Even with millions of workers across the country being asked to return to their cubicles, office occupancy has been relatively static for the past year. The country’s top 10 metropolitan areas averaged 47.2 percent of pre-pandemic levels last week, according to data from Kastle Systems. This time last year, the average was around 44 percent.
The lagging return is vexing leaders from city halls to the Oval Office as downtowns struggle to rebound from the pandemic. President Biden recently called on Cabinet officials to urge their employees to return to offices this fall, as downtown D.C. struggles to regain its pre-pandemic crush of commuters. (A July report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office showed that 17 of 24 federal agencies had average building utilization of 25 percent or less.)
About 52 percent of remote-capable U.S. workers are operating under hybrid arrangements, according to data from Gallup, while 29 percent are exclusively remote. And though executives like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg have argued that the rise of flexible work has had a deleterious effect on productivity, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that labor productivity rose 3.7 percent in the second quarter of 2023 and is up 1.3 percent compared to this time last year.