FIRST ON amNY: MTA will bring back remote work option for office workers

Metropolitan Transportation Authority office staff will be allowed to work from home at least one day a week starting this summer, amNewYork Metro has learned.

The MTA will test a so-called telecommuting program for six months and then decide whether to continue the remote policy or expand it to two days a week, according to an email from an agency executive to employees obtained by amNewYork Metro.

“An MTA task force has met regularly to explore the implementation of an MTA telecommuting program for unrepresented managers and unrepresented employees,” reads the memo sent Friday, June 10 by the administrative director of MTA, Lisette Camilo. “As a result of these discussions, a teleworking pilot program will be launched this summer.”

The agency will provide more details on the pilot later this month, Camilo added.

Most of MTA’s more than 67,000 employees must work in person to operate trains and buses in the agency’s sprawling transit system, but there are also some 3,500 employees in administrative positions, according to the last Financial documents from the Authority’s May Board meeting.

These include positions such as planners, government and community relations, and computer scientists.

The new plan responds to employees requesting a flexible plan after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting traditional office workflow.

“For the relatively small group of office workers working hard to support our frontline colleagues, you have also told us of your desire for more flexible workplace initiatives and we want to accommodate your needs while ensuring we are working productively and providing the highest level of support to our operations,” Camilo’s email read.

The move also comes on the heels of the state-controlled MTA scrapping its weekly testing requirement for employees who refused to get a coronavirus shot — which amNewYork Metro first reported on Tuesday.

MTA workers who want to participate in the one-day remote pilot must be non-union, perform “telecommuting friendly” duties, and have been on the job for at least 30 calendar days.

They will also need approval from their manager and agree to use “a tool” to “measure work activity” while maintaining satisfactory or better performance without disciplinary action against them, Camilo wrote.

An MTA employee, who asked to remain anonymous so he could speak freely, welcomed the change, saying he had proven himself capable of doing work from home months earlier during the pandemic.

“We have shown over the past two years that we are capable of doing remote work,” the employee told amNewYork Metro. “We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”

The agency required workers to return to the office five days a week in early 2022, according to the employee.

The worker added that the remote option will keep staff happy and prevent them from abandoning the state agency for the private sector, where hybrid schedules have become commonplace.

“It’s going to be important that people want to come to the MTA and people want to stay in their jobs,” the person said. “Because you can go anywhere and work in a hybrid environment now, so it makes sense to be able to do that in government as well.”

By contrast, the New York City government under Mayor Eric Adams has stuck to a strict five-day in-person policy, aimed at setting an example for other businesses to attract their workforce. in the central business districts of Manhattan.

But Adams’ decision also led public sector workers leave en masseeven as senior officials of municipal councils and commissions get to meet again virtually citing security concerns related to the spread of the virus.

Mayor’s spokesman Fabien Levy referred to a request for comment on Adams’ statements earlier this month, when hizzoner said the city may allow some flexibility in the future.

“There will come a time when we can say that, you know, one day a week, we can do a different type of release,” Adams told reporters on June 1. “Post-COVID is a different environment, but you’re not going to be home five days a week unless certain circumstances require it.

State agencies have been able to decide since last year whether they want to allow employees to work remotely for part of the week, according to Erin McCarthy, spokeswoman for the governor’s Office of Employee Relations.

The vast majority of New Yorkers said they do not want to return to the office five days a week, with 82% of respondents to a recent survey by NY1 and Siena College saying they would prefer to work from home between one and five days. Less than one in five (17%) said they wanted to come back every day of the work week.

Earlier this year, MTA leaders had bet on a full return to the office to bring back transit ridership, but weekday trips remained at just under 60% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest agency accounts of last week.

The MTA press office did not provide answers to follow-up questions or additional comment before press time.

Maria D. Ervin