by Brianna Crandall — November 11, 2020 — As facilities managers (FMs) around the world continue to deal with issues stemming from low and fluctuating occupancy in their buildings, the Partnership for New York City surveyed major employers between October 15 and October 26 to measure progress in the return of Manhattan’s one million office workers. This updates surveys released in June and August (see links below).
The Partnership found:
- 10% of Manhattan office employees have returned to the workplace as of late October, up from 8% as of mid-August.
- Only 15% of Manhattan office employees are expected to return by the end of this year, down from August estimates of 26%.
- The total share of employees expected to return by July 2021 decreased from 54% to 48%.
- 27% of employers say they don’t know when employees will be back in the office.
- Employers expect that an average of 39% of employees who return to the office in 2021 will continue to work remotely at least 50% of the time.
- Consistent with the Partnership’s August survey findings, the real estate industry has been the most aggressive in bringing employees back to the office. Nearly three-fourths of employees (73%) have already returned — a 20-percentage point increase from August — and 87% are expected to return by July 2021.
- Tech employers reduced their future expectations by one-third, with only 49% of employees expected to return by July 2021, down from 74% estimated as of August. Finance and insurance employers expect 52% of employees to return by July 2021, down slightly from the previous estimate of 55%.
The Partnership also asked employers about public transit use and transportation benefits provided:
- 78% of returning employees are expected to rely on public transit, down slightly from 83% expected as of August.
- 26% of firms plan to offer returning employees at least one transportation benefit that was not offered pre-COVID-19.
- The most common transportation benefits are free or reduced cost parking in Manhattan (16%) and free or reduced cost taxis or rideshare services (16%).
- Other benefits considered include free car service (7%), subsidized transit pass (5%), and subsidized tolls, fuel or other auto costs (5%).
The Partnership asked employers to rank factors that they believe will have the greatest influence on the pace of employees’ return to the office. Responses mirrored the findings in August, with the status of COVID-19 intensifying as the primary concern:
- The status of COVID-19 ranked as the largest factor, with 87% citing it as the primary concern and 7% ranking it as their #2 concern.
- Concerns included vaccine availability, safety of the office environment, a testing strategy for employees and underlying health conditions of employees or their family members.
- Transit safety ranked second, with 17% indicating it was a primary concern and 48% indicating it was the #2 concern. Confidence in transit has increased since August, when 28% cited transit safety as a primary concern.
- Schools reopening ranked third, with 7% indicating it was their primary concern and 22% indicating it was the #2 concern.
- Availability of childcare (after school and for children too young to attend school) ranked fourth, with 4% indicating it was a primary concern and 6% indicating it was the #2 concern.
- Employees’ preference to continue working from home ranked fifth, with 4% citing it as a primary concern and 5% citing it as their #2 concern.
- New York State quarantine rules for interstate and international travel were noted as an impediment to businesses getting back to the office as client meetings are severely limited.
- The majority of surveyed employers have offices in Midtown West (37%), Midtown East (35%) or the Financial District (17%).
- The majority of respondents were employers in the finance and insurance (38%), real estate (14%), law (7%), media (7%), tech (5%) and consulting (5%) industries.