US corporate workers trail Europe, Asia in return-to-office rate: report

US corporate workers trail Europe, Asia in return-to-office rate: report

White-collar workers in the US who grew accustomed to working from home during the pandemic are reportedly dragging their feet on returning to their desks as compared to their hard-charging counterparts in Europe and Asia.

US office occupancy rates are hovering between 40% and 60% of their pre-pandemic level — with variances based on month and on individual cities, according to data from property services firm JLL published by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

That US’ return-to-office figures are dwarfed by Asia’s post-pandemic office occupancy rate, which is hovering between 80% and 110%, according to the JLL data.

An occupancy rate higher than 100% indicates that some locales in Asia have a greater number of people working on site than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2019.

Occupancy rates in Europe and the Middle East also surpass those of the US, hitting between 70% and 90%, the data show.

The Journal’s report noted several international cities, including Paris, Tokyo and Seoul, have office occupancy rates that rose above 75% between 2021 and 2022.

Manhattan office occupancy has hovered near 50%.
AFP via Getty Images

“The US has borne the brunt of this,” JLL director of city future Phil Ryan told the newspaper.

Several factors have contributed to America’s lagging return-to-office performance, according to the Journal.

Experts pointed to an extremely tight US labor market, with a national unemployment rate of just 3.4%, as well as a tendency among American workers to have larger homes and longer commutes to the office.

In Paris, the return-to-office rate has surpassed 75%.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The red-hot jobs market forced many companies, especially those in the tech sector, to hire remote workers to fill their ranks.

New York-based workers have an average one-way commute of 58 minutes, while white-collar staffers in Paris average 52 minutes and Hong Kong staffers average 44, according to data from Moovit Inc.

A growing number of US companies are exerting pressure on their employees to return to the office more frequently.

In Asia, some locales have more office workers on site than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kyodo News via Getty Images

Disney and Amazon have recently faced pushback from corporate staffers after upping the number of days per week that workers are expected on site.

Still, hybrid office schedules have sparked fears among city officials of a potential tax revenue shortfall.

Manhattan-based workers are spending $12.4 billion less per year within the city than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research released last month by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom’s WFH Research group and reported by Bloomberg.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander has warned the trend could drain much-needed revenue to maintain high-quality services.

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