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According to a statement from Wheeler’s office, about 40% of city employees have been primarily working remotely. The new plan begins in April.

PORTLAND, Ore. — In a statement released Wednesday, the office of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that most city employees will need to be working in-person at least half of the time under a new “future of work model” set to begin April of next year.

The plan is supposed to help accommodate Portland’s transition to a new form of government mandated by a charter reform measure approved by voters in November, Wheeler’s office said.

“We’ve heard from city employees loud and clear, and this approach provides maximum flexibility for in-person collaboration, while rising to the significant challenges we face and transformation the City is undergoing,” Wheeler was quoted as saying. “This model brings our workforce together half-time, which will improve the daily services we offer to Portlanders, and better ensures a successful implementation of charter changes Portlanders enthusiastically approved. We need ‘all hands on deck’ for the next 24 months as we navigate through the transition.”

Wheeler’s office underlined that about 60% of city employees have been working in-person “during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.” The remaining 40% have been working in the office one day a week under the current paradigm.

The new plan would designate a few positions as fully remote “using defined criteria,” Wheeler’s office said. Everyone else would need to be working in-person at least half of their total hours, with the new schedule effective in April 2023.

At the same time, the model promises to “maximize flexibility” for both in-person and hybrid positions, with employees and managers working to set schedules and establish new agreements on remote work.

The model also calls for a rule, which would need to be approved by the city council, that would require all employees to work either from Oregon or Washington, even if working remotely.

Finally, Wheeler’s model calls for the creation of a citywide exceptions process to allow for hybrid employees with special circumstances to “modify” the requirement to work in-person.

“City Council has asked that the Office of Management and Finance continue to prioritize flexibility and collaboration in implementing this new model,” the statement from Wheeler’s office concludes. “Managers and supervisors will receive tools and training to support employees and maximize the value of in-person work. All employees will have an opportunity to meet with their managers to discuss how to best to flex their work schedules.”

A return to more in-person work has been discussed since at least June of 2021. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 3,000 of the city’s employees worked in downtown offices, and some business owners have criticized the city for not pushing to get more employees back downtown, which they see as an important part of revitalizing the area.

Portland City Council resumed in-person meetings in May of this year, and city buildings reopened to the general public in June.

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