While bosses and workers continue to wrestle over workplace return policies in the largest US employment hubs, in mid-sized and small cities, employees are largely back at their desks full time.
The return to the office has been far more robust in places where the government-mandated lockdowns were shorter and where people use cars to commute, The New York Times reports, citing research led by economists Steven Davis, Nick Bloom and Jose Maria Barrero.
Specifically, they found in cities with fewer than 300,000 people, the percentage of full-time, paid work-from-home days fell to 27% in spring, down from 42% in October 2020.
By comparison, of the 10 largest cities in the country, the share was at 38% in spring, down from 50%. The study was undertaken by researchers at Stanford University and other institutions. The researchers found the share of online job postings that allow remote work is higher in places like New York and San Francisco.
In Columbus, Ohio, 13% of the postings are for jobs that allow work from home. In Houston, it is even lower, at 12.6%. In Birmingham, Alabama, it is down to 10.4% of postings, based on findings from another team of researchers led by Davis, Bloom and Raffaella Sadun of Harvard Business School.
Data has pointed to cities like New York lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to returning to the office.
Kastle Systems, which tracks office building entries in the 10 biggest cities, showed the week starting July 25, New York’s office occupancy was at 40.7% while Austin was at 58.1%. New York leaders like Mayor Eric Adams have pushed workers to come back, and many office players say they expect greater worker return after Labor Day.
Real estate CEOs have also encouraged people to come back to work — with many leading by example and bringing their own employees back to New York as soon as it was legal to do so.
“I hope you’re somewhere cool this afternoon, but mostly I hope you are in your office with your colleagues,” SL Green CEO Marc Holliday said on the company’s earnings call last week.
Physical occupancy across the New York office giant’s portfolio was the highest it’s been in two years in July, he said, sitting at 45% — adjusted to 55% on “peak days” of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.