Return to Office Rages On and the On-going Custodian Shortage - January 2023 Newsletter

This month's newsletter will include the on-going battle around in-office work, the current custodial shortage, a move back to big cities, office occupancy back over 50% and facilities management evolution.

We hope this content is helpful as you navigate your return to the office plans and flexible work.

Bosses push workers back to their desks as the return-to-office battle shows no signs of stopping by Chloe Berger (Fortune)

It feels like we are reliving the same story over and over again but in-person work is back on the table for debate with employers and employees. With a tighter labor marker and down economy, we are seeing more companies downsize and less options for employees. This shifts the power balance in favor of employers and many want to see their office investment pay dividends.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Companies like Vanguard Group and Paycom Software are calling on their workers to heed by their hybrid schedules or to come into the office on extra days, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Chip Cutter. Some workers told him that their jobs are on the line if they don’t comply.
  • Office occupancy saw a slight uptick to more than 47%, the highest it had been since the start of the pandemic and where it hovered around all fall. 
  • But some CEOs have grown increasingly impatient with return-to-office pushback. “I think every successful CEO, including myself, is tired of all the whining,” Michael Friedman, chief executive of the New York investment firm First Level Capital, told the Journal in November, speaking of how Elon Musk’s hardline on Twitter’s operations and return to work represented some executives’ impatience.


Struggling to hire enough janitors, a Minnesota high school pays its students $15 an hour to clean after class by Hannah Towey (Business Insider)

If you type "Janitor shortage" into Google, you'll come away with many articles about school districts and building service contractors struggling to find and retain custodial and janitorial staff. This is a striking example of what some facilities leaders at schools and workplaces are struggling with every day to get work done to ensure a safe, healthy and productive environment for occupants.

There also was a great article on Massachusetts declaring a "School Custodian Day" as recognition to these front line workers. The video is well worth watching.

Highlights include:

  • The unusual work-study program launched at Blaine High School last week, The Star Tribune first reported. Students must be at least 16 years old and are paid $15.30 an hour, according to a job application posted by the district. 
  • Record numbers of Americans have been quitting their jobs in search of better working conditions and the greater cleaning industry is no exception. Residential cleaning companies told Insider they're having to turn down business and reschedule or even cancel regular customers because they can't find enough staff.


It looks like people are actually moving back to San Francisco (really) by Rani Molla (Vox)

One of the big predictions from the pandemic migration to homes is a more distributed workforce that moves out of metropolitan areas. However, we are seeing that for many cities the departure is less serve than thought. This story looks at San Francisco and the shift in population over the past few years.

Here are the highlights:

  • Over the last 12 months, San Francisco has seen the second-biggest worker population gain of any area in the United States, according to LinkedIn. The January data, which measures when people update their locations in their profiles, showed that for every 100,000 LinkedIn users, 83 moved to San Francisco in the last 12 months. The workers largely came from Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Washington DC.
  • Indeed, more people are now coming to San Francisco than leaving. By the end of last year, nearly two people were coming to the metropolitan area for every one that left (LinkedIn wasn’t able to provide the net change in area members since the start of the pandemic). The area was still bested by Austin, where prices are still relatively cheaper and where there’s no income tax, but that’s been the case for years now.
  • Rather than leave cities, many people have moved to more suburban areas, where home rental prices are more affordable. They might still have to commute to the office, but a longer commute doesn’t seem as bad if they only have to do it a few days a week. On average, office workers are expected to continue working from home an average of 2.3 days per week, according to a December survey of employer plans post-pandemic by WFH Research.


Getting America Back to Work - Occupancy Baromoter by Kastle Systems

The Kastle Systems Workplace Occupancy data while not perfect is a great resource for seeing general occupancy trends. This is the first week where we saw over 50% occupancy according to their metrics.

A few interesting insights from the data include:

  • The metro areas in Texas (Austin, Houston, etc.) are seeing the highest percentage of people back in the office.
  • California metro areas (San Jose, San Francisco, etc.) are seeing the lowest percentage of people back in the office but have gained recently. This may be an effect of the tech layoffs recently.


The Great Return to the Office: The Manager’s Role in Creating the Optimal Workplace by Darrell X. Rounds (Guest post on FacilitiesNet)

Interesting perspective of Darrell as a senior manager of global workplace risk mitigation with General Motors on the evolving role of facilities management at corporate organizations. He touches upon topics of workplace flexibility, cleanliness and communication. 

Some interesting insights include: 

  • According to Coleman and Ricker, “Providing choice and flexibility in the workplace allows workers to determine when and where they are most productive in the office. Office amenities play a key role in humanizing the work experience and holistically deliver a purpose focusing on physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Places to lounge and decompress support workers in addition to walking paths, exercise spaces and healthy food. Third spaces like work cafes, libraries and business lounges offer informal ways for employees to benefit from mentorship, absorb the culture, and build camaraderie and social networks.” 
  • Managers must ensure that the cleanliness and hygienic practices are robust so employees are comfortable. Technology must be in good working order, and the integrity of telecommunications systems, IT requirements and Internet connectivity must be a priority because these issues have been important and critical to employees’ work success during the pandemic. 


5 Steps to Creating a Janitorial Employee Performance Program

At CrowdComfort, we are helping corporate occupiers as well as schools and universities, effectively prove the value they are receiving from their cleaning spend with daily reporting on all cleaning activities that enables employees to prove their every day hard work with performance-based incentives programs to improve retention.

Learn more about setting up a performance based incentives program here

Janitor Shortage Custodial Shortage Return to Office Office Occupancy


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