A check-in on the global workplace occupancy trends, by Locatee.
Data source: anonymized Locatee customer data in the given time periods.
The return of the Office?
After the great panic of 2020 (will offices ever be used again?) and the great employee empowerment that followed, it seemed clear for all to see that we had entered the new era of Employee Experience.
An era in which the office would be profoundly questioned, critiqued, buried and re-born anew, following the vicissitudes of the new normal, of anywhere-work, of economic downturns and price inflations.
The greater promise, experts said, would be a search for purpose, for intent, enabled and maximized by the availability of technology, data and artificial intelligence. We would see the disruption of the decades-old “one-size-fits-all” office, ushering in the age of the tailored work experience.
As of today, that vision still probably holds. But as our guest Harry Morphakis from Accenture was indicating in a wonderfully great podcast episode recently, this transformation is still very much underway, and chances are, this promise will really start to bear fruits in the next 5 to 10 years.
Newest trends in occupancy data
The first thing we notice when looking at the utilization metrics of Q4 2022 and January 2023, is that the very low rates we were witnessing throughout the pandemic are seemingly a thing of the past.
While the average utilization is still much lower than the pre-pandemic levels in each country observed, this average is stabilizing somewhere between 20% and 30% – rates that are 10 to 20 percentage points lower than pre-pandemic, but also 5 to 20 percentage points higher than during the 2020/2021 COVID-era.
This evidently looks like a stabilization of the hybrid patterns for the office. We can officially say the new normal has arrived, and is here to stay.
Getting people together
It would also seem that most organizations have taken the note that the office is most useful when it brings people together. Looking at peaks, we can clearly see that for this particular metric, we are approaching, if not surpassing in some cases, the pre-pandemic levels.
As the distancing requirements have faded away, and as the purpose of the office has been reaffirmed for collaboration and face to face interaction, we can see that firms are taking the steps to ensure that people actually come to the office together.
It may also be that overall, the majority of employees elect to come to the office on the same days (i.e. Wednesdays) as this may be deemed most practical – and Mondays and Fridays the office is turned into a ghost town.
But whatever the main reason may be, this results in a clear conclusion when it comes to office space requirements: when it comes to the optimization of the office space, the new normal doesn’t seem to offer added potential compared to the pre-pandemic situation.
It doesn’t mean that there aren’t gains to be made – the pre-pandemic office wasn’t optimized, so that’s likely still available. But additional gains may not be realized with this version of hybrid work.