By Aarthi Swaminathan
Companies are trying to bring back employees into the office. Early data suggests that workers still aren’t that keen.
According to a new report by Placer.ai, visits to office buildings have yet to catch up to pre-pandemic levels in such major employment centers as San Francisco, Manhattan and Chicago.
In May 2022, visits to office buildings in San Francisco were down by 67.8% as compared to three years ago, before the pandemic shuttered most of the country. Office foot traffic in New York is down 40.6% over the same period, and 45.7% in Chicago.
Placer.ai’s Office Building Index takes into account foot traffic from nearly 200 office buildings in San Francisco, Manhattan and Chicago.
‘They are not coming back’
After two years of working from home, many have adapted and adopted the work from home lifestyle, which has been particularly attractive given how high fuel costs have gotten. Not to mention the fact that COVID-19 is still out there .
Company chiefs are aware of the resistance.
“I have been unsuccessful, despite everything I’ve tried to do to get our people back to work,” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks /zigman2/quotes/207508890/composite SBUX +1.48% , said during a New York Times event earlier this month.
“I want them back. I plead with them, I said I’d get on my knees, I’d do push-ups. Whatever you want. Come back,” Schultz said. “No — they are not coming back at the level I want them to… I realize that I’m an old-school person, and this is a different generation and I’ve been schooled by our people… We have to establish a new way of working. And I’ve embraced it.”
But early data also seem to indicate that some Americans haven’t yet fully adopted a permanent work from home lifestyle.
Last week, office occupancy hit the highest point since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, reaching 44.1%, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks key card swipe data.
Some 64% said they would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time, according to a recent survey by ADP, a provider of human resources management software and services.
Of course, it’s a privilege for people to work from home, while so many other service workers have been showing up in person during the pandemic.
The Labor Department says only 7.4% of employees teleworked in May, down from 7.7% the month before. The Federal Reserve Board’s survey of Americans’ economic well-being released in May estimated that in late 2021, about 22% of employees worked entirely from home.
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