Texas cities lead return to offices, still well below pre-pandemic levels – The Hill
The story at a glance
- Out of 10 of the nation’s largest cities, three cities in Texas are leading the way back to offices.
- As of the week of April 6, offices in Austin, Texas have been at 63% of their pre-pandemic occupancy level, according to data from Kastle Systems.
- The Houston and Dallas offices are at 55 and 50 percent of their pre-pandemic occupancy, respectively, according to Kastle data.
The pandemic has caused a major change in the way people work, and in two years many large companies are looking for ways to get their workforces back into their offices. Currently, 50% of company leaders require or plan to require employees to return to work in person this year, according to a Microsoft report.
But the pandemic has also shifted workers’ priorities, with the same report finding that most employees prioritize their health and wellbeing over their jobs. Additionally, Microsoft found that most hybrid employees, 51%, would consider switching to full-time remote work. 57% of remote employees will consider moving to a hybrid working model in the next year, meaning working remotely for a few days and working in an office for others.
More workers than ever have returned to their offices since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to data from Kastle Systems, a security firm that tracks key card and key fob data from its buildings in 47 states. .
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Since the week of April 6, Texas has been paving the way for the return of offices with buildings in Austin at 63% of their pre-pandemic occupancy levels. Office occupancy rates in Houston and Dallas are also up to 55 and 50 percent, respectively, according to Kastle data.
All other cities that Kastle is monitoring are well below their pre-pandemic occupancy levels. Los Angeles is at 40%, according to the latest available data from Kastle. Meanwhile, office workers in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York are returning to offices, with Kastle reporting that the three cities have building occupancy rates around 38% of their pre-pandemic numbers.
Chicago offices also continue to fill slowly with data from Kastle showing the city’s office buildings are at 37.8% of their pre-pandemic occupancy. Meanwhile, San Francisco and San Jose sit at around 34% and 33%, respectively.
The dramatic difference in office occupancy in cities like Austin and New York may be partly due to residents’ reliance on public transportation, Mark Ein, president of Kastle Systems, told Changing America.
“There’s definitely been a bit more hesitation in places where people rely on public transportation to take that,” Ein said. “The markets in Texas are the ones that don’t have a lot and people travel in their own cars.”
Another reason could be due to attitudes towards the seriousness of COVID-19 and appropriate practices to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Markets like Texas have generally been more forgiving or more open to getting back to normal life sooner,” Ein said. In early March, Texas Governor Greg Abbot revoked the state’s former mask mandate and allowed all businesses to return to 100 capacity.
“Other markets like urban centers on the coast are more hesitant, so the number of people returning to the office is also a reflection of that,” Ein said.
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Posted on April 16, 2022