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Placer.ai Office Index: November 2023 Recap

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
December 11, 2023
Placer.ai Office Index: November 2023 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.

Changing work patterns have left their mark on everything from commercial real estate prices to domestic migration trends. And now, it seems, they’ve even altered how we get married: “Remote work weddings” – extended celebrations where people stay longer, bring their laptops, and plug in during the day – are gaining momentum. And while just a few months ago people were debating the demise of WFH, the question on everybody’s minds these days is whether it is the return-to-office that has met its untimely end.

So with 2023 drawing to a close, we dove into the data to see what the numbers actually have to say. Is the return to office indeed continuing to stall? And what’s happening in major urban hubs across the nation? 

Two Steps Back, Two Steps Forward

In November 2023, visits to office buildings in the Placer.ai Nationwide Office Index were down 34.9% compared to November 2019. This represents a narrowing of the visit gap seen in September and October, when visits were down a respective 40.7% and 40.3% – and may reflect a return to the more accelerated recovery seen during the summer. But the November numbers may also represent a continuation of the holding pattern that appears to have taken root in recent months, which sees some monthly fluctuations but little real change in the overall trajectory of the office recovery. 

New York and Miami at the Forefront

Drilling down into the data for major business centers nationwide shows that the distinct regional patterns observed in recent months are also showing staying power. For most of the analyzed cities, the November Yo4Y visit gap was narrower than that seen in September or October, but slightly wider than that seen in August. New York and Miami continue to lead the regional pack, with respective November year-over-four-year (Yo4Y) visit gaps of 23.2% and 23.8%. But for New York, the November Yo4Y visit gap was the smallest seen since the beginning of 2023 – a further sign, perhaps, of the Big Apple’s relatively robust recovery trajectory. 

Distance Matters

The persistent differences in office recovery between cities may be driven, in part, by varying commuting distances. In all analyzed cities, Yo4Y visit gaps were narrowest for employees living closest to the office, and significantly wider for those living further away. 

In San Francisco, for example, visits by workers living within five miles of the office were down just 35.0% in October 2023 compared to a January 2020 baseline – while visits by workers living more than 25 miles away were down a whopping 79.0%. In Miami, office visits by workers living 0-5 miles from the office bounced back more than twice as much as visits from employees living more than ten miles away. In Chicago, the differences in Yo4Y visit gaps between employees with varying commuting distances were the smallest of the analyzed cities – but there too, employees living closest to the office drove much greater recovery.

Key Takeaways

Having tasted the benefits of hybrid work, neither companies nor their employees appear eager to relinquish them. But while a full-time return-to-office probably isn’t in the cards, the contours of the flexible in-office work week will continue to evolve in the months and years ahead. What will be the state of office recovery heading into the new year? And how will changing commuting patterns impact regional recovery trajectories?

Follow www.placer.ai/blog to find out.

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