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Enjoy summer working from home; Come fall you’ll likely be back to the 9-to-5

New York’s one million office workers are expected to get back to the grind in their offices come fall.

That’s the finding of the latest survey by The Partnership for New York City of major employers between February 24 and March 8.

Almost half of office workers are expected to return by September 2021; most will continue to work remotely at least part-time; returning workers will rely on public transit; and business travel will permanently decline.

The Partnership found:

  • 10% of Manhattan office employees have returned to the workplace as of early March, unchanged since late October.
  • The total share of office employees expected to return by September 2021 is 45%; down slightly from late October 2020, when employers anticipated 48% would return by July 2021.
  • 14% of employers say they do not know when the majority of employees will be back in the office.
  • Employers expect that, going forward, 56% of office employees will continue to work remotely at least part of the time.
  • 81% of returning employees are expected to rely on public transit, in line with findings from the Partnership’s October (78%) and August (83%) surveys.
  • Consistent with previous survey findings, the real estate industry has been the most aggressive in bringing employees back to the office.
    • Over half (51%) of real estate employees are currently in the office—more than triple the 15% share of the next highest industry, consumer products.
    • Real estate employers slightly reduced their future expectations, with 82% of employees expected to return by September 2021, down from 87% previously expected to return by July 2021.
  • Tech employers expect 51% of employees to return by September 2021, compared to the 49% expected in-office by July 2021 as of the Partnership’s October survey. Finance and insurance employers expect 50% of employees to return by September, down slightly from the previous estimate of 52% expected by July.
  • Large employers are bringing companies back to the office at a slower pace. While 20% of employees have returned to the office among employers with fewer than 500 employees, only 8% have returned to the office at companies with over 1,000 employees.
  • 22% of employers will ultimately require employees to return to the office full-time, 66% will implement a hybrid model with some days in the office and some days working from home, and 9% will not require employees to return. The remainder (4%) said their policy will be role dependent.

The Partnership also asked employers about plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations among returning office employees:

  • Eleven employers plan to require that returning office employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 (with applicable exceptions), accounting for 8% of all employers that provided information on their planned vaccination guidelines.
  • 61% of employers will not require that returning employees are vaccinated; of these employers, 37% will actively encourage employees to get vaccinated.
  • About one third (31%) of employers have not yet decided whether to require vaccinations for returning office employees.

The Partnership also asked employers when business travel will resume:

  • 22% of employers that reported on business travel patterns have restarted travel in some capacity; business travel never stopped for 2% of employers.
  • Nearly half (47%) of employers expect business travel to return in the second half of 2021 while 21% expect business travel will not resume until 2022.
  • 4% of employers say the resumption of travel depends on the lifting of state travel restrictions, CDC guidance and the pace of vaccinations.
  • Only 6% of companies expect that business travel will return to pre-COVID levels, 57% anticipate business travel will return at 50%-75% less than pre-COVID travel and 30% anticipate only business critical trips will return.

Additional Findings:

  • 24% of employers offer or plan to offer employees at least one COVID-19-related benefit. Benefits included subsidized public and private transit, onsite COVID-19 testing, paid time off for vaccination appointments, free or reduced-cost lunches, and changes to the workplace, including upgraded facilities and additional private offices.
  • The majority of surveyed employers have offices in Midtown West (37%), Midtown East (34%) or the Financial District (16%).
  • The majority of respondents were employers in the finance and insurance (37%), real estate (18%), law (9%), consulting (6%) and media (6%) industries.
  • The Partnership published its initial survey conducted in late May in their report A Call for Action and Collaboration and released subsequent surveys in August and October.

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