Offices have seen a steady stream of employees returning to the office in recent weeks, and Texas is leading the country in growing occupancy rates.
Cities such as Austin, Dallas, and Houston in particular have seen among the highest number of office returnees, which may provide insight into what this shift could look like for the rest of the country.
“Because Texas has been ahead of the game, we can look to the Texas numbers as an early indicator of where things will plateau out, because that’s the biggest question that everyone’s asking,” said Julie Whelan, global head of occupier thought leadership at CBRE.
According to data from Kastle Systems, the majority of American metros are seeing around 40% of workers return to the office. However, these numbers are predicted to level out at around 55% to 65% during certain days of the week as companies embrace hybrid models.
In Houston, 52.4% of workers had already returned to the office as of this week, while Austin saw a 58.3% return rate, which makes it the region with highest returns according to Kastle Systems.
Although there is no distinct reasoning why Texas’ returns are so high, a few theories have emerged. One being that the state has been consistently lax in terms of pandemic-era protocols.
Additionally, Brooke Armstrong, president of advisory services in Dallas at CBRE, says that the region’s emphasis on real estate may also be spurring people to return to the workplace.
Because Texas cities do not heavily rely on public transportation or have the infrastructure to properly support it, workers were less likely to be afraid of commuting to work and risking exposure.
However, as hybrid arrangements become the new norm, many experts do not predict that offices will ever see 100% occupancy across the board. Instead, occupancy levels will likely sit at a maximum of 60%.
Moving forward, companies will need to become more agile when it comes to dealing with Covid-19. Rather than keeping workers away for an uncertain amount of time during spikes, leaders can either implement certain protocols, like mask wearing, or stagger schedules so occupancy remains low.