October 2021: Return to Office Status After Delta Peak

by Chris Brablc October 26th, 2021

This month's articles will look at return to office stats after the Delta surge, office utilization data, employee mental health, office market data and worker anxiety.

We hope this content is helpful as you build out and execute your return to the office plans with employees.

COVID cases keep falling - NY Times

There have been positive trends with the transmission and severity of COVID cases since the Delta peak. Here is the latest data and trends from the NY Times. A few stats of note include:

  • The number of new daily Covid-19 cases has plunged 57 percent since peaking on Sept. 1. Almost as encouraging as the magnitude of the decline is its breadth: Cases have been declining in every region.
  • The C.D.C. tracks a range of Covid forecasting models. On average, the models predict that new daily cases in the U.S. will fall roughly another 20 percent over the next three weeks.
  • During the wave in late 2020 and early this year, about 1.2 percent of positive cases led to death; during the Delta wave, the share was 1.1 percent.


Office utilization has increased 135% since the start of the pandemic [New Report] - VergeSense

Over the past few months, we've seen positive indicators of organizations beginning to open up the office with employees utilizing the space. This research from VergeSense is a great resource to keep track of progress with the return to the office and what organizations are doing to adapt the workplace to a more flexible and collaborative environment.

A few items of note include:

  • Office Utilization has increased by 135% since the start of the pandemic (Q2 2020 to Q3 2021)
  • Since the start of the year, utilization of collaborative spaces has increased by 50%, with a slight 13% dip from Q2 to Q3 2021.
  • Prior to the pandemic, space planners allocated 1 collaboration space for every 6 desks (Q4 2019). Today, we observe a new ratio becoming the standard: 1 collaboration space for every 2 desks (Q3 2021).


Burnout: The reality of 2021 for women in the workplace - ICAEW

With the pandemic, we've seen a large change in how and where we work. While this has had some positive impacts on worker flexibility and remote work, we've also seen it impact mental health in terms of increased work hours and isolation. This article discusses the impact to women in the workplace

A few items of note include:

  • 18 months into the pandemic, the women surveyed said they were more burned out than this time last year. One in three said they’d considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce entirely. This compares to one in four during the first few months of the pandemic. 
  • Women leaders spend twice as much time as men on taking on additional responsibilities related to diversity and inclusion, such as supporting employee resources, and are more likely to be active allies to ethnic minority women.


Return-To-Office Rebounding After Delta Variant Slowdown - Calvin Schnure

This article looks at the impact of Delta on return to office momentum and where we stand currently. It provides good data on the largest corporate office markets with interesting charts on the monthly trends.

A few highlights include:

  • The number of employees working from home increased nearly 400,000 in August and was little changed in September. This setback was not as large as the reversal that occurred last winter, but nevertheless has pushed back the timetable for a more complete return to the office.
  • Building occupancy for the 10-metro average as of October 13 (the most recent data) was above the mid-July peak, and is the highest since the earliest weeks of the pandemic in March 2020.


2 in 5 employees battling depression or anxiety as pandemic drags on - Benefits Pro

The pandemic has put a strain on all of us and this article looks at the most recent research from the IBI on employee mental health (you can download here). As we put together our return to office plans, it will be important to keep in mind the impact of employee mental health on these decisions.

Stats of note include:

  • Two in five employees report symptoms of anxiety or depression disorder, according to research by the nonprofit organization, with workers in the South and West having the highest incidence of mental health issues.
  • Employees who work remotely had the greatest levels of anxiety or depression disorder (41%) compared to employees who continued to work in person (36%) or already were working remotely before the pandemic (35%).
  • Transitioning to telework and having kids at home had negative compounding effects on mental health, particularly for women (46%) compared to men with the same work disruptions (37.5%).


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