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As schools went back after the summer, so did UK office workers as average office occupancy reached the highest in the pandemic

·         National average of staff working in the office reached 31% in the first week of September

The end of the school summer holidays in England and Wales in early September saw the average number of workers working from the office reach a national daily average of 31%, the highest daily average recorded since the lifting of lockdown restrictions in May 2021, according to a study by Remit Consulting.

The previous highest national average office occupancy rate, of 30.6%, was recorded in June this year.

The management consultant’s ‘Return Report’, also revealed that the number of external visitors recorded as passing through office turnstiles was also significantly higher than the previous few weeks, suggesting that more business meetings were being held.

“The increase in the number of office workers being back at the desk reflects a similar increase at the same time last year, marking the start of a slow but sustained return to the workplace. This came to an end with the restrictions put in place in response to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in December 2021,” said Lorna Landells of Remit Consulting.

“Since the restrictions were eased earlier in the year, the figures recovered but have fluctuated since, partly in response to economic headwinds, such as the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, industrial action, and extreme weather events. While the state funeral of Her Majesty the Queen will have a further impact on the figures, many will hope that the most recent data points towards a lasting return to the office,” she added.

Remit Consulting’s data confirms the trend for busy Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays book-ended by weak Mondays and even weaker Fridays. This was again evident for the week ending 9th September, when the national daily average reached 35.9% on Tuesday, 36.9% on Wednesday and 36.4% on Thursday. It was 26% on Monday and just 19.8% on Friday (9th).

In London, both the West End and Docklands markets experienced individual days when an average of around 50% of all staff were in the office, with staff numbers at their desks peaking at an average of just over 40% on Wednesday 7th in the City market.

There are diverse views in the property sector regarding what constitutes maximum occupancy for offices, with some industry commentators suggesting that, due to holidays, external meetings, staff sickness and other operational issues, offices were only ever 60-80% ‘full’ before the pandemic.

Previous research from the BCO suggested a figure of 60%, while other market practitioners suggest a figure of between 70% and 80% at peak times in the calendar, although this will have varied widely according to individual buildings and businesses. The graph shows an adjusted figure to compare current figures with a possible pre-pandemic “80% average office occupancy”.

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