U.S. employees working from the office increases by 2.5X in March

Eric Lani
Eric Lani

Robin’s data science team is excited to present the second volume of our Return-to-the-Office (RTO) Tracker Series. Download the full infographic here. Each month, Robin’s data science team analyzes millions of real-life desk, conference room, and office asset data points from our global customer base to identify trends workplace leaders should consider as they begin to reopen their offices. Our team looked through the data for March and identified some interesting trends that are emerging including:

  1. U.S. employees are only slowly returning to the office – well behind many other countries.
  2. Industries embracing two different RTO strategies.
  3. Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) are ahead in their RTO numbers

The U.S. ranked 14th globally in bringing employees back to the office

U.S. businesses ranked fourteenth globally in bringing employees back to the office in March 2021. The U.S. slipped three spots from the previous month and now trails countries whose vaccination programs have experienced significant challenges including Mexico, France, Germany, and the UK. We believe the data showcases the measured approach U.S. national and local government leaders have had in place since Q4 2020. 

Additional details around Americans’ return to the office include: 

  • The total number of U.S. employees working from the office increased 2.5x in March. The average organization operates at 20% capacity on any given business day. 
  • Employee bounce rate – a term that describes the percentage of workers that come into the office once and don’t return – increased to 13% in March, more than double the bounce rate in January (6%). While our data doesn’t offer specific insights into the mindset of these employees, we can assume one of two scenarios: either the employee doesn’t feel comfortable working in the office, or the in-person employee experience isn’t compelling enough to motivate people to come in regularly. 

RTO strategies vary greatly by industry

The data around specific industries’ RTO strategies demonstrate two distinct approaches; Businesses are either bringing a lot of people back into the office but doing so intermittently (1-2 days per month), or they’re having a smaller percentage of their workforce work from the office, more often.  

Here are some notable stats that highlight this trend:

  • Hospitality, construction, and manufacturing companies brought in the largest amount of employees back to the office in March.
  • Media/Telecom and Mining  - the two industries that ranked last in returning employees in late 2020 - have emphasized consistency by bringing a smaller group of people into the office more frequently. Employees within these industries are working three days per week in the office, on average. 
  • Educational institutions rank eighth in total number of employees returning to the workplace but are third in frequency; Financial Services is seventh in total employees but comes in fourth in frequency. Both of these industries’ employees are averaging roughly 2.5 days per week in the office.

ANZ watch: in-office rate is quickly climbing

As stated in our first RTO Tracker report, Australia and New Zealand offer businesses valuable insights into employees’ return to the office, given how well the countries are managing the COVID-19 virus. In addition to dwindling infection rates, the nations are once again engaging in pre-pandemic activities like rocking out at concerts with 50,000 people. The Wall Street Journal’s Krithika Varagur recently explored this phenomenon in “The Post-Pandemic Office is Already Here – in Australia,” and our data corroborates many of the trends in her article.

  • In March 2021, reservations for desks and conference rooms nearly doubled for Australian and New Zealand business.
  • The average worker within the region works from the office five times within a two-week time period (10 business days). This statistics represents an extra day in the office within a similar time period compared to Q4 2020. At this rate, we believe Australians and New Zealanders will be coming into the office three times per week by the end of May.
  • Australian offices ran at roughly half capacity (45-55%) in March 2021. In Q4 2020, the same businesses were operating at approximately 20% capacity.

The data collected during March confirms our belief that businesses must adapt their office policies and spaces to support the hybrid workplace. This is the “calm before the storm” for U.S. businesses, and workplace leaders need to quickly enact an RTO strategy that will motivate people to come into the office and allow them to experience it in a positive and safe way.  

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 here.