown.

A steering committee for the action plan was formed in mid-March and was co-chaired by Dayton Commissioner Chris Shaw and Dan McCabe, CareSource chief of staff and CEO of the CareSource Foundation. The steering committee recruited 100 community volunteers and stakeholders who they felt are committed to downtown’s continued growth and recovery.

Downtown Dayton companies were interviewed about their thoughts about the future of office space. Here is what they told stakeholders with the Rediscover Downtown Dayton Action Plan:

ExploreLeaders encourage people to rediscover downtown as pandemic recovery continues

OFFICE MARKET IMPACT

The pandemic has fundamentally changed how companies think about their office spaces. Surveys and conversations with downtown employers reveal that hybrid work is the new standard. Almost all employers report that they will be coming back to the office, but with a lot more flexibility for remote work. Fortunately, this is likely to have only a minor impact on downtown office leasing - most do not expect changes to their offices, and only a small fraction (17%) say they expect to reduce their office footprint.

Employers report that face to face interactions are vital, but also believe they must offer remote work flexibility to retain and recruit top talent.

CULTURE SPACE

While employers have realized their employees can be productive while working remotely, most know their company culture and sense of team has atrophied over the past year. If team members are only together a few days per week, using that precious time to collaborate and build culture will be critical.

The pandemic has proven your desk and computer can be anywhere, so commercial office space must provide other intangibles to justify the cost to the company. The walkable, amenityrich environment of downtown Dayton could be poised for commercial office growth in the postpandemic world.

COMING BACK TO THE OFFICE

Employers will be coming back to their offices over the summer and fall, but emphasize the return to downtown will be in phases. Downtown CEOs will manage complex issues as employees come back - apprehension about returning to the office, shortfalls in childcare and other personal dynamics, and mixes of vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.

For these reasons and more, leaders stress that coming back to the office can’t feel forced on their employees, but instead must happen organically.