In-Office Workers Hits Highest Rate Since Start of Pandemic

New York, NY, October 12, 2021-"A widely anticipated surge in employees returning to the office after Labor Day never materialized," reports the Wall Street Journal. “But as Covid-19 infection rates fall again, workers are trickling back to the office at the highest rate since the pandemic began.

“Office-building use has been slowly rising after a number of businesses required employees to return at least part of the week. In other cases, workers are returning voluntarily with summer vacations over and their children back in school.

“The number of workers returning to traditional office space has been edging higher since the week of Labor Day, when an average of 31% of the workforce was back in the 10 major cities monitored by Kastle Systems. The average hit 35% during the week that ended Oct. 1 and 36% during the week that ended Oct. 8, a new high during the pandemic period, said the security company that tracks access-card swipes.

“Office usage looks poised to push higher as more companies indicate they will be welcoming office workers back in the weeks ahead. BlackRock Inc., Whirlpool Corp. and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. are among the companies that set return dates for October and early November.

“‘There are things we can accomplish together in the office that we can’t do remotely,’ Lions Gate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer wrote in a message to employees, who are required to begin alternating between the office and working at home this month.

“Those return figures are still modest compared with the lofty expectations of the spring, when rising vaccination rates led many companies to say that a majority of their employees would be back at their desks at least part of the time in the early fall. Manhattan employers projected that 62% of their workers would be in the office by September, according to a survey released in June by the Partnership for New York City.

“The spread of the Delta variant changed that. Businesses were forced to shelve reopening plans. Many workers who had returned to the office went back to working remotely, and office use dipped.

“Now, infection rates are falling again-in part because many companies and local governments are mandating vaccinations-gradually easing workers’ concerns about working inside with colleagues.

“The rise in office occupancy has been particularly pronounced in New York, where usage increased to a pandemic high of 30% during the week ended Friday, up from 21% at the beginning of September, Kastle said.

“That rise reflects the city’s high vaccination rate, reopening of schools and the large number of companies in the finance business, according to Mark Ein, Kastle’s chairman.”