Workers Return to Offices at Highest Rate Since Start of Pandemic

Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Oct 12, 2021

Although a sharp upturn in COVID-19 cases during the summer forced many businesses to cancel their plans to reopen their offices around Labor Day, now that the number of cases has gone down again, the rate of reopening has risen steadily, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Kastle Systems, a security company, reported that, in 10 major cities that it monitors, the occupancy rate was 31 percent  during the week of Labor Day, and that rate has now inched up to 35 percent during the week ending Oct. 1 and to 36 percent the following week. That represents a new high for the pandemic period. Kastle tracks access-card swipes.
In New York City, there has been a dramatic increase in office occupancy since the beginning of September, rising from 21 percent to 30 percent last week. According to Kastle, this increase is due in a large part to the city's high vaccination rate and the large number of companies operating in finance.
The reopening of offices has had a positive effect on restaurants and other businesses that cater to the office worker crowd. The Journal reported that Oceana, a Midtown Manhattan restaurant, has seen its business return to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
Still, many companies plan to continue allowing employees to work from home or in a hybrid system. Google and Wells Fargo have delayed office openings until the beginning of next year. And the office occupancy rate is still much lower than was anticipated last spring, when widespread vaccination began. Many employers in Manhattan expected that 62 percent of their workers would be back in the office by September, according to a survey released in June by the Partnership for New York City. The appearance of the more virulent Delta variant changed those projections.
In other cities, office return rates have flattened. For example, in Austin, Houston, Dallas and other Texas cities, the return rates have remained in the 40 percent range for much of September.

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