CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Office workers seem to be returning to downtown Cleveland office buildings, but in a very unscientific look at people coming and going and traffic in and out of the city, it certainly is clear that workers in the city are nowhere near a pre-pandemic level.

That is backed up by numbers from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s research, which shows that about 60% of workers have returned to their offices in the city.

That number, according to the DCA, is better than most of the big city numbers across the country.

The key question is when, or even will, those numbers ever get closer to a full, pre-pandemic, office-filled workforce?

“I think it’s really going to be almost impossible for employers to get back to five days a week,” said Michael Goldberg of Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management.

Goldberg said some employees have found a way to be productive while also taking care of everyday needs at home, including caring for children or elderly parents.

Many businesses, however, are trending towards wanting their employees back in the office as a way to increase productivity.

“Really in some ways that (working from home) is a poor substitute for that in-person interaction,” Goldberg said, “that being said I think employers are seeing that they’re going to lose out on critical employees.”

The current job market offers significant opportunities for remote work.

This means local companies have to be very careful about how much in-person work they demand from their employees.

On the other hand, Goldberg said it is clear that remote opportunities have enabled some to stay in the region, when under other circumstances, they may have been forced to move away.

“Folks are taking opportunities outside of the region that are allowing them to live here and telecommute and be completely remote,” Goldberg said, “I think that’s a net good thing for Clevelanders.”

As far as the downtown recovery goes, the slow return of the downtown office worker has had some troubling effects.

“All of the auxiliary businesses in a place like downtown Cleveland that serve that working community are really struggling,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg emphasized that the good news in downtown is that the housing market remains strong, stronger than it has ever been, and does not seem to be in any danger of slowing.