Philadelphia, other cities cut back remote work, but keep COVID-era digital infrastructure

Philadelphia officials said despite an upcoming change to remote work policies, COVID-era digital infrastructure will remain useful.
remote work on Zoom, biggest thing since Industrial Revolution
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Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker announced on Monday that all city employees will be required to return full-time to working in the office this summer, ending the city’s the remote work policy, which has been in place since June 2021.

The shift to remote work as an option after the COVID-19 pandemic was a lifeline for many government employees across the country several years ago. The increase in remote work saw cities enhancing their cybersecurity protocols and establishing virtual private networks in an attempt to make remote work possible and safe.

Philadelphia was among the local governments that scrambled to stand up the digital infrastructure needed to keep staff working while they maintained social distancing protocols. And while the mayor’s announcement falls in line with the national trend of bringing remote workers back into the office, city officials told StateScoop the use of that COVID-era digital infrastructure isn’t going anywhere.

Philadelphia’s new in-office requirement will be effective July 15.


As part of its efforts to make remote work possible, the Philadelphia city government required employees to follow strict security measures, such as using multi-factor authentication, connecting to the city network via VPN and taking cybersecurity training. For the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology, some of these measures are still critical to operations, a spokesperson from OIT said.

“Much work still must be done remotely regardless of any specific in-office vs. remote work policy because some of OIT is a 24/7 operation. Therefore, any of the infrastructure we put in place during the pandemic is still critical to the functioning of the office,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The infrastructure we put in place during the pandemic, and the ability to work remotely, will no doubt be important in the future when we face another challenge, health-related or otherwise, that requires work to be done remotely.”

According to Parker’s announcement, most of the city’s employees were already working in-office. About 80% of the city’s workforce worked fully on-site or in-office during 2023, and the remaining 20% worked on-site for about 31 hours out of the two-week per pay period, the announcement said.

Philadelphia’s policy change follows many cities that are beginning to walk back or alter their remote work policies for employees. At the beginning of the year, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the district’s government would shift from two remote work days per week to just one day per week. Baltimore this year limited city employees to a maximum of two remote work days per week.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams took the city in the opposite direction, announcing in October that his administration would expand a remote work pilot program that allows employees to work from home two days per week. The move contrasts with Adams’ previous calls for private companies to bring their employees back to offices, citing the effects on service-oriented businesses that cater to office workers.


“It is time to get back to work,” Adams said at the New York State Democratic Convention in 2022. “You can’t tell me you are afraid of COVID on Monday and I see you in the night club on Sunday.”

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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