How long will it take for businesses around the world to get back to the office? Cushman & Wakefield tries to answer that question in the first of three reports on the future of the workplace.
Exploring the trajectory of Covid cases, vaccinations and other variables, the report predicts that most office workers globally will be able to return to the office in Q1 2022 – though situations vary substantially between regions.
The report makes several assumptions in its forecasts, including that the Delta strain “represents the final wave of the pandemic” and that there are “no major virus setbacks”. Moreover, vaccinations will continue “at pace” and herd resiliency will be achieved when 70% of the population is either infected or vaccinated.
Assuming the next few months pan out as Cushman & Wakefield expects, here is what the firm predicts for each region:
Return to the office forecast
- United States: January/February 2022
- Canada: April/May 2022
- US office attendance was 34% across 10 markets as of mid-September
- Many US companies have pushed their return-to-office targets to January 2022 due to the Delta variant. Banking, financial firms and law firms are pushing for a return by Q4 2021
- Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with more than 70% of the population fully vaccinated
- However, few major employers have made statements about when they intend to return to the office in Canada. Uncertainties over local reopening, surging cases in some regions and the fact that in-person schooling has yet to return are all hampering the return to the office despite the country’s successes elsewhere during the pandemic
Return to the office forecast | March/April 2022
- Huge variation across different countries: while 96% of employees are back in the office in Greater China, just 32% have returned in the rest of the region
- Some countries, including Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia, either request or require a percentage of employees to work from ranging from 50-70%
- Japan, South Korea and Singapore should be next in line for a significant return. In Australia, occupancy should start to increase in February as the new school year begins, although the report suggests occupancy will be lower than it was pre-pandemic due to more people embracing flexible working
Return to the office forecast | January 2022
- About 40% of employees, on average, across 10 cities are back in the office, led by Prague at more than 80%. By comparison, London stands at about 30%
- Nearly half of Europe has been fully vaccinated, with another 10% partially vaccinated
- Most European companies are pushing for return to the office in September or October, though this varies from country to country. Finance, banking and law firms are likely to lead the way over the next few months, while tech is more likely to wait until January
Why it matters to real estate – and proptech
Returning to the office as the pandemic wanes will mean different things to different companies depending on their location and their occupiers.
Over the course of the last 18 months, landlords have made a concerted effort to prepare their offices for that return, whether that has meant investing in new building management platforms or updating their HVAC systems to ensure an acceptable level of health and safety.
But, as the Cushman & Wakefield report shows, there is still a significant amount of uncertainty – and regional variation – around the return to the workplace. Not everyone will have taken steps yet to future-proof their office space.
Landlords need to be ready for when their occupiers expect to be back in the office and ensure that the space is ready to cater for a workforce that has spent more than a year working remotely.
For some, that transition will still be months away, but for others, the return is imminent.