Return to work

World of HR: Return to office is occurring at a high rate in Asian countries

Meanwhile, US workers are still largely working from home.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Asia has more of the world’s tallest skyscrapers than North America and according to some reports, they also have more workers filling them right now.

New research found that as employees in Asia and Europe are following calls (and the smell of breakroom snacks) back to the office, whereas cities in the US are lagging behind.

Where in the world? Pretty much everywhere except the US, apparently. In Asia, office return rates range from 80%–110% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to data from JLL shared by the Wall Street Journal.

The reason for the high return rates vary, but might be in part because city apartments, like those in Hong Kong, are not conducive to working from home, according to WSJ. Data also showed that countries like Singapore and China have shorter average commute times than large American cities.

Despite the mass return to the skyscraper, in Japan, office workers still prefer the flexibility and autonomy of remote work. “Employees do now expect to be offered the option of working remotely,” Grant Torrens, managing director of Hays Japan told the Japan Times. “It has become a selling point for companies who are looking to not only retain their best talent, but also attract the same. It is now very common for candidates to list hybrid working as one of their ‘must haves’ when beginning a new job search.”

Satellite view. The US office occupancy rate has hovered around 50% since mid-February, according to data from Kastle Systems, a company that tracks security swipes. Cities in Texas have the highest return to office, with Austin (68.1%), Houston (61.8%), and Dallas (54.3%) topping out US cities.

Despite companies from Disney to Amazon mandating a return to the office, as well as layoffs, across the tech and entertainment industries, US-based workers aren’t going back for several reasons. The labor market is still competitive, making workers feel as though they can continue working remotely. Additionally, those who flocked to the suburbs during Covid-19 might no longer want to commute to the city every day.

Enforcement of RTO policies can fall to HR leaders and managers. It’s incumbent on them to have a strategy, an intentional approach, and to make it gradual, Stephanie Reynolds, chief people officer at Unify Consulting told HR Brew in December.

Maybe remote work will mean less skyline eyesores, at least. (See: Kara Swisher’s thoughts on the Salesforce tower.)—KP

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.