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Number of UK’s returning office workers peaks in April

UK offices saw more workers present on in the third week of April than at any other point since the start of the pandemic according to new data from smart buildings software platform Metrikus.

During the second and third weeks of April the number of employees working in their offices was similar to September 2020. A peak of 44.72% of pre-pandemic levels of occupation occurred on Wednesday 21 April, marking a new high in the Metrikus Occupancy Index. 

The index shows that office occupancy fell to a weekly median of 16% in the last week of January 2021, before beginning a gradual recovery that saw a rise to a weekly median of 37% in the week commencing 12 April and 41% the following week – levels not seen since October 2020, the firm said.

[Image: Dylan Nolte/Unsplash]

Metrikus has sensors and software installed on behalf of a variety of owners and occupiers in large office buildings in major cities around the UK. The data for this study was collected from people-counting sensors in the entrance lobbies of office buildings providing a baseline for the number of people in the building. Motion sensors within offices give an indication of activity by showing which spaces are used, for how long, and at what times of day.

 “What lies ahead is uncharted territory – we’re watching closely to see whether the trend of growth of around 1.7 index points per week that we’ve seen since the end of February will continue to gradually accelerate,” said Metrikus COO Michael Grant.

“This peak comes a week ahead of our previous best guess, which was that offices would return to levels last seen in September 2020 by the beginning of May.”

Gradual easing of restrictions increases workers’ appetite for the office

Grant said that rather than spikes that track specific events, such as the return of children to school, the steady growth in the index seems to show that the gradual lifting of restrictions has slowly increased the appetite for some workers to return to the office.

“There’s a major opportunity to do more work to understand what impact the pandemic has had on working habits – looking at the days of the week, the most striking thing is how similar the patterns of occupancy are to pre-lockdown levels, albeit on a smaller scale,” Grant added.

He said that Tuesday and Wednesday regularly swap places as the busiest day of the week, and Fridays are the least popular day of the week.

“As we look to occupy offices less densely than pre-pandemic, employers might look to incentivise staff to come in on Friday to reduce the pressure on more popular days of the week.”