Employees at some major Pittsburgh companies returning to downtown offices

PITTSBURGH — Downtown Pittsburgh’s office space has a 19.8% vacancy rate, which is tied with San Francisco, according to JLL real estate firm.

Several of the city’s largest employers are doing their part to get business people back downtown, with companies like PNC and Highmark asking everyone to return to the office in September.

But some employees say it has forced them to look for another job.

One Highmark employee of close to ten years didn’t want to show her face or give her name but shared her feelings about Highmark’s announcement that all employees who live less than 50 miles away from downtown Pittsburgh are expected to go into the office three days a week starting next week.

She was hired as a fully remote employee before the pandemic, so when she first saw the memo, she didn’t think it applied to her until she found out it did.

“Initially, I started by looking and pricing out childcare, parking, all of those things just to see the feasibility of it. When you factor everything in, it kind of all adds up to I gotta find something different,” she said.

She was able to find a remote position at another company — something many of her colleagues are exploring.

“Morale is low. Like most companies, we’re impacted by being understaffed,” she said. “We went through layoffs this year which also...doesn’t help, and then to be told we’re going back into office. I think people just feel upset.”

In a statement responding to our questions, Highmark said:

“This is not a mandate, and flexibility is key. Our expectation is a productive conversation and commitment between team members and their leaders.”

Channel 11 also asked if an employee was hired for a remote-only position, why they’d be asked to go into the office.

Highmark said:

“There are some roles that senior leaders have deemed as off-site and are not expected to be in an office location as often.”

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