Research Special Topics

Return to Office Survey Results

August 2020

The Partnership for New York City surveyed major employers during the first two weeks of August to determine when Manhattan’s one million office workers are likely to return from working remotely.

The Partnership found:

  • Fewer employees have returned to the office than previously anticipated: 8% of employees have returned to the office as of mid-August, a 20% drop from the 10% projections made in late May.
  • The level of uncertainty over the pace of return to the office is greater than the May findings. The new results show employers have reduced their expectations by 33%, with only 26% of employees now expected to return by the end of the year and a total of 54% expected to return by July 2021.
  • 28% of employers say they don’t yet know their plans for returning employees to the office.
  • The real estate industry is the most aggressive in bringing employees back to the office. Over half (53%) have already returned and 94% are expected to return by July 2021.
  • Tech employers expect 74% of employees to return to the office by July 2021, finance and insurance employers expect 55% and consulting firms expect 50%. Accounting, Media and Entertainment, Sports and Hospitality employers have much lower rates of return.

The Partnership also asked employers to rank factors that they believe will have the greatest influence on the pace of employees’ return to the office. The following were responses:

  • The status of COVID-19 ranked as the largest factor, with 76% citing it as the primary concern and 10% ranking it as their #2 concern.
    • Issues include waiting to see the status of COVID-19 infections in the fall, the availability of a vaccine, health and safety of employees’ family members, availability of office space for social distancing, and local healthcare capacity
  • Transit safety ranked second, with 28% indicating it was a primary concern and 46% indicating it was the #2 concern.
    • 83% of returning employees will rely on public transit.
  • Schools reopening ranked third, with 5% indicating it was their primary concern and 23% indicating it was the #2 concern.
  • Availability of child care (after school and for children too young to attend school) ranked fourth, with 4% indicating it was a primary concern and 14% indicating it was the #2 concern.
  • The least important factor was employee preference to continue working from home.

Additional Findings:

  • The majority of surveyed employers have offices in Midtown East (34%), Midtown West (34%) or the Financial District (18%).

Related Research

The initial survey was conducted in May 2020 and published in A Call for Action and Collaboration.