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Employers are reducing office space as workers still attend offices less than two days a week 

Workers are still only coming into the office an average of 1.75 days a week, a study of 119 workplaces in 22 countries by AWA, a global workplace consultancy, has found.

The responses, collated in April-May 2023 and representing organisations employing close to 155,000 people, saw a slight increase on AWA’s study a year ago, indicating that office attendance has reached a steady state, despite some employers trying to force staff back into the workplace.

AWA’s third Hybrid Index study found that globally average office attendance rose to 35 per cent, up from 29 per cent a year ago, which AWA says follows the trend shown in the second Hybrid Index in late 2022.

In the UK workers are attending the office 1.6 days a week, up from 1.45 a year ago, whilst in North America there was no discernible change, with workers coming into the office less than 1.5 days a week on average. Office attendance is far higher in Latin America – 2.15 days – and Asia – 1.8 days.

Workers continue to prefer to come into the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, though Monday attendance has improved. On Friday less than a quarter of employees chose to travel in.

The study also found that organisations are responding to the shift to hybrid working by improving their desk use in offices and reducing their real estate needs. Thirty-seven per cent of employers said they were planning to reduce their office space through disposals, subletting or consolidation. This is a result of the improved desk utilisation as organisations adapt to the new reality of hybrid working, with the percentage of desks in use on average rising to 48 per cent from 33 per cent a year ago.

However, AWA has found that three years since working practices changed at the start of the pandemic, 46 per cent of offices do not have a hybrid working policy. Where employers mandate people to come into the office a specific number of days per week, the employees come in significantly fewer days, indicating that ordering staff back doesn’t work.

Andrew Mawson, founder of AWA, said: “While the figures show a slight increase in office attendance, overall we think we may have reached a steady state on hybrid working. Savvy employers are using the new reality to become more efficient, improving desk use and reducing their real estate needs. We expect this to result in a gradual build-up of empty office space over the next five to 10 years as leases expire, with a resultant downward pressure on rents and asset values.”

Mawson added: “In our experience, hybrid working changes everything from employment contracts, skills, recruitment strategies, workplace design, security and more. While some organisations have taken a ‘let’s see what happens’ approach to hybrid working since the end of the pandemic, we believe it’s now time for all organisations to develop holistic hybrid working policies and address a wide set of issues to prepare themselves for the future.”

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