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Office Usage Reaches Highest Mark Since March 2020

National Office

Office usage hit record levels for the pandemic era last week, registering 50.5% across the 10 cities tracked in Kastle Systems’ Back to Work Barometer.

Chicago, San Francisco and New York City led the charge, according to Kastle data. Chicago rose 3 percentage points to 55% of pre-pandemic usage, San Francisco went up 2.1 points to 44%, and New York City rose 1.6 points to 50.5%.

Chicago had the largest office usage gain among the 10 cities tracked by Kastle Systems.

The national usage rate just surpassed the previous pandemic-era high of 50.4%, recorded in September. All tracked cities saw upticks in usage except for Dallas, Houston and San Jose, which each went down less than half a percentage point. 

The most occupied day on average across the 10 tracked cities was Wednesday at 59.4%, and the lowest was Friday at 33.1%.

2023 has seen an increase in return-to-office mandates, with 2 million workers under an in-person work requirement in August and an additional million expected to be by the end of the year, according to JLL. Major players like Google, Meta and Amazon have implemented varying degrees of RTO mandates. 

Even so, usage has been relatively stagnant throughout the year, hovering around 50% across the markets Kastle tracks. 

“For the most part, what we saw was like two days a week, and now it feels like three days a week in terms of the overall percentage of visits,” Senior Vice President of Marketing Ethan Chernofsky told Bisnow in August. “And there is this question of will the rise continue, or is this the plateau?” 

There still isn’t much compliance on RTO mandates, either, CNBC reported. About 42% of businesses had a return-to-office mandate as of May, according to a Gartner survey of 78 human resources leaders, and 39% said they hadn’t imposed any consequences for not meeting attendance requirements.

“There’s still not a ton of compliance, and there’s still pushback from employees, so I wouldn’t say the tide has turned in terms of mandates becoming something employees are on board with,” Caitlin Duffy, research director of employee experience at Gartner, told CNBC. 

Commuting times are the top reason employees don’t want to come back to the office, and more than half of employees don’t go in because they don’t see the point, according to Gartner data.