The Return to the Office Around the World

Cities around the world are employing vastly different strategies in the effort to get workers back in the office.

2 minute read

October 20, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Nick Beer / Shutterstock

Mobility data compiled by Google shows a sharp international divergence in how workers in major financial centers are returning to the office, according to an article by Emily Cadman, Stephan Kahl, Charlotte Ryan, Faris Mokhtar, Nic Querolo, Sarah Holder, Natalie Wong, Steven Arons, Hayley Warren and Sam Dodge. While cities like New York and London have started rebounding, "Singapore and Sydney have had to introduce fresh restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases spikes."

The authors attribute the difference to "vaccination rates and countries’ varying risk appetites." London, New York, and Frankfurt have begun to reopen after vaccines became available, while "cities such as Singapore and Sydney that locked down hard and early—and so got people accustomed to very low levels of infection and risk—have found loosening restrictions tougher as they face further outbreaks."

This hasn't always been the case: by June, Sydney's "[o]ffice occupancy rates had risen to more than 65% of pre-pandemic norms and the state government was poised to launch a voucher program to encourage people back to the city center to eat and drink." But after a massive outbreak of the Delta variant and a months-long lockdown, "the heart of the city is empty." Meanwhile, around 28 percent of the New York region's office workers have returned to work in person and schools fully reopened in September. The article details the trajectory of several other global cities including San Francisco and Frankfurt.

While many cities are experiencing gradual reopenings, "the return to normalcy is still a ways off."

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