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Survey: Over 60% Of Workers To Be Back At Their NYC Desks By September

New York City

Most workers are still not back at their desks in the financial capital of the world, but employers are increasingly planning for a significant return to the workplace in the fall — no doubt welcome news for the troubled office sector.

The total share of office-based employees expected to return by the end of September of this year is now at 62%, per a Partnership of New York survey released Monday. That marks a 37% increase from estimates in March, when that figure was hovering at 45%. Right now, just 12% of Manhattan employees are at the office, a small jump from 10% back in March when the partnership last ran the survey.

“It’s the vaccine factor,” Partnership of New York President and CEO Kathryn Wylde said. “Clearly people are feeling a lot better about returning to the office … We’ve been trying hard to encourage people to get vaccinated and feel confident that subways are clean and that New Yorkers are abiding by safety protocols. We’re very pleased, we just need to continue to drive towards more people being vaccinated.”

Companies are also figuring out exactly when they will return in greater numbers. Back in March, 14% of employers said they didn’t know about their return, now just 3% do not have a clear estimate on when their employees will be back.

Still, a vast majority of those surveyed — some 84% — said employees remain wary of mass transit and that remains an obstacle. The anxieties, however, are less about cleanliness than before and are now about personal safety.

Larger firms are returning at a slower pace, of those surveyed with more than 5,000 employees just 8% are back. By comparison, 24% of companies with fewer than 500 staff have come back.

The numbers fluctuate from industry to industry. Tech firms are now predicting 40% of employees to be back by the end of September, whereas financial services now predict 61% of employees to be back by the end of September.

Tech firms have actually downgraded their expected return — in the last survey, it was at 51% of employees, overall. Financial services, on the other hand, have upped their expectations for the return; back in March, the survey suggested 50% would be back by the end of September.

One thing is certain, however. Many employers are not expecting workers to return five days a week. A total of 71% said they will have a hybrid schedule. Plus, employers seem to be coalescing around the concept of the three-day office schedule, with 63% saying they will set three days as the requirement.

The return to office, and how it will look when and if it happens, has been a dominant issue for real estate for the better part of a year. While the real estate industry has been quick to bring workers back, and in many cases publicly called on other employers to do the same, few companies have followed suit.

While it appears the lagging return is most acute in major hubs like New York City, where restrictions were lifted at a slower pace than in other places around the country, it seems to be a national issue. Still, recent developments have many expecting a swift New York City recovery. 

Mask mandates have been lifted, and last month Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City schools would be run from the classroom only this coming fall, which many in the real estate community described as a confidence boost for the office market.