Office Occupancy Hits New Pandemic-Era High
Despite the lingering effects of Thanksgiving dinners across the nation, more workers returned to office buildings in the first week of December than at any point in the last 18 months.
Average office building occupancy across the 10 largest office markets rose to 40.6% on Dec. 1, 8.1% higher than the post-holiday week last year, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks electronic keycard, fob and building access data.
Texas and California continue to be at the extremes in office return: Austin and Houston, at 59.3% and 54.9% of pre-pandemic levels, respectively, have the most heavily trafficked office buildings, while San Francisco saw occupancy hit a pandemic high-water mark of 28.3%.
While the coronavirus’s delta variant continues to spread and send cases rising nationally, fresh concerns have arisen over the omicron variant, with early reports suggesting the new variant is more contagious and less deterred by vaccines, although possibly less severe. Nineteen U.S. states have thus far reported cases of people affected by omicron.
The average office occupancy in Kastle’s 10-city barometer has been steadily increasing since September, when 33.6% of employees were back in the office. The legal industry has led the way in returning to the office, with law firms on average 56.3% occupied nationally.
While patrons have been filling up restaurants and fans have been crowding sports stadiums and concert halls, the return to the office has lagged, Kastle Chairman Mark Ein said. That dynamic has much to do with the C-suite, whose members feel a responsibility toward their employees and are reluctant to rush a return to the office.
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