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Two third of desks unused as office workers come in just a quarter of the time

Two thirds of desks in offices are now unused on a daily basis, and even on the busiest days offices are more than half empty, a global study has found. The Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) Hybrid Working Index study of nearly 80 offices in 13 countries representing nearly 80,000 employees revealed a seismic shift in working patterns, with people now coming into the office an average of just 1.4 days a week, compared to nearly four days a week before the pandemic.

The survey found that if companies have no hybrid working policies, people come in on average less than one day a week. However even if organisations insist people come in three days a week, the policy doesn’t work as attendance averages just 2.1 days a week.

AWA found that offices in most sectors and locations are under-occupied which, if these trends continue, will result in excess space needing to be re-purposed or sub-let.

Andrew Mawson, managing director of AWA, commented: “What this global survey shows is that as a result of changes due to the pandemic the hybrid working genie is out of the bottle. Even where employers try to force staff into the office two or three days a week, employees don’t comply.

“Organisations need to look at the data showing that two third of desks are unused and work with their employees to find smarter, more efficient ways of working that will fit in with how people want to live their lives, save money and be more environmentally friendly.

We believe this will have a profound impact on the property market, which is not currently being recognised by the industry.”

The key findings are:

  • Average attendance in offices is just 26 per cent, with peaks in the middle of the week of no more than a third of employees in the office;
  • As evidenced anecdotally – and by AWA’s 2021 survey of how people want to work – employees prefer to be in the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – with 88 per cent of people working from home on a Friday;
  • People are not complying with their organisations Hybrid Working policies. Where organisations have stated two, two/three or three days in the office policies, attendance is respectively 1.1 days in the office, 1.6 days in the office and 2.1 days in the office. However, where an employer trusts individual teams to make their own decisions about office attendance, the average is 2 days in the office.

The UK figures show a slightly higher average and midweek attendance, however Mondays and Fridays are still very empty – with 19 per cent and 13 per cent attendance on those days. On average the British employee comes into the office less than 1.5 days a week.

A panel of organisations participated with data from nearly 80 offices in 13 countries representing nearly 80,000 employees, completing a short survey detailing for each of their locations what (if any) hybrid policy they were enacting, the total number of employees and desks in each building, and how many people were using the office day to day in a typical week.

AWA used this this information to create a detailed picture of office use across multiple sectors and geographies. AWA aims to return to and expand this panel on a regular basis to build a the most authoritative analysis of hybrid working around the world.

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