Twitter open doors for workers; San Francisco seeks tourists

Twitter is reopening its office to workers on Tuesday as Mayor London Breed and other business leaders in San Francisco are encouraging people to come back to their offices in the city.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Breed says San Francisco needs people to come back, whether it means workers returning for at least a few days a week under a hybrid schedule or tourists from Europe and other parts of the globe visiting for a vacation.

"You know what's been missing for some time, the people," Breed said. "The people, the diversity, the people from all over are what makes San Francisco so amazing."

Twitter's CEO said workers can continue to work from home if they choose - but emphasized there are advantages to having everyone working in the same space.

San Francisco city leaders hope other businesses emphasize the same thing with their workers.

"It's no secret COVID has been a huge challenge for cities," said East Cut Community Benefit District board member Ken Brendel.

Brendel, Breed and other city and community leaders announced a week of events happening in San Francisco with the goal of welcoming people back to offices. They're calling the program, "Bloom SF".

"We're going to bring some roller skates to downtown, we're going to bring some disco to downtown, DJs and play some music and make people feel good," Breed said. Artists with the acrobatic dance troupe, Seven Fingers Circus, which perform the ongoing work "Dear San Francisco" at Club Fugazi, will perform snippets of their production on the streets of Downtown San Francisco as well.

Business owners explained why the effort is crucial to their survival.

"The small mom-and-pop businesses in downtown San Francisco desperately need folks to come back to work," said Denise Tran, the owner of Bun Mee Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery. She operates the cafés in several locations, but her Market Street café has not yet had enough foot traffic nearby to justify reopening.

Sumita Raghuram, associate professor of San Jose State University's School of Management, studied remote work practices among tech companies in the early 1990s, when the Northridge Earthquake in Southern California shut down major roads for weeks at a time. Raghuram said this time around, some form of working from home for tech workers is permanent.

"When you have such a major event, things are never the same," she said. "A few days in the office, a few days at home. Organizations do want to have that bonding with their employees, and that gets lost if people are spending a lot of time at home."

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Raghuram said she does think conventions and business travel will increase, long-term, in San Francisco. If people aren't burdened with going to an office, in-person every day, the idea of traveling for a big, professional networking event could seem more appealing.

"It's not an everyday event, and people still want to meet up with other professionals in-person," Raghuram said. 

Breed is in Europe right now with that goal in mind, particularly when it comes to international tourists and business travelers.

She and other city officials will be visiting London, Brussels, Frankfurt and Paris over the course of 10 days.

They'll meet with airlines, and local leaders to "reestablish SFO as the international gateway to California" and a hub for the European market.