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New data shows the return-to-office is in motion and hybrid work remains strong

In our recent analysis of workplace foot traffic, we’ve seen a surge in people working on-site and the start of a new wave. In other words, the return-to-office is on.

Jonathan Weindel
By Jonathan Weindel Head of Data Analytics

The data in this blog post looks at workplace entries from 5/1/2020-10/1/2021.

Workplace traffic has had its ups and downs over the past year. Back in August, we wrote about the three waves of workplace traffic since the start of the pandemic: traffic from essential workers, traffic from vaccinated employees, and a slight lull in traffic due to summer and the Delta variant. 

So what’s happened since then? In our recent analysis of workplace foot traffic, we’ve seen a surge in people working on-site and the start of a new wave. In other words, the return-to-office is on. Here’s what we found:

  • The return-to-office has rebounded: workplace traffic has increased nearly 20% since Labor Day 2021 (September 6) 
  • Employee traffic is up from a year ago: employees make up 50% of overall workplace traffic
  • US metropolitan cities have seen strong growth: Denver and Austin have both seen more than 50% growth in workplace traffic since Labor Day
  • Proof of vaccination is popular: employees have submitted over 4,000 proof of vaccination documents in October 2021 alone
  • Employees prefer coming on-site in the middle of the week: the most popular workday to come on-site is Wednesday

To inform these findings, we analyzed millions of employee and visitor sign-ins from over 14,000 locations in all 50 US states. Let’s dive into the data and explore it in more detail.

Workplace traffic: a new wave on the horizon?

This summer we saw our first notable decrease in workplace traffic (-15%) since the start of the pandemic. As we projected in our last analysis, we believe part of this decrease was due to seasonality—employees take more time off in the summer. We also believe traffic was impacted by increased concerns people had about the highly-contagious Delta variant. 

However, since Labor Day we’ve seen a resurgence in workplace traffic. Total traffic has increased more than 20% over the past month, as COVID case counts from the Delta variant have begun to decline. As a result, organizations and schools are reopening across the country. 

Employees make up a greater proportion of overall traffic—and continue to embrace hybrid work

Workplace traffic consists of both visitors (i.e. contractors, vendors, food service, etc) and employees. To understand who’s come on-site over the past year, we looked at the proportion of traffic each group has driven. Here’s what we found:

  • In October 2020, employees made up 38% of all workplace traffic 
  • By October 2021, that increased to 50% of all workplace traffic

This 12 percentage point increase suggests a greater demand by employees and companies to be on-site. 

Traffic patterns also show that employees continue to embrace hybrid work and come into the workplace for part of the week. We suspect many employees use the middle of the week to collaborate with colleagues on-site and use Mondays and Fridays for heads-down remote work.

On average, nearly 70% of all employee traffic happens in the middle of the week (Tuesday-Thursday). Wednesdays remain the most popular day to come into the workplace. Friday is still the least popular day.  

Traffic growth is even greater in some metros

Most major metropolitan cities in the US, for example, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have seen strong growth since Labor Day. However, a few mid-sized metros stand out. In the chart below, you can see the percentage change in workplace traffic in different metropolitan areas. 

Austin and Denver lead the pack. Each location has seen more than 50% traffic growth since Labor Day. Des Moines has also had strong growth in traffic—up 38% since Labor Day. 

Curious about traffic in certain metropolitan areas? We continue to monitor the overall growth of the top metropolitan US cities in our Return to Work Index

Proof of vaccination continues to grow in popularity

Employees still have health and safety top of mind. A recent survey we conducted found that 60% of employees would prefer their employer to require vaccination to enter the workplace. In fact, companies larger than 100 employees will soon have to require vaccinations or weekly testing to comply with federal law

Our data shows that technology that enables employees to verify their vaccination status is popular. In fact, in just a few weeks of releasing the proof of vaccination feature, over 4,000 proof of vaccination documents have been uploaded using a mobile device.

Most employees uploading proof of vaccination documents (45%) work in information technology. 19% work in the industrials industry and 16% work in consumer discretionary. The vast majority (99%) of documents submitted are reviewed and approved fast. In fact, the median review time is just two hours.

Final thoughts

Workplaces across the country are buzzing again. The latest data reveals that workplace traffic has surged after the summer lull. Since Labor Day this year, traffic is up over 20%, indicating that a new “fall rebound” wave has begun. 

While traffic has increased, employee patterns suggest that hybrid work models are still going strong. People are coming into work for part of the workweek, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays being the most popular days. As employers continue to find ways to keep employees safe on-site—like requiring proof of vaccination—we may continue to see workplace traffic trending upwards.

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Jonathan Weindel
Author Bio Jonathan Weindel

Jonathan is the Head of Data Analytics at Envoy where he gets to show off his passion for creating data-driven insights, tools, and applications every day. Outside of the office, you can find Jonathan in the outdoors backpacking and camping, exploring new hip restaurants, or spending time with his wife and two young boys.