Majority of Office Workers Expected to Return in Q1 2022, Report Says

According to a new study, 40 percent of the workforce has returned to the office as of September and the majority is expected to return in early 2022.

The new report, Predicting the Return to the Office, conducted by Cushman & Wakefield’s global research team, analyzes office return data from across the globe, as well as the trajectory of the virus and vaccination rates to predict when a large-scale return to office may occur. The latest research finds that return to the office is directly correlated with high vaccination rates and low infection rates.

“It’s important to remember that pre-pandemic, office buildings were never 100 percent occupied on any given day; 60 percent was generally the norm,” said Kevin Thorpe, chief economist at Cushman & Wakefield. “Today, we are at 40 percent globally, but of course that varies greatly from city to city. In this study, we attempt to connect all the dots, all the factors that would lead to a stronger return to the office. Assuming no virus setbacks at this point, we see office buildings and cities reenergizing in early 2022.”

Current data included in the report suggests that most of the world will achieve herd resiliency—i.e., over 70% either vaccinated or infected—by the second quarter of 2022, and current trends suggest that most office workers globally will be able to return to the office in the first quarter of 2022. Regionally, the return is expected to be led by Greater China, followed by Europe, then the U.S., Canada and finally the Asia Pacific region.

“Most businesses are hoping to get back as soon as possible,” said David Smith, global head of Occupier Insights and co-author of the study. “This isn’t a conversation about never going back, it’s a conversation about when can we safely get back to the office because almost all employees and employers have indicated they want to go back – more flexibility, yes, but they want to go back. And based on surging tour activity, we know demand is there – so it’s not a matter of if office buildings will re-populate, but when. The leading data is pointing to Q1 2022.”

This paper is the first of a three-part series that examines the return to the office. Part two will examine the net impact on office leasing fundamentals, considering the latest recession-recovery trends and remote working dynamics.

Read the full report here.

Image courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

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