In-Office US workforce increases by 40% in May

Eric Lani
Eric Lani

Robin’s data science team is excited to present the third volume of our Return-to-the-Office (RTO) Tracker Series. Download the full infographic here. Each month, the team analyzes millions of real-life desk, conference room, and office asset reservations from our global customer base to identify significant trends for the people responsible for managing the workplace. Our team looked through the data for May 2021 and identified some interesting trends that are emerging, including:

  1. The US experienced a 40% increase in the total number of employees who worked from the office at least once compared to April 2021.
  2. Despite this increase, Robin saw only a 2% increase in the employee bounce rate. In other words, more people returned to the office and continued to do so.
  3. Thursday is employees’ preferred day to work in the office.
  4. Utility employees come back to the office in force, increasing 5X in May.
  5. Australia and New Zealand increase average office capacity to 53%, up from 35% in April.

Employees’ office work preferences begin to emerge 

At Robin, we believe that there are no terrible RTO plans at this stage. The only mistake we see businesses making is announcing they’re going all remote or back to a permanent in-office work setting. Most companies are rolling out some form of hybrid work model, but we’re also seeing employees push back against new policies they deem unfair or non-inclusive, such as what’s going on with Apple’s RTO plans

Apple is consistently one of the best workplaces in the world, particularly in the tech sector. The detail-oriented, thoughtful approach that has generated timeless personal electronics devices is reflected in its stunning offices in Cupertino, CA. However, Apple’s staff rejected CEO Tim Cook’s plan to have them come into the office three days a week, and employees believe the policy “shows a clear divide between how Apple executives and employees view remote work.” It’s a shame that Apple must fight these internal battles publicly due to its stature as one of the biggest companies in the world. Still, it’s an example of a struggle that workplace leaders responsible for their organization’s RTO strategy plan around in the coming months.

The good news is that these highly publicized incidents appear to be the exception rather than the norm. Despite a 40% increase in the number of total US employees working from the office, we’ve only seen a 2% increase in the Employee Bounce Rate (10% in April vs 12% in Ma).

The Employee Bounce Rate is a workplace KPI Robin created to measure the percentage of employees that visited their office once during the month and never returned.

We believe it’s a good indicator of how accepting employees are of 1) returning to the office and 2) the quality of the employee experience delivered by the workplace.

The Robin data team is beginning to see clear trends in office work preferences emerge as US companies’ average office capacity increased to 17% in May, a 7% improvement over the previous month. For instance, here’s a breakdown of the most popular days employees prefer to work in the office:

  1. Thursday
  2. Wednesday
  3. Tuesday
  4. Monday
  5. Friday

Thursday, a popular night for Office Happy Hours and other social activities, edged out Wednesday as the most popular day to work from the office. 

Utilities bring employees back to the office in droves; increase RTO 5X in May

Utilities dethroned Hospitality and Wholesale companies in the percentage increase in returning employees to the office, which they held since March 2021. The industry quintupled the number of people working from the office in May. 

Industries Returning the Most Employees to the Office 
  1. Construction (2nd month in a row as the top industry)
  2. Hospitality (2nd month in a row as the second-highest industry)
  3. Utilities 
Industries with Employees Who Work from the Office the Most
  1. Construction (2nd month in a row as the top industry)
  2. Government
  3. Hospitality 

It’s essential to place some context around the last group of stats. Despite ranking as the highest industries in our data set, employees are averaging less than 2 days a week in the office, coming in at 1.5, 1.4, and 1.3 days per week in May.  

ANZ watch: average office capacity eclipses 50%

Robin’s data team has discovered that Australia and New Zealand’s RTO figures are roughly 6-8 weeks ahead of the US and have been tracking them to give workplace leaders a look into their potential future. Here are some additional data points that could be helpful to US workplace leaders: 

  • Australians and New Zealand businesses average about 53% office capacity during the workweek. This was an increase of 18 percentage points compared to April (35%)
  • Employees’ preference for what days to come into the office is the same as the US: Thursday, Wednesday, and Tuesday top the charts.

Global RTO rankings essentially held steady in May, but there was some shuffling at the top: 

Countries with the Highest Number of Bookings (*previous month’s rankings in parentheses):
  1. India (2)
  2. Malta (3)
  3. England (1)
  4. Luxembourg (4)
Additional Country Rankings
  • China (6th; was 7th last month)
  • Mexico (9th; was 10th last month)
  • USA (17th; was 15th last month)
  • France (19th; was 14th last month)

If you’d like to know how Robin’s employee-centric tools remove the friction and uncertainty associated with an office return, sign up for a demo.

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