MILWAUKEE — A return to normalcy is underway as Downtown Milwaukee gets ready to celebrate and welcome more workers back to the office.
"It's great just to see the people coming back downtown due to a hard pandemic that we've been through," said Brian Johnson with Milwaukee Downtown. "Just to be able to put a smile on their face and say, 'hey, welcome back.'"
Even on a rainy day, a steady crowd of customers drop in for lunch at 600 East.
"I just like being around people. I'm a more social creature, I like the interaction," said Justin Parker.
He works in an office building downtown that welcomed back employees last fall after working at home during the pandemic.
"So for the first time now and for the last few months, I've been able to meet some of my team members face to face, which has been a really nice change," said Parker.
At one of Milwaukee's largest downtown office buildings, Northwestern Mutual employees have returned in phases since spring with work flexibility options.
In fact, the Commons area inside reopened to the public this week, which includes Starbucks. That's where Milwaukee Downtown set up its "Welcome Back" table for employees.
Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, is ready to welcome and encourage more employees to enjoy downtown with a series of summer events .
Last week they kicked off their Wednesday summer concerts and food trucks at Red Arrow Park Terrace.
"We are seeing more and more of our work force return downtown and its gives a really great opportunity to say welcome back," said Weirick.
Back at 600 East, the "welcome back" and "thank you for your support" signs are noticeable. Manager Jill Ruffing is thankful life downtown is returning to normal.
"At least if it gets busier," said Ruffing. "There's more revenue, and we hire more people and hopefully we can keep up with what we used to do pre-pandemic."
In April, the Metropolitan Association of Commerce surveyed more than 75 area businesses with 21,000 people and found most companies indicated some flexibility in having employees work remotely. This includes:
- 38% High level of flexibility for all employees.
- 43% Some flexibility depending on the employees role and responsibilities.
- 20% Limited flexibility or no remote workers.