Workers Are Returning To DFW Offices Faster Than Anywhere Else In The U.S.
Dallas-Fort Worth outpaces all other U.S. metros when it comes to the number of employees returning to the office.
Early October data from security management systems provider Kastle Systems shows 40.9% of Kastle Systems card key users in DFW visited the office during the first week of October. That rose to 43.3% in the second week of this month.
Comparatively, Kastle Systems users across 10 major U.S. metros recorded average office worker traffic of 26.7% during the first week of October. The difference between these two figures supports the premise that DFW office workers are returning to their workplaces at a faster clip, and in greater numbers, than other urban office markets, Kastle Systems executives say.
"[DFW] was definitely locked down like everywhere else, but it has consistently been the least locked down major metropolitan area that we track," Kastle Chairman Mark Ein told Bisnow. "It consistently has had the highest occupancy [or office traffic] of all markets throughout the entire period. Even in March, when everyone else was in lockdown, [DFW] was significantly more open than all of the other cities."
To obtain office traffic data, Kastle Systems has been tracking access card key swipes at 3,600 office buildings and 41,000 businesses across 47 states since the pandemic broke out in March. About 1.3 million people nationwide use Kastle card keys to access their office buildings.
Major U.S. markets like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are well behind DFW when it comes to returns to the office. New York had an office traffic rate of roughly 16.6% during the first week of October, compared to Dallas' 40.9%, Kastle reported.
San Francisco, Los Angeles and D.C. had office use rates of 14.5%, 33% and 23.6%, respectively.
Ein said this type of information can be used to support investment, relocation and building management decisions as the pandemic is disrupting the impact of traditional occupancy and leasing data.
"If you are an owner of an office building, or you are a service provider for office buildings, you are going to be in a better position today for the foreseeable future in a market where there are more people going into the office," he said. "I think it is indicative of a mindset about how people feel about returning and being in an office environment."
WorkSuites CEO Flip Howard said tenants have been returning to his DFW offices since June. WorkSuites, a coworking space provider that focuses on private office suites, has watched traffic and demand ebb and flow with the various waves of the coronavirus in DFW. But overall, the firm, which only has locations in Texas, is optimistic about the future of the DFW office market.
"The overall traffic is surprisingly good in terms of new leads," Howard said. "We are back to about 90% of our traffic lead flow."
Lead traffic flows measure the number of inquiries the firm gets for office space. Howard said spikes in coronavirus cases in DFW create brief drops in space inquiries, but overall demand is showing a resurgence.
"People looking for private office space is down about 15% or so from pre-COVID levels, but people looking for hybrid coworking and part-time office and virtual office space are way up," Howard said.
One anticipated office trend Kastle Systems hasn't found in its data is the emergence of staggering work start times. Early on in the virus, office experts predicted employees would access the office at different times of the day to create natural social distancing. So far, no such trend has emerged in swipe-in data, a Kastle spokesperson told Bisnow.
"We looked into this thinking swipe-ins and outs might be more spread out but that hasn’t been the case thus far," the spokesperson said. "Possibly because occupancy is still low, so the people coming in are doing so at their regular times. We will keep an eye on this though to see if and when it changes as more people return to the office."