U.S. workers have failed to return to the office in greater numbers this month, frustrating hopes that the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and falling infection rates would start to lure employees back and help revitalize city economies.
Their absence isn’t completely surprising. A widespread return isn’t expected to begin until the late spring or early summer, according to business leaders and recent worker surveys. But the slow return could signal that a significant increase in employees returning to work will lag behind progress made on containing the pandemic.
Office employees started to head back to work through the summer and early fall in some parts of the country as lockdowns eased and the spread of Covid-19 slowed. An average of more than 27% of workforces were back at their desks by mid-October in the 10 large U.S. cities tracked by Kastle Systems, a security company that monitors access-card swipes in more than 2,500 office buildings.
That rate in those 10 cities was down to 23.8% of workers the first week of February, slightly down from the 24.2% the previous week, Kastle said.
The same barriers that have kept most people at home for nearly a year remain. Employers are hesitant to ask workers to come back because they can’t assure them they won’t get sick from returning.