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Persuading Workers To Come Back To The Office Still A Tough Sell

More than six months into the coronavirus pandemic, only about a quarter of office workers have returned to their places of work, a new study has found.

The number of office workers physically at the office on  any given workday is particularly anemic in Manhattan, at about 10%, reports The Wall Street Journal, citing data compiled by CBRE. Workers are still skittish about using mass transit, and in some cases need to be home with children who are not physically in school. Suburban New York has about a third of its workers at the office, while metro Dallas has about 40% and metro Los Angeles about 32%. 


Experts say the number of present office workers is an important factor in the health of local economies, particularly downtowns with high concentrations of offices and businesses that office workers support, such as restaurants and small shops. But when more people will return to office space is an open question, and it is possible that the pandemic will spur a permanent change in working habits.

According to CBRE's latest Workplace Sentiment Survey, most workers are comfortable with remote work, and believe that it is just as productive as coming into an office. Most of those surveyed (85%) expect to work remotely in the future at least some of the time.

On the other hand, a majority of workers (60%) also expect the office to continue to be an important place for community and engagement with colleagues, so some form of hybrid arrangement between working in the office and elsewhere might evolve into the new normal eventually.

Even so, getting people back to the office remains tricky for now.

"You have to basically seduce your people to come into the office and work there instead of from home,” Edge CEO Coen van Oostrom told CNBC, stressing that workplaces will need to be improved to achieve that, and not just in terms of pandemic-related safety measures.

Workers might also be more likely to return if their bosses do so. Billionaire Sam Zell pointed that out in August when he told CNBC that for executives, "Hiding out in the Hamptons or hiding out in Vermont or wherever doesn’t make any sense and is counterproductive.”