Is 50% The New 100%? Office Attendance Rates Plateau

By: Anneken Tappe · September 26, 2023 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

The 50% Frontier

A lot of workers have been called back to the office. But attendance is still kind of low.

In the week after Labor Day, office badge swipes in the largest U.S. cities were only half of pre-pandemic levels, according to data from security solutions company Kastle Systems.

The data points to a significant recovery in office attendance when compared to the height of the pandemic. But they also suggest a new normal in the years to come.

Stagnation Station

While a 50% attendance rate may seem promising compared to the dismal 25% in September 2020, or the marginally better 34% in 2021, it may not rise much further. Some believe the drive to repopulate offices has plateaued, settling around a new normal figure of 50%.

It’s not for lack of trying. More than 40% of businesses have instituted return-to-office mandates, including tech giants like Google (GOOGL), Meta Platforms (META), Amazon (AMZN), and Zoom (ZM).

But with offices still only at half capacity, it’s evident these decisions have not dramatically altered the landscape, and businesses are looking at their office footprint in light of the new normal.

Flexibility Fallout

Hybrid work is very likely here to stay, and workers are demanding flexibility. Companies offering just that fare better in employee retention and recruitment.

With that in mind, 50% office attendance may not be a floor, but a ceiling. Given the implications for real estate, tech investments, and company culture, this shift in work preferences will be one to watch, for companies and investors alike.

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