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Office Occupancy Hits Pandemic High-Water Mark

Article Via: Bisnow

American office workers are back at the office at the highest rate since the beginning of pandemic-related shutdowns in March 2020, according to the latest Kastle Systems Back to Work Barometer.

The company's national barometer, which measures occupancy in more than 2,600 buildings in 10 major metro office markets nationwide, stood at 42% of pre-pandemic levels for the week of March 30. The last time it was nearly so high was in December 2021, just before the omicron variant surge caused occupancies to cascade downward.

Occupancy in some cities remains markedly higher than in others. Texas cities lead the way, with Austin, Houston and Dallas all ahead of the national rate. Occupancy in Austin spiked more than 8 percentage points to 61.7% as of March 30, making it the first city to break 60% since the pandemic’s start, according to Kastle.

As the leader in the return to the office, Texas' numbers might hint at how prevalent post-pandemic office use might eventually be.

"Because Texas has been ahead of the game, we can look to the Texas numbers as an early indicator of where things will plateau out, because that's the biggest question that everyone's asking," Julie Whelan, global head of occupier thought leadership at CBRE, told Bisnow.

Despite the rise in return-to-office numbers, workers still are fond of working from home at least some of the time, as the nationwide Kastle barometer figure shows nearly 60% of pre-pandemic office workers still haven't returned to in-person work. Many employers are acknowledging that reality, especially in a tight labor market.

Banking giant Wells Fargo recently embraced a hybrid model that allows many of its 250,000 workers to come in only three days a week, with two days remote, the San Francisco Business Times reports.

Another bellwether for the return to the office is federal workers, most of whom are expected to return to their offices at least part time by the end of April, a spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget told Bisnow.

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