A return to a five-day week remains unlikely because occupancy sensors show workers opting for flexible schedules.
This week Paul Swinney, the director of policy and research at think tank Centre for Cities, said that “over the longer term, I’m quite hopeful that we will see people return five days a week”.
But others have deemed this unlikely. Raj Krishnamurthy, Freespace CEO, said: “Suggesting that the five-day office week could become the norm again within two years is a bold statement, especially when you consider that many have proven that they can do their jobs effectively from home.”
Krishnamurthy’s firm Freespace, anonymously captures space usage in offices worldwide. It has so far deployed more than 100,000 workplace sensors worldwide at major corporations, providing insights into working patterns and office utilisation, supporting the ‘return to work’ across 130 cities, in 36 countries, and five continents.
Krishnamurthy added “In the grand scheme of things, two years isn’t a long time, particularly when you consider the pandemic first hit a year-and-a-half ago. Our data shows more UK offices continue to reopen – 27 per cent of UK offices where our sensors are deployed and with over 10 per cent occupancy have reopened their doors; this is an increase of 16 per cent since March.
“The average UK office occupancy levels for 2021 also continue to increase from almost zero in January to 20 per cent in May. The decision to open further in late June may result in a surge in occupancy. Our workplace data from September and October 2020 reflects that. However, our 2021 data shows that companies are still following safe return to work practices, which is keeping occupancy rates low.
“Our data also shows that the busiest day of the week for UK offices is Thursday, followed by Wednesday and Tuesday. Office occupancy on Monday and Friday remains very low, and this is a pattern which I suspect will remain long term as people want to go into the office on the same day. This presents an opportunity for business leaders to adapt their workplaces to be more flexible, efficient and attractive. To do this they need to cater for the workplace correctly and agree new arrangements that work for the individual, the team and the organisation.”
Additionally, just 5 per cent of buildings in the US are operating at above 10 per cent occupancy. In comparison, 41 per cent of buildings in Asia operated at over 10 per cent occupancy in May. This is an increase from 28 per cent of buildings in January.