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SURVEY: When NYC Office Workers Say They Will Be Back At Their Desks

Midtown Manhattan

In more bad news for office landlords in New York City, few workers have been reporting to their offices, and most don't expect to do so for months, at least.

Ten percent of Manhattan office employees have come back to the workplace as of early this month, a percentage that hasn’t changed since late October, according to business group The Partnership for New York City. The organization surveyed major employers between Feb. 24 and March 8 this year to get a sense of their return-to-work plans.

It found that half do not expect to return until September, and remote work will be a major factor in their long-term plans — both of which will have major implications for the city’s building owners, businesses and overall economy.

Back in October, 48% of office employers expected to be back by this coming July, but this recent survey has pushed that timeline back further. The total share of office employers expected to return by September is 45%.

A large chunk of employers, 14%, still don’t have a clear date of when most of their workers will be back at their desks. Four in five workers say they still expect to use mass transit when they return, a similar finding from previous surveys run by the partnership.

As the vaccination rollout continues across the country, the partnership also asked about whether or not employees’ inoculations were a factor in returning to work. Just over 60% said they won't mandate vaccinations, though more than half of those said they will actively encourage workers to get the shot.

Overall, 56% of office employees will continue to have remote work within their work schedule, employers expect. Twitter, Salesforce and Standard Chartered Group are all allowing workers to elect to work remotely in some capacity going forward.

"The overwhelming message is that both employers and workers are uncertain as to when they're going to come back to the office and under what circumstances," the Partnership for New York City CEO Kathryn Wylde told Gothamist. "From an employer standpoint, they're very concerned about the mental health, stress, burnout impact of Covid. Many of them feel that they cannot put any more pressure on their employees in terms of the expectation of them coming back to the office, even though most of the CEOs I know would like to have the team back."

The uncertainty is becoming a major issue for office and residential landlords alike. Though many in the real estate community have brought their workers back and encouraged others to do the same, other companies’ decision to keep people home is playing out in dented occupancy rates and rents.

Manhattan’s office availability was at 15.5% in February, a record. Residential rents plummeted by more than 15% in January.