Office. Illustrative photo.
New York – While Americans are still widely working from home, Europeans and Asians are returning to the office more often after the covid-19 pandemic. According to analysts, Americans are spending less time at work because they have bigger homes, longer commutes and lower unemployment. In Hong Kong, for example, several generations live in small apartments, which does not support working from home very much. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote about it.
U.S. office occupancy ranges from 40 to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. It varies from month to month and city to city. In Europe and the Middle East, it is 70 to 90 percent, according to real estate services company JLL. Even more widespread is the return to offices in Asia, where offices are occupied at 80 to 110 percent of pre-Covid levels, so that in some cities there are even more people in the workplace than before the pandemic.
The return of employees to offices is reflected in the speed of recovery of metropolises after the shock of the pandemic. Cities in Europe and Asia are returning to normal relatively easily. But empty office buildings and the absence of commuters are holding back the revival of cities like New York and San Francisco. Local restaurants, shops and other businesses that rely on office workers are suffering.
The number of unemployed people in New York increased by 83,500 between the beginning of 2020 and the third quarter of 2022, and the city's unemployment rate rose well above the national average, according to a report by the New School Center for New York City Affairs. Many of those who lost their jobs worked in Manhattan in industries such as retail, lodging and dining.
People in Europe and Asia also struggle with long commutes, but public transportation here tends to be more reliable and it doesn't take long. This makes it easier for locals to get to work than for Americans, who are often stuck in traffic jams.
Another explanation for the American exception is the American labor market, according to the WSJ. The U.S. unemployment rate is 3.4 percent, roughly half of the European Union's 6.1 percent.
While Europe is also facing a labor shortage, American companies are particularly hard hit, JLL reports. This has forced companies to look for employees in more distant locations and hire them remotely. In addition, technology companies, which have a particularly high share of employment in some large US cities, are more tolerant of remote work in the long term.