At the start of the pandemic, officials created the Kastle Back to Work Barometer based on workplace access control in Kastle's top 10 national metros. The percentage of American office employees scanning into their workplaces dropped from 99% at the beginning of March 2020 to an average of 16% by the end of the month.
The latest numbers released by Kastle Systems indicate that by the end of this March, less than 25% of American office workers will have returned to in-person operations. However, three Texas markets are leading the nation.
Dallas had 39.7% average weekly occupancy as of the end of March; Houston tied with Austin, at 37.4%; and seven other metros followed, from 13.7% in San Francisco to 25.3% in Philadelphia.
Mike Slauson, a Houston-based general manager with Kastle Systems, said one reason these Texas employees are leading the return to in-person work is likely that local and state government leaders have been more aggressive in reopening businesses and, therefore, looser on restrictions. He said he believes those numbers will increase once the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely distributed.
“People want to return to a work environment that they feel is safe, and so I think people are just more cautious until the vaccine gets fully rolled out,” Slauson said. “I think ... midsummer, early fall—that’s when we’re going to start seeing some ramp-up as more people get vaccinated.”
Additionally, those working in major metros, such as New York and Washington, D.C., depend more heavily on public transportation systems, he said. Houston, Dallas and Austin residents are more likely to drive their own cars to the office, which minimizes COVID-19 exposure risk.
Slauson said most companies have had no choice but to adapt to remote work this past year. However, moving forward, he said he expects some employers to offer more flexibility when it comes to work schedules. For instance, employees could have the opportunity to work remotely two days a week and from the office the other three days, he said.
“I do think there will be a surge of people going back to the office. There’s a lot of people that want to be in that environment [based on] what we’re hearing as far as collaborating, being together,” he said. “But I don’t know if it’s going to be to the levels we saw in the past of [a] 100%, five-days-a-week-type scenario.”
Kastle officials also launched KastleSafeSpaces Solutions this past year, which gives building owners and property managers the tools to bring their workforces back to a safe in-person environment via no-touch access, daily occupant screening, contact tracing, social distancing through occupancy monitoring, and air quality. Learn more here.