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Placer.ai Office Index: March 2024 Recap

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
April 9, 2024
Placer.ai Office Index: March 2024 Recap

The Placer.ai Nationwide Office Building Index: The office building index analyzes foot traffic data from some 1,000 office buildings across the country. It only includes commercial office buildings, and commercial office buildings with retail offerings 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.

Is return-to-office picking up steam? 

Last month, location intelligence indicated that the office recovery needle was starting to move once again. Whether due to stricter corporate mandates – especially in the finance sector – or to employees seeking to reap the rewards of in-person collaboration and mentoring, office activity appeared to be on an upswing.

But what’s happened since then? Has the momentum worn off, or is RTO still trending on the ground? 

Key Takeaways

  • In March 2024, nationwide office visits were just 32.7% below March 2019 levels – and higher than nearly every other month since COVID. 
  • Miami and New York held onto their regional post-pandemic recovery leads, with impressively small respective visit gaps (compared to March 2019) of 14.1% and 17.2%.
  • Though San Francisco still had the biggest visit gap versus Pre-COVID (~50.0%), the city continued to lead other major hubs in year-over-year (YoY) office visit growth – perhaps reflecting the upswing in demand for office space that has observers bullish about local market prospects.

Office Visits Trending Upwards

Hybrid work may be here to stay – but the situation on the ground remains very much in flux. Last month, office visits nationwide were just 32.7% below what they were in March 2019 (pre-pandemic). This represents a significant narrowing of the visit gap in relation to March 2022 and March 2023 – when visits were down 48.2% and 36.3%, respectively.

And comparing monthly visits to a March 2022 baseline shows that visits last month were among the highest they’ve been since COVID. Only August 2023 (which had two more working days than March) and October 2023 featured higher visitation rates.

Miami and New York Continue to Lead The Recovery 

Drilling down into the data for eleven major cities nationwide shows that Miami and New York are holding firmly onto their regional RTO leads – with less than a 20% visit gap compared to pre-pandemic levels. And RTO appears likely to continue apace in both cities, driven by tech companies in Miami and finance firms in the Big Apple. Indeed, in Miami, visits to office buildings in March 2024 were the highest they’ve been in four years. Washington, D.C., Dallas, Atlanta, and Denver also outperformed the nationwide baseline compared to pre-COVID, while Chicago, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco lagged behind.

A San Francisco Turnaround?

But despite bringing up the rear for overall post-COVID office recovery, San Francisco has been experiencing outsize YoY office visit growth for some time now. And in March 2024, the city continued to lead the regional YoY visit recovery pack – tied for first place with Washington, D.C.

Given San Francisco’s stubbornly large post-COVID visit gap, it may come as no surprise that the city’s office vacancy rate is higher than it’s ever been. But demand for office space in San Francisco is back on the rise, leading market observers to conclude that bright times may be ahead for the local market. 

San Francisco’s strong YoY office visit performance may be a reflection of this increased demand, providing another sign of good things to come in the Golden Gate city.  

A Work (Still) in Progress

Remote work carries plenty of benefits, but a variety of factors – from Gen Z work-from-home fatigue to the better wages and opportunities available to on-site employees – are driving increased office attendance. And if March 2024 data is any indication, further shifts in the RTO/WFH balance may yet be in the cards. 

For more data-driven return-to-office updates, follow Placer.ai.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection. ‍

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