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These U.S. cities have had the most luck getting workers back into the office

May 2, 2022, 6:09 PM UTC

More than two years after the COVID pandemic forced millions of employees to start working remotely, executives across the country are doing what they can to convince staff that it’s time to return to the office for good

At Goldman Sachs, CEO David Solomon announced in March that employees must return to the office five days a week. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon announced a similar measure last month, requiring at least 50% of the company to return in-person work full time. 

And while companies have had mixed success trying to get their workers back into the office, some cities have fared far better than others, according to new data from Kastle Systems, an office security company that tracks workers’ badge swipes and keycard usage at more than 2,600 buildings it manages across 47 states.

The most successful city at returning workers to the office? Austin, Texas. 

In Austin, office buildings are 59% occupied during the work-week ending on April 20, according to Kastle’s data. Previous weekly highs in the city in 2022 were above 60%. 

Other Texas cities, including Houston and Dallas, have seen the next highest rates of office attendance, both hovering around 50% over the same week.

By comparison, office buildings in New York City were at just 33% occupancy during the same period. San Jose, California had the lowest rates of any city Kastle measured, at just 31% during that time. And nationwide, offices in the 10 largest U.S. cities with buildings tracked by Kastle are hovering around 40% occupancy. 

In Austin, the number of workers who have returned to offices full time is likely even higher than Kastle’s tracking shows. 

Kastle’s data does not account for government buildings, which in state capital cities like Austin accounts for thousands of government workers who have returned to offices full time since March due to executive orders from Republican Governor Greg Abbott. 

Texas is not the only state that has encouraged workers at state office buildings to return to the office, but the other cities listed in Kastle’s data are in Democratic-led states that have not required state employees to return to office work full time.  

A number of factors could be contributing to Austin’s ability to return employees to the office. 

The city has seen massive growth over the past decade, especially among young professionals who work in finance and corporate offices for tech companies like Amazon, Meta and Apple, all of which opened offices or expanded their operations in Austin over the last two years. These jobs are more likely to require employees to return to the office. 

“We’re committed to Austin and look forward to growing here together,” Katherine Shappley, the head of Meta’s Austin office, said in a statement to Bloomberg announcing the company’s plans to expand in the city earlier this year. 

As the city has grown, it’s added more jobs and attracted a younger demographic. A third of the city’s population is between the ages of 25 and 44 in 2020, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Houston and Dallas are also growing cities that are attracting new residents at higher rates. According to a new survey from moving truck rental company Penske, the trio of Texas cities—Houston, Dallas and Austin—all ranked in the top 10 cities Americans are moving to over the past year. Houston led the list.

The 5 cities with the highest office occupancy rates, according to Kastle’s data:

  1. Austin – 58.8%
  2. Houston – 50.9%
  3. Dallas – 49%
  4. Los Angeles – 39.8%
  5. Chicago – 37%

The 5 cities with the lowest office occupancy rates, according to Kastle’s data:

  1. San Jose – 31%
  2. New York City – 32.9%
  3. San Francisco – 33.4%
  4. Philadelphia – 35.3%
  5. Washington D.C. – 36.6%

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