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A Return to Downtown Pittsburgh: Navigating Uncharted Waters

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In Pittsburgh and across the U.S., companies are increasing the requirements for return to office. The prospect of returning to in-person work downtown has stirred many thoughts and concerns for employees and employers alike. As they are navigating uncharted waters, many are asking: is what is good for downtown also good for each worker individually?


PPG employees returned downtown


post covid average daily employee recovery rate downtown


commercial real estate occupancy downtown

Malesia Dunn, the executive director of the PPG Foundation & Global Corporate Social Responsibility, shared her thoughts on returning to the workplace. At PPG, Malesia oversees community engagement work globally across the company and has been with PPG for five years.

Recently, PPG has steadily resumed in-person operations where employees are returning to the office at least three times a week. There is flexibility built into the process and employers are choosing the days to come into the office. From Malesia’s perspective it’s important to identify what works best for the individual making the transition back to the office. Not rushing the process is paramount, and there are times when working from home still makes sense.

As she stepped back into the office, Malesia observed that there’s an energy that comes from being around people. “I am energized by being around my colleagues. "

Another observation: collaboration is key. Being able to walk into a colleague's office to ask a quick question or receive clarification has saved back and forth emails and allowed for further explanation that can’t be done in emails. Many of the nonprofits she works with provided services during the pandemic, and now she interacts with them in person and has a broadened sense of appreciation for an effort to return to in-person work across the region.

PPG, like many downtown employers, recognizes one of the chief benefits of in-person work comes from the increased collaboration and connection that resonated with Malesia. With this in mind, PPG has recently created the Customer and Employee Experience Center, a newly renovated space atop PPG Place. This transformation aimed to create a more open and collaborative environment, showcasing the essence of PPG's work. The opening of the space reunited colleagues, some who hadn't seen each other in over two years. It was also a chance to meet new faces.

Seeing a sense of normalcy return to some of dowtown’s public spaces is encouraging. For Malesia, the return of the Farmers Market in Market Square was notable.

I think it brings a little bit of vibrancy and energy to downtown – having those regular things come back and be a part of the landscape."

Malesia Dunn

And she’s excited about new restaurants and the convenience and the energy of the city.

Many of Malesia’s colleagues and partners across the region share similar sentiments.  Returning to downtown workplaces is best approached with an open mind. The experience might be compared to rekindling a relationship with an old friend with whom a connection had been lost.

The return to working in downtown can renew a sense of purpose and collaboration among employees, even as it offers all who are now spending more time in downtown the unique opportunity to contribute to its revival and revitalization. Together, all who are embracing downtown once again are helping to write its next and exciting chapter.


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