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Returning to the Office, Sorta. Going Out to Eat, Definitely!


According to a recent report by CNBC, not even 30% of Manhattan office workers are back at their desks at this time. These are some of the highlights of this report:


· Only 28% of Manhattan office workers are back at their desks and fewer than half will be back by January, according to a new survey.


· Employers expect that 49% of office workers will return on an average weekday by January, according to a survey of 188 big employers in Manhattan by the Partnership for New York City.


· More than a third of employers expect their office space needs in Manhattan will decline over the next five years, according to the poll.


· Continued weakness in the office sector could prove costly for New York City’s budget, as it means a loss in property taxes.


As quoted by Kathryn Wilde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, “There is going to be a permanent relook at keeping offices and jobs in New York City.”


Digging a little deeper into the report there’s another tale to tell, “By January, only 13% of Manhattan office workers are expected to be in the workplace five days per week, according to the survey. A third will be in three days per week, 15% will be in two days per week, 7% will be in one day per week and 21% will still be fully remote.”


“Have you seen the restaurants at night? They’re packed to the rafters and if people can go out to eat, they definitely can go to the office.”


However, this is just one side of the story and as transformative as this appears to be, there’s also very strong sales and leasing activity in New York and the momentum is on the side of those who are looking at the longer-term prospects for revitalization and growth on this side of the Hudson River.


In one of our RELPI Virtual Roundtables this week one participant offered an observation that anyone who lives here can relate to, “Have you seen the restaurants at night? They’re packed to the rafters and if people can go out to eat, they definitely can go to the office.” Spoken like a true real estate professional. And he's absolutely dead-on correct, it's impossible to get a decent seat to dine any night of the week.


It’s been said that New York City isn’t the center of the universe and it’s taken me more than five decades to fully understand this, there is still wisdom in observing the ups and downs of the country’s financial center and how the post-pandemic culture is forming.


In terms of other major markets in the country, the speed at which some of them have gone to a full work week in the office is remarkable. And there is still one more question to ask regarding office occupancy, what does “fully occupied” look like now? Is the new normal four days a week, three days a week, etc.?


This is one question that will still take some time to sort out and we can do it while waiting to get a seat at our favorite dining establishment.