The great return: US office capacity hits all time high since pre-pandemic

Eric Lani
Eric Lani

Since our last report, we’ve seen governments and organizations across the world turn to vaccination mandates and restrictions to fight Covid-19 amidst expanded eligibility for Covid-19 boosters. Despite continued uncertainty on changing regulations, we have continued to see an uptick in workforces returning to offices.  

Building on September’s significant RTO gains, office foot traffic jumped another 19% in October. This growth further supports our prediction that past declines had more to do with the summer months than the Delta variant surge. 

In the eighth volume of our RTO Tracker Series, we’ve analyzed data from our global customer base to offer workplace leaders insights into emerging workplace trends. Download the full infographic here

Let’s dive in.

U.S. return-to-office (RTO) maintains momentum in October 

Corporate office usage in the U.S. continued its upward trend, building on September’s post-summer return. Key takeaways from this month include: 

  • The average US office capacity is now at 25% - the highest since the pandemic started.
  • Conference room bookings were up 6% compared to September. 
  • Boston and New York surpassed the national average of employees returning to work (19%) with Boston seeing a 34% increase and NY seeing a 22% increase.
  • Bonus surprise: Monday surpassed Friday as the least popular day to work in the office. 

With the holiday season right around the corner, workplace leaders should be prepared for these numbers to start trending down. End of year also means employees take time off or opt to work remotely to accommodate holiday travel plans or inclement weather. We anticipate this trend will be similar to the seasonal drop we saw in August.      

Global RTO Trends 

The US wasn’t the only country to see RTO gains in October – for the first time since the onset of the Delta variant surge, Australia and New Zealand saw an increase in the number of employees returning to offices with capacity expanding to 12% in October. 

October RTO employees by region

Office foot traffic continued to rise in Europe. In fact, despite having the highest employee bounce rate which peaked at 60% in summer months, the percentage of workers that came into the office and didn’t return dropped below the US in October. 

Additionally, Europe employees spent an average of 5.5 days in the office per month, surpassing the global average. This is indicative of people going into their workplaces on a more regular basis as businesses move forward with a gradual return to the office. 

October RTO average days spent in office per month

Industry trends: Media & Telecom return 

While IT continues to be a big driver of office returns, we identified some interesting new workplace trends when looking at the industry data this month. Some important stats from October to note:  

  • Media and Telecom more than doubled the number of employees in the office in October and accounted for the largest gain in desk bookings 
  • Real Estate saw a 15% drop in the average number of employees returning 
  • Government took the lead in how often employees come into the office (about 3x every two weeks) 
  • Healthcare saw employee bounce rate skyrocket, with a surprising 50% of employees only returning to work once in October. 
  • This could be the result of refusal to comply with vaccination mandates ahead of deadlines and growing levels of burnout among workers at healthcare organizations. 

The future of flexible work  

As organizations grapple with accommodating new regulations and guidelines, it has become evident that flexibility is a central ingredient to building a productive and engaged workforce.

With global RTO momentum gaining steam for the second month in a row, it’s more important than ever that leaders have insight into how their employees are using the office and its resources to enhance the workplace experience for today’s distributed workforce. 

Do you have the tools in place to ensure a successful transition to flexible work? Schedule a free Robin demo today to find out.

Recommended for you