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Lila Margalit
July 11, 2023 Office Index: June 2023 Recap

The Nationwide Office Building Index: The office building index analyzes foot traffic data from 800 office buildings across the country. It only includes commercial office buildings, and commercial office buildings on the first floor (like an office building that might include a national coffee chain on the ground floor). It does NOT include mixed-use buildings that are both residential and commercial.

Whether in the name of increased productivity, “municipal patriotism,” or concern for workers’ health (Who knew WFH could increase the risk of blood clots?), employers across industries are doing their best to get workers back into the office. But as we’ve noted, the return-to-office push failed to significantly move the needle on our nationwide Office Building Index during the first few months of 2023. Between January and May of this year, foot traffic to U.S. offices hovered around 60.0% of pre-pandemic levels, with relatively minor month-to-month variations. 

As H1 2023 drew to a close, we dove into the data to see if there are any indications that the RTO (return to office) push has begun to drive significant change on the ground. 

Signs of a Shift?

Overall, the first half of 2023 saw foot traffic to offices in our nationwide index down 39.7% compared to the same period four years ago. But in June, the year-over-four-year (Yo4Y) monthly visit gap narrowed to 35.0%, and foot traffic to office buildings reached the highest level seen since before the pandemic.  

Regionally speaking, the differences we’ve observed in cities across the U.S. remain significant. Tech-heavy San Francisco continues to lag significantly behind other cities, while New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami vie for the top recovery spots. But all analyzed cities saw greater recovery in June 2023 than they did, on average, during the first half of the year as a whole. 

In all but two cities – Denver and Miami – June 2023 saw the smallest visit gap compared to a June 2019 baseline since the onset of COVID. And in San Francisco, the visit gap compared to a June 2019 baseline shrunk for the first time below 55.0%, to just 51.5%. 

Flexibility is (Still) the Name of the Game

June numbers appear to indicate that RTO is finally picking up real steam. But drilling down deeper into the data shows that even as workers go back to the office, their relationship to the workplace has fundamentally changed. 

First, while employees may still be expected to put in a certain amount of face time, those workers that do go into the office tend to stay there less than they did in 2019. In most major cities, employee dwell time at work dropped significantly since 2019. Second, as we’ve observed before, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays continue to stand out as the primary in-person work days, with many hybrid employees working from home on Mondays and especially on Fridays. 

Key Takeaways 

The return to office may be accelerating, but remote work has become a permanent fixture of post-pandemic life. How will the American workplace continue to evolve as 2023 wears on? Does the June office recovery portend a significant shift in the new hybrid normal? 

Follow’s Office Index reports to find out. 

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