LANSING, Mich. (WILX) – Many downtown Lansing office buildings are sitting empty as people continue to work from home.
The state is saving a lot of money by keeping its workers away. Now, it is considering keeping this arrangement beyond the pandemic.
The state said the pandemic has become a pilot program to see how state government can work remotely.
But the mayor and business owners say keeping the state’s workers home will hurt the downtown.
“They’ve got to bring them back. It’s not good for the state,” said Mathew Hunt, Summit Comics and Games store manager.
Hunt said not having the state employees in the office is really hurting downtown businesses.
“We need downtown to get busier. This used to be a happening downtown and it’s kinda dead,” said Hunt.
Most state workers have been working from home since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.
In a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Mayor Andy Schor said about 15% of downtown businesses closed in the last year.
He said if most state workers continue working from home permanently, it would be like losing a major industry.
“Our partnership with the state is really important to us and having employees here downtown as the capital city is something we expect to see,” said Schor.
Nothing has been decided at this point.
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget said ultimately it will be left up to each department.
“State departments need to look at their individual operations and how they function. Can you do certain things and not be in a physical location anymore?” said Caleb Buhs, DTMB spokesman.
Buhs said, for the most part, workers have been doing just as well at home, if not better.
He said not everyone would be working remotely, especially those people who deal with the public on a regular basis.
But even those services could be changing.
“Is there is a different way of how we provide that service? Is it something we can do that’s more convenient for the customer?” said Buhs.
The state has 27,000 people currently working from home, which is 57% of the state’s total workforce.
Right now, the state hasn’t set a date for when most people will be returning to the office, but it won’t happen before May 1.
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