With the U.S. now cranking up vaccinations, we’re about to head into yet another tricky phase of the pandemic: the reopening of offices where employers had the luxury of moving everyone to remote work.
It’s already happening. Kastle Systems, an office security firm that tracks key card usage at more than 2,500 buildings in 138 cities, in early March reported that among 10 large cities, businesses are at an average 24% of office occupancy relative to where they were pre-COVID. That’s compared to less than 15% a year ago when the vacate orders had been freshly issued.
Texas employers — with the blessing of the governor — seem most eager to get their workforce back into the office. According to Kastle data, office occupancy is at least 30% of where it was before the pandemic in the Austin, Houston and Dallas metro areas. In Dallas, office activity fell to about 15% of its pre-COVID norm in spring 2020, but is now back to nearly 37%.
By comparison, in tech-centric San Francisco (13.2%) and Silicon Valley/San Jose (16%), where plenty of work can be done via laptop, employers don’t seem to be in any hurry getting workers back into the office. Yet in the California land of entertainment creatives, getting back to the office seems more on the agenda, as Los Angeles was at 26.5% occupancy according to Kastle.
Office? Remote? Yes!
The consulting firm PwC has been conducting surveys of both employers and employees during the pandemic about their work-space preferences and expectations.
Both management and workers agree that remote work works. More than 80% of employers said remote work has been a success, and 71% of workers rated it a success.
But employers still want bodies in the office. At least some of the time. Workers not so much.
The five-day office commute: RIP, 2020?
Just 21% of the execs surveyed by PwC said they think staff needs to be in the office together five days a week to maintain a solid work culture.