We have felt, really without much evidence, that workers would come back to the office after the pandemic.  Our view- the conditions that justified office clusters in the suburbs and of course city downtown areas in the first place are the same now as they were before the pandemic.  Companies need workers to communicate well and it’s hard to do everything remote- while it may be distracting at times, there is value to office talk.  Many companies have stated that the productivity of an “all remote” workforce has limits.  At the end of the day, people are social beings and like to congregate.

Office politics also come into play.  Folks who work completely remote are not seen or thought of as much as coworkers seen in the hallways, break rooms and spontaneous after-work gatherings.  Those who are not seen get forgotten!  Diminished visibility at work can affect everything related to advancement in a career, including promotions and compensation.

So how is the recovery of the office workspace going?  Depends on where you live.

According to Kastle Systems, a nationwide leader in office employee access systems that serves 41,000 businesses in 2,600 buildings in 138 cities across 47 states, the average office occupancy in the ten largest metro areas is hovering at just above 43%.  The Kastle Back to Work Barometer has been tracking weekly office occupancy rates since the start of the pandemic.  When we last discussed the effect that reduced office occupancy rates could have on downtown areas on these pages, back in November, occupancy levels were at 36%.  It’s been about six months and the average occupancy level has only creeped up about 7%.

If you live in Austin though, the office occupancy rate is more like 60%!  Houston and Dallas are the only other top-ten metro areas with levels above 50%.  The next closest is Los Angeles at 40%, with the lowest being San Francisco (33.4%) and San Jose (34.3%).  New York City, the largest office market in the country, has just over 38% occupancy, while Chicago is at 39%.

Part of the reason for the disparity is the type of jobs.  Austin has a greater mix of ‘tech-adjacent’ roles, including sales, marketing, and business development, along with finance professionals, corporate workers and advanced manufacturing positions that generally have higher in-person requirements.  Despite the increased office occupancy, there’s still a likelihood of flexible work schedules that include some at-home work.  Most employees like some flexibility in their work schedules.

Enjoy this story about the dynamics involved in Austin attracting such a relatively high percentage of workers back into the office.  Let me know what you think- share your thoughts with me!

~ Brian Kasal- The Leadership Matrix

Click here- How Austin Lured the Most Workers Back to Offices

P.S.- Did you see my last Leadership Matrix post- “We have maximum portfolio protection levels now”

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