Which industry is nailing the return to office?

Oct 4, 2022
Let’s dive into Envoy’s proprietary platform data to find out which industries are succeeding in the return to office (RTO)—and which are falling behind.
Riley BitterliEnvoy Logo
Senior Data Analyst Alumni
Marketing Specialist

The results are in (well, they’ve been in for a while): employees value flexibility in where and how they work. This isn’t new news. In fact, in a January 2022 survey, 63% of employees said flexibility would make them feel more empowered. So why is the CEOs' debate over remote and in-office work still heating up?Lately, CEOs such as JP Morgan’s Jaime Dimon and Apple’s Tim Cook have pushed to have employees return to the workplace five days a week. These companies have employed new tactics to sweeten the deal and encourage folks to come onsite. They’ve organized shuttle and carpool services. They’ve instituted mask and COVID testing protocols so employees feel safe. CEOs have even offered to do push-ups for the cause.

So, as we near the end of the year, we were curious: Are these CEOs’ pleas and policies working? The short answer is, it depends on the industry.Let’s dive into Envoy’s proprietary platform data to find out which industries are succeeding in the return to office (RTO)—and which are falling behind. We’ve analyzed millions of employee and visitor sign-ins from over 14,000 locations in all 50 US states. Here’s what we found.

Finance is leading the pack

So are Apple and JP Morgan’s efforts working? Looks like they might be. When we looked at which industries have the most employee visits to the workplace each week, finance is leading the pack, with technology companies just behind them.The graph below shows foot traffic growth by industry since the start of 2022. The industries with the most growth, as seen by the top purple and blue lines, are the finance and technology respectively. Notably, those two industries have had executives dominating the headlines in their calls to return to the workplace.

Both finance and technology companies have seen, on average, over 100% week-over-week growth in employees working onsite since January 2022. Let’s take a closer look at the industry with the largest increase in RTO presence over the last nine months: the financial sector.

A deep dive into the finance industry’s RTO

The start of 2022 was big for the finance industry. Employees were going to the office an average of 6 days each month, likely under an optional in-person or hybrid policy. But office days really started to take off in February and held steady through the first half of the year. We saw foot traffic peak near the end of April, when finance employee foot traffic increased by 205% since the start of the year. After a small summer lull, foot traffic started growing again from July to August. And we only expect this to increase as finance companies make a post-Labor day push to get employees onsite. Why is finance making a big in-office push for employees? In a Bloomberg article, one CEO speculated that it’s because of the current economic situation. He says, “certainly if we go into a bit of a recession… as the leverage swings back to employers, they’ll use that leverage momentum to insist that people be back to the office.”

A look at “Bank X”

To get an even clearer picture at what’s happening in the industry, we looked at one real-world finance company’s foot traffic trends. We’ll call them “Bank X.”“Bank X” has a voluntary RTO policy, but its leadership team has started making efforts to get employees back onsite. The blue line below charts the number of employees that came to the office each month since October 2021. The red line charts the number of office visits each month.

As you can see, from October 2021 to August 2022, both the volume of office visits and number of employees coming into the office have risen dramatically. Similar to the finance industry’s trends, “Bank X” saw a 117% increase in the number of monthly employees and a 150% increase in onsite days.It’s difficult to say what the real driver was of this growth. Was it leadership making calls for employees to work onsite? Or was it the employees themselves driving that growth?According to a recent survey, 91% of employees agree that the office plays a crucial role in feeling connected with their coworkers. This connection also serves as the main driver for people to come back onsite. In a 2022 survey, impromptu social interactions (48%) and in-person collaboration (42%) topped the list of what excites employees about going back into the workplace.

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So are the finance and tech industry’s CEOs' efforts working? When you compare those industry’s foot traffic growth to all others, the answer is yes. Whether it is because of incentives, policies, CEO’s doing push-ups, or just the fact that employees enjoy working together in person, the data is clear: workplaces are filling up once again.Check out At Work for more data-driven content and insights on what’s happening in the workplace.

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AUTHOR BIO
Senior Data Analyst Alumni

Riley is an analyst at Envoy, where he uses data to help the Marketing team make informed decisions.

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