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National Office Usage Hasn’t Budged A Month After Small Post-Labor Day Bump


The nation’s office building owners put their hopes on a significant return to the office in the fall, but so far those hopes have not translated into reality.

Kastle Systems' Back to Work Barometer, which measures card and badge scan data across 10 U.S. markets, recorded an average office occupancy at 47.4% in the week leading up to Oct. 10, a rate essentially unchanged in the last four weeks.

That is only slightly above the week before, and basically unchanged from mid-September. Of the cities, Austin has the highest occupancy at 63.1%, up from 61.9% from the week before. San Francisco’s metro is at 40%, the lowest office occupancy all 10 cities. New York is at 43.8% just 0.3% up from the week before.

That means that while office occupancy has gone up since the end of the summer, it is not, yet at least, been climbing up.

“I think that employees have gotten so comfortable working from home that expecting [office occupancy] to go from the mid-40s to the mid-70s is a bridge too far," Gartner Vice President Brian Kropp, who leads research for the consulting firm's HR practice, said at the end of the post-Labor Day week Bisnow Reports podcast

He said there is nothing that has changed from the spring that would enforce a more robust return to work.

“Most organizations have not answered that fundamental question: ‘Why is working from the office better than working from home?’” Kropp said.

Many real estate players say that a shifting economic environment will push people back to the office, largely because workers will be more anxious about keeping their jobs in a less employee-friendly labor market. Some employers have begun trying to mandate office returns for their staff.

Last week, Uber said workers will need to come in at least two days a week, dubbing Tuesdays and Thursday “anchor days” when all nonremote workers will need to be in starting next month, Reuters reported. At the end of summer, Goldman Sachs removed its office vaccination requirement in the hopes of drawing more workers back, and Ally Financial told its workers they must come in regularly.

Those moves aren't universal. General Motors walked back its office return mandate after employees, who had been told they had to come in at least three days a week, pushed back. It announced late last month that workers will not need to be in any earlier than the first quarter of next year, CNBC reported.