The Placer.ai 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.
Last month, we noted that rumors of a full-blown return to office appeared exaggerated. While many employers are eager to have workers come in more often, few workplaces have gone back to a traditional, five-day in-person work week.
Steady Year-Over-Four-Year Visit Gap
A look at weekly visitation data shows that, for now at least, visits to offices nationwide continue to hover around 60.0% of what they were four years ago. While March and April saw slightly narrower visit gaps than January and February, a significant shift in office foot traffic patterns has yet to materialize.
Early Signs of Change?
Year over year, too, overall visits for April 2023 remained virtually unchanged when compared to April 2022. After a slight uptick in March 2023, April visits fell to 0.2% below last year’s baseline.
But accounting for the number of actual working days each month tells a somewhat different story. February, for example, is always a short month – and March 2023, with 23 work days, had more working days than any other analyzed month (with the exception of August 2022, which also had 23 days but which was likely impacted by summer vacations). Looking at the average number of visits per working day, March office visits were actually 4.4% lower than the April 2022 baseline.
April 2023, for its part, had just 20 work days – compared to 21 days in April of last year. When accounting for this difference, April visits actually jumped – both in comparison to last month, and in comparison to April 2022. It’s too soon to tell, but this jump may portend the beginnings of a shift in office visitation patterns.
Despite its many upsides, fully remote work also has its costs. Recent research warns that younger employees working from home may lose out on the “power of proximity” – the all-important feedback and mentoring they receive when working side-by-side with more experienced professionals. Employees who don’t come into the office have fewer opportunities to let off steam by sharing work challenges with colleagues and may even be less likely to be promoted. At the same time, coming into the office five days a week can take a significant toll on work-life balance and may curtail productivity.
Just about one year out from the last big COVID wave, post-pandemic work routines are still a work in progress. How will employers and workers continue to navigate the new normal? Will hybrid arrangements which seek to capture the best of both remote and in-office work continue to carry the day?