GW Expert Available: Returning to Work Plays Important Role in Revitalizing Downtowns

Despite more and more companies issuing return to work mandates, many employees are still working from home and some experts worry how those policies are impacting urban economies. This week, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called on the Biden administration to end teleworking policies for federal employees, asking the White House to bring federal workers back into the office or to consider realigning their property portfolios to allow other uses of the empty office spaces.

If you would like more context on this matter, please consider James R. Bailey, a professor of leadership development at the George Washington University School of Business. His areas of expertise include employee motivation, competence, satisfaction, and performance, as well as managerial decision making, and business ethics.

Bailey says Mayor Bowser’s urgent request is because, unlike other major cities, D.C. is particularly reliant on a single employer: the U.S. federal government. 

“The federal government is by far the largest employer in the metropolitan region, employing some 370,000+ people, with a full 54% working in DC itself,” James says. “Imagine a downtown with almost 200,000 fewer people strolling the streets?  That’s 200,000 fewer people not grabbing lunch at a corner deli, not picking up clothes or toys or tools at retail stores, not staying after work for happy hour with colleagues or not meting friends and families for dinner or a show or both.”

“The economic impact of such a scenario is devastating. But it’s not just economically devastating; it’s cultural. For the last 50 years, America has struggled to rebuild downtowns as vibrant centers for the arts and entertainment that were both worker and visitor friendly. And for a city like DC, which draws 19,000,000 tourists a year, preserving the downtown is absolutely critical for the life of the city, its citizens, and all those around the world that enjoy its many offerings.”

You can find more insight from Bailey in an op-ed he previously wrote in The Hill regarding the revitalization of downtowns by returning to work.

If you would like to speak with Professor Bailey, please contact GW Media Relations Specialist Cate Douglass at [email protected].