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Office Occupancy Hits 44%, Its Highest Point Since The Pandemic Began


There is a long way to go, but a national report shows employers are making progress in their efforts to get workers back in the office.

Average office occupancy in 10 major U.S. metros came in at 44% of pre-pandemic levels during the first week of June, the highest mark since the pandemic began in 2020, according to Kastle Systems. The week before occupancy was 41.2%, a drop from previous weeks in May that probably reflected the Memorial Day weekend. 

Metro Austin leads the country in office occupancy at 61.3% and remains the only city on Kastle’s 10-city Back to Work Barometer to have risen higher than 60% occupancy.

Metro San Jose, California, is the lowest at 33.8% occupancy during the first week of June. All of the 10 cities the company tracks saw rising occupancy during the first week of June, however.

Kastle tracks access activity data from its app, keycard and fob usage in 2,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses in 47 states to estimate office occupancy rates.

Despite the national gains, the growth of office occupancy remains unclear, as many workers don't want to return to an office environment five days a week. A study by WFH Research, as reported by Quartz, found that slightly fewer than half of employees who are expected by their employer to return to the office full time are actually going in five days a week. The finding flies in the face of demands by some companies, most notably automaker Tesla, that laptop-enabled employees go back to a five-day-a-week schedule.

Companies that ask people to come in two, three or four days each week are having better results, with 84% of workers following those policies, according to WFH Research.

“After more than two years with a lot of working from home, it's not very realistic for companies to expect office workers, and those who can do at least part of their job remotely, back to the office full time,” Jose Maria Barrero, one of the authors of the WFH Research study, told Fortune

The sticking point for many workers isn't often the office itself but the onerous commute each day to get there. Employees are less likely to have returned to the office in cities that had longer average commutes, according to an analysis of Census Bureau and Kastle Systems data.

More than half of the respondents to a Gallup 2021 survey said avoiding their commute is a top reason for not going into the office in person.