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Return to Office: Which Markets are Seeing the Biggest Bounce Back?

Caroline Wu
Apr 21, 2023
Return to Office: Which Markets are Seeing the Biggest Bounce Back?

Nationwide, return-to-office is up +5% YoY as of March 2023. However, to provide some context to how office visits fared pre-pandemic, we looked at four years prior. Comparing Yo4Y, we see that the Nationwide RTO metric is at -36% Yo4Y (it's important to note that the number of visitors returning to the office has outpaced the number of visits due to hybrid work weeks).  Miami has bounced back the most compared to pre-Covid, only down -26% when comparing April 2023 to April 2019.  It is followed by NYC (-27% Yo4Y) and Boston (-33% Yo4Y).  San Francisco is the office market that still has the most to recover.  It is down -56% Yo4Y.

In looking at the seasonality of RTO foot traffic YoY, we see the largest bumps in January 2023.  This could be due to the Omicron variant that kept people home in Jan 2022, thus leading to the larger variance.  

When looking at seasonality for Yo4Y trends, we do see that they tend to be market-specific.  For instance, NYC saw higher Yo4Y return-to-office in June 2022, gradually kept dipping until Oct/Nov 2022, had a bump in Dec 2022, and has been fairly consistent ever since.  Miami also had its highest rate of RTO in June 2022, decreased and flattened in the fall, also saw a bump in Dec 2022, decreased and flattened in Jan/Feb 2023, and has risen in March 2023.

In analyzing some iconic buildings, data reveals that at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, traffic was largely up YoY, with some flattening in November 2022, an uptick in Jan 2023, and has flattened in March to be roughly comparable to last year’s levels.

However, when we compare this building to pre-COVID times, the Y04Y story is not so rosy.  The back-to-work push in June 2022 resulted in traffic only being down -20%.  However, this figure dropped dramatically over the holidays with foot traffic down roughly -40% in Nov and Dec 2022.  There was renewed visitation in Jan/Feb 2023, but as of March 2023, foot traffic to this building is down -40%.

In San Francisco, at the office building at 4 Embarcadero Center, YoY visits were up significantly in the late spring and early summer of 2022, followed by a dip in the vacation months of July and August.  There was a post-Labor Day uptick, followed by a downswing in the fourth quarter.  January 2023 saw another burst of facetime, but it appears that the appeal of being in-office has worn off by March 2023, with foot traffic down -19% YoY.

Compared to pre-COVID, we see that the story was more positive up through Q3 2022, where Yo4Y RTO was only down -10% in Sep 2022.  However, it then dipped and has since hovered around -34% to -53% the last six months.  

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Caroline Wu

Director of Research,

Caroline brings expertise in retail, CRE, entertainment, media, CPG, and tourism, and specializes in synthesizing broad datasets into actionable recommendations for growth. She has worked as the US Director of Consumer Insights at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, VP of Retail Insights and Intelligence at Omnicom, and Senior Director at Kantar. Caroline holds an MA in Sociology from Stanford University and a BA in International Relations from Stanford University.

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