What’s going on:
It’s no secret that return-to-office (RTO) policies are being implemented across numerous industries in the U.S. These policies have pushed more than 1.5 million workers back to their offices in 2023 thus far, according to Fast Company.
Recent data published by the real estate services firm JLL reveals that office occupancy currently sits at about 40% to 60% of pre-pandemic levels on the busiest workdays. JLL predicts that this figure will exceed 80% by the end of the year when another one million workers are expected to be affected by RTO policies. However, office occupancy reaching 80% or more is estimated to only happen on one or two days out of the week, reflecting how an increasing number of companies are opting for hybrid work environments.
According to the report, this shift towards a return to physical workplaces represents a notable recovery from mid-2020, when average office usage in 10 major U.S. cities was at a low of 14%.
Why it matters:
This change matters as it represents a 180-degree switch from the widespread remote work model that was predominant during the peak of the pandemic. While some companies are still maintaining hybrid work schedules, the emphasis on returning to the office may impact perceptions about the efficacy and desirability of remote work. Additionally, these trends could further affect commercial real estate markets, transportation patterns, and local economies.
How it’ll impact the future:
The resurgence of office occupancy will likely shape the future of work in several ways. While many companies are adopting a hybrid work schedule, the concentration of in-office days towards the beginning of the week could lead to a reevaluation of office space usage and design. Additionally, this return to the office may inspire more research into flexible work models that balance productivity, employee satisfaction, and company culture. It could also lead to renewed discussions about work-life balance and the role of physical workspaces in fostering collaboration and company identity.