Office Occupancy May Have Jumped After Labor Day After All
Last year, the delta variant imploded plans for a large-scale return to the office for knowledge workers. With no such surge in cases coming this year, it seems that offices were indeed more full with workers than they have been since early 2020.
For the week of Sept. 8-14, office occupancy in 10 major cities was 47.4% of pre-pandemic levels, according to Kastle Systems data reported by The Wall Street Journal. The number was a new high since the outbreak of the pandemic and a 4% jump from the week ending Sept. 7, which included Labor Day.
In New York, Kastle's data showed an even bigger leap, from 38.6% as of Sept. 7 to 46.6% as of Sept. 14, the New York Post reports.
Based on which office buildings use Kastle to track entry data and the types of tenants that occupy those buildings, there is reason to believe the true occupancy number has been even higher in September, matching anecdotes that executives at RXR Realty and Silverstein Properties related to Bisnow in the days after Labor Day. A spokesperson for the Durst Organization said that its Manhattan office buildings were 75% full on Sept. 13, the Post reports.
Houston has had nation-leading office occupancy rates essentially since the pandemic began, and it experienced a 10% boost in worker attendance from the week before Labor Day to the week after, according to data from trade group Central Houston Inc. reported by the WSJ.
A lack of improvement in worker attendance could have been taken as a sign that remote work's primacy was no longer tied to pandemic-based caution, but a more permanent shift.
But with President Joe Biden declaring the pandemic to be over in a television interview on Sunday, plus economic indicators continuing to worsen, the uptick for in-person work could be a sign of employers and management tightening the screws on a workforce that has gained confidence to defy return-to-office directives from strong employment numbers.