Across the country, about 40 percent of office workers are back in place on a typical workday, The New York Times reported, a COVID-era proportion reached only once before, in December 2021.
Workers are more inclined to comply with employers’ back-to-the-office orders now that the Omicron variant is ebbing and governments are dropping mask mandates, the NYT noted.
American Express, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Microsoft are among the companies mandating employees return to their desks.
“As long as everything’s going in a positive direction with COVID, the relaxation of mandates will work for the vast majority of people,” Kathryn Wylde, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City (PNYC).
About 38 percent of Big Apple employers expected to have more than half their workers back at a central office by the end of this month, a PNYC survey found.
Most companies have dropped vaccine demands and mask requirements, leaving employees to find their own comfort levels, the NYT reported. Some businesses, however, have left requirements in place, particularly those that were sites of outbreaks earlier.
As a result, some workers are ready to congregate again, while others retain their masks or are still unready to return to group settings, especially workers with compromised immunity or children at home too young to be vaccinated.
For those workers, many employers are negotiating special arrangements, the NYT noted.
Each office has its own rules and culture, the NYT pointed out.
Blackrock’s 7,600 U.S. office workers can dispense with masks but all must be tested for COVID twice a week. Goldman Sachs ended its mask mandate 14 February but still requires testing for unvaccinated workers.
Wells Fargo requires unvaccinated employees to be masked. Meta requires anyone entering its offices to be vaccinated.
Once COVID protocols are hashed out, the next step is to determine who should be in the office when.
Jamie Dimon, chair of JPMorgan Chase, declared last summer that remote work would not be tolerated. At Nationwide Insurance, workers are in the office one to five days every other week, but attendance is orchestrated so offices never exceed 50-percent capacity.
San Diego chipmaker Qualcomm requires employees to be in the office three days a week, including one day when everyone is there.
“Employees wanted to keep the best of work from home, but also at the same time maintain the key elements of our culture like collaboration,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon said in a Washington Post interview earlier this month.
TREND FORECAST: This should be the headline: “New! Office Occupancy Rate Plummets: Down 60% from COVID War.”
Indeed, A 40-percent office occupancy may be a milestone in the Presstitute media, but it is far from enough to alter our forecast of the economic death of large portions of downtowns in New York, San Francisco, and other cities that have hosted masses of commuters.
As an example, see “Midtown Manhattan’s Economy Still Starving for Commuters” and Trendpost in this issue.
At the same time, owners of commercial real estate will face a reckoning as they slash rents to lure a shrinking base of tenants, forcing them to demand property tax concessions from cities that will struggle even more to maintain police, fire, and public works infrastructures.
And, the higher interest rates rise, the more many will have to pay on their highly leveraged empty assets.