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Workers Are Returning To The Office. No, For Real This Time

Employees are finally returning to the office. 

According to WeWork, this statement isn’t just a manifestation — it’s reality as the coworking operator continues to see skyrocketing demand for its spaces. 

The week following Labor Day, WeWork reported that its All Access and On-Demand memberships grew 20% from its weekly average, while keycard swipes grew to over 70% when compared to the same week in 2021. 

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Last year, companies were eager to leave the pandemic in their rearview mirror and return to the office as normal. However, the various variants of Covid-19 sabotaged those plans and workers got to continue enjoying work-from-home policies.  

Now, it appears that even Covid-19 doesn’t have the power to keep people away from the office. For major corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Labor Day marked the official last day of pandemic-era workplace norms and ushered employees back into the office. 

But that does not necessarily mean workers appreciate this. In fact, over 1,200 employees at the New York Times are working from home this week to protest the company’s efforts to bring them back into the office.   

The game of tug of war continues, but WeWork’s global head of real estate believes that a  return could actually be happening — even if it isn’t full-time. 

“This September feels more like the real return to the office that has been touted for two and a half years now,” said Peter Greenspan. 

“You’ve heard, ‘Return to the office, return to the office, now it’s after this holiday, now it’s after this summer.’ This data, at least to us, indicates that this is a stronger return to the office than the previous ones.” 

Despite this increase in office return rates, occupancy still remains just above 40% of pre-pandemic levels according to data from Kastle Systems. 

Concerns about enforcing a return are founded, too. Research has increasingly supported the notion that workers will quit or find jobs elsewhere if their flexibility is taken away.    

Harvard Business School professor Prithwiraj Choudhury says that while some companies are intending to create a pre-pandemic norm in the office, the reality is that workspaces will likely feature a melding of remote and in-person work in the future. 

“Maybe there’ll be some days in the month or some weeks in the quarter where we see a lot of office colocation, but then people go back to working remotely for the rest of the year. That’s the pattern that I expect to see in the data steady state,” said Choudhury.

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