With the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions around the world, workers in Asia and Europe are heading back to the office. But many in the U.S. are inclined to continue to work from home.
Office occupancy is at 70%-90% in Europe and in the Middle East, but only 40%-60% in the U.S., according to real estate and research company Jones Lang LaSalle. In some Asian countries, there are more employees in the workplace than before the pandemic, with occupancy levels up to 110%.
Workplace consultants attribute this gap to America’s larger homes, longer commutes and higher job availability, per The Wall Street Journal.
The average floor size of homes in the U.S. is considerably bigger than the average floor size in European countries — almost three times those in the U.K., according to the Mises Institute. This makes for more room to have a home office.
The Wall Street Journal points out that many homes in Asia are multigenerational, and more people often means more distractions.
Suburban sprawl in the U.S. has contributed to longer commutes, as opposed to the tighter communities in Europe and Asia. Even Americans in metropolitan areas have longer commutes compared to their foreign counterparts: in 2022, New York City had the world’s second longest average commute time — 58 minutes — after Istanbul in first place, a global transport report says.
“Why take so much time to travel when my home is a perfectly fine workspace?” many Americans may think.
The U.S. unemployment rate is at a record low of 3.4% — compared to 6.1% in the European Union and 5.5% in China — meaning American employers are experiencing a labor shortage. This forces them to hire workers from further away, and thus allow them to work remotely.
While working from home may be more convenient, it does have economic consequences. Restaurants and shops that depend on the business of office workers are still struggling, and city budgets may be cut as fewer people rent out office space and ride public transit.