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Cushman & Wakefield Reports that 40% of all Global Office Workers Have Returned to the Office

Hena Park
New data and forecasts suggest global workforce likely to return by Q1 of 2022

Cushman & Wakefield (NYSE: CWK), a leading global real estate services firm, today reported that 40% of the workforce had returned to the office as of September but predicts the majority will 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. Researchers also examined additional data, including government restrictions, school openings, and public opinion regarding mass transit, to project realistic return dates for industries operating in the Americas (U.S. and Canada), APAC (Asia-Pacific), and EMEA (Europe) regions.
 
“It’s important to remember that pre-pandemic, office buildings were never 100% occupied on any given day; 60% was generally the norm,” said Kevin Thorpe, Chief Economist at Cushman & Wakefield. “Today, we are at 40% 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.

“Asia Pacific was the first region to feel the full effects of COVID-19 in 2020 and was consequently the first to enter and exit an initial wave of lockdowns. In many parts of the region, things swiftly returned to normal,” said Dr. Dominic Brown, Head of Insight & Analysis, Asia Pacific at Cushman & Wakefield. “Data from our workplace strategy tool, Experience per Square FootTM (XSF), shows 75% of workers in Mainland China reporting they were in the office every day or nearly every day by October 2020, while in Hong Kong it was around 69%. Both markets have trended upwards since this date.”

“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.

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