The Leadenhall Building London United Kingdom

The number of lift journeys in offices is up considerably across Europe, but still below 2019 levels. Credit: Kone

Research

What Kone’s elevator data reveals about… European office occupancy

Amsterdam’s office lifts made more journeys on average in 2022 than any other European city, with the number of starts doubling between January and November.

The most active office markets across Europe saw a substantial rebound in people using elevators in 2022, suggesting a widespread return to the office, but the recovery from the pandemic has not been without its setbacks.

Kone, the global elevator and escalator company, has been tracking the number of journeys office workers take for several years.

This is what Kone’s data about 10 European office markets reveals:

1. Amsterdam was both the most active and most improved city in 2022

The average number of elevator journeys in Amsterdam doubled from 5,800 to 11,500 between January and November (before a December drop-off that affected every city).

Milan (81%) and Stockholm (+79%) recorded the second and third biggest increases, while London, at 10,300, came second in average number of journeys made in November 2022.

Kone data chart

Source: Kone

2. London’s Christmas slump was a deep one

Lift activity falls in December in Europe, driven by workers being off for the Christmas holidays. That trend is consistent in each of the 10 cities both before, during and after lockdown restrictions.

Nevertheless, the drop-off in London in 2022 was exceptional, with activity falling 32% between November and December. By contrast, the average fall in the other nine cities was 22%. Kone said that industrial action by railway and London Underground staff would have been the most likely cause, with workers more likely to work from home than find alternative ways to get to the office.

Even outside London, the Christmas drop-off was steeper this year than in 2019, pre-pandemic. Numbers fell 22% in Amsterdam (2019: -11%), 25% in Hamburg (2019: -19%) and 25% in Berlin (2019: -19%) between November and December. The only city where the December decline was smaller in 2022 than in 2019 was Paris (-16% vs -19%).

Kone data chart

Source: Kone

3. Office lifts are still far from their late-2019 levels

While there has been a rebound in activity, it has been a slow and steady one.

Comparing the period from September to December 2019 and 2022, Paris is the closest any city has got to pre-pandemic levels of elevator activity – despite still being 18% below that baseline.

Three cities – Amsterdam, Milan and Helsinki – lag more than 30% behind where they were in 2019.

Given London’s middling growth between January and November 2022 (+56%), the city’s recovery was above average before the slump in December. Between September and November, lift activity was down 21% on the same period in 2019 – a smaller decline than any city other besides Paris and Hamburg.

This suggests that London’s recovery has been longer and steadier, having started 2022 closer to normal levels of activity than many other cities.

Kone data chart

Source: Kone

4. Amsterdam looks much more like London than it did in 2019

Before Covid-19 shut down offices across Europe, Amsterdam’s office elevator use far outstripped London’s. Since then, the gap between the two cities has closed.

In September 2019, Amsterdam’s lifts took 31% more journeys on average than London’s, rising to 37% in December of that year. However, lately that trend has been less clear – and has even reversed at times – with Amsterdam’s activity falling to a similar level to London and rising again in tandem.

Kone data chart

Source: Kone

But while London’s recovery has been stronger – its 2022 peak was just 19% below the high in September 2019 compared, while Amsterdam’s lagged at 31% below where it once stood– Amsterdam has once again widened the gap between the two in recent months.

By December, elevators in Amsterdam were doing 29% more journeys on average than ones in London. This suggests that London could be plateauing, while Amsterdam is still on the rise. Whether it once again reaches its 2019 levels is another story.

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