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INDIANAPOLIS – One of Indianapolis’ largest employers has announced only the “smallest percent” of its employees will return to their downtown office building.

Salesforce, a cloud-based software company that employs 2,100 people locally, announced Tuesday that it will allow most employees to work from home indefinitely, even after the pandemic ends.

Downtown business owner George Stergiopoulos, co-owner of Giorgio’s Pizza in the circle, said any loss in foot traffic is a loss in revenue – especially during the pandemic.

“You know that traffic, that walk-by traffiC, that we depend on is just not here,” said Stergiopoulos.

Stergiopoulos said revenue was down by almost 46% by the end of 2020. Still – he said any small business owner must learn to adapt.

“Any time you own your own business you have to be resilient,” Stergiopoulos said. “And we face obstacles all the time.”

Senior Vice President of Downtown Indy Inc, Bob Schultz, said he saw the announcement from Salesforce coming. He said the organization recently completed several “pulse check surveys” to meet with downtown employers about their intent to return.

“What [results] we’re starting to get back is: anywhere from 25-35% of [employers] are back at some level,” said Shultz. “And certainly those levels are ticking up.”

Salesforce Tower is seen in downtown San Francisco, California on February 6, 2019. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images).

Salesforce will offer employees three “ways of working”:

  • Flex, meaning employees will spend one to three days in the office
  • Fully remote, for employees who don’t live near an office or have roles that don’t require working in an office
  • Office-based, “the smallest population” of Salesforce’s workforce, who will work from the office four to five days per week

“Our employees are the architects of this strategy, and flexibility will be key going forward,” the company said in a press release.

Before the pandemic, downtown Indianapolis saw roughly 155,000 people commute into downtown and work every day.

“And that number came to a screeching holt a year ago this March,” said Shultz.

Shultz said this same shift in workforce is being discussed in every urban environment across the world and it is something Downtown Indy Inc. is already working to adapt to.

“We don’t see this as a chicken little moment,” Shultz said. “There is that light that’s telling us that there’s going to be a healthy return, but it’s going to take time.”

As Stergiopoulos waits for that return, he stresses that he will be relying on locals more than ever for support.

“I’’ve always respected the support that we got from our locals and that’s who keeps us in business,” said Stergiopoulos. “If we come out of this okay, that’s what has saved us.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Salesforce expects over 65 percent of its workforce to visit the office one to three days a week after the pandemic ends. It did not specify what portion of its employees would work from home permanently.

The company also did not say how the workforce update would affect its real estate holdings, but did mention that it intends to “reimagine” its office spaces “to accommodate a more hybrid work style.” That means “the sea of desks” will be replaced with cafe-style tables and additional space for meetings, according to a rendering.