November 4, 2022

Why Houston Is Winning the Return-to-Office Race

Dust off those cubicles because United States offices are officially reopening.

Around the country, CEOs are beginning to execute their highly-anticipated return-to-work plans — but it’s not all smooth sailing.

Gallup found that fully remote work arrangements are decreasing from three in 10 remote-capable employees in June to only two in 10 for the foreseeable future. However, 34% of those employees want to work from home permanently, and six in 10 fully remote employees said they are “extremely likely to change companies” if their employers do not continue to offer remote flexibility.

Eyes are on Houston for guidance as businesses nationwide strategize on the best compromise between fully remote and on-site work.

Where Houston Stands in the Return-to-Office Debate

As companies start plotting their returns to in-person work, some Houston companies have already begun filling their offices again.

Houston has seen office occupancy levels around 58% compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to data from Kastle Systems

Houston, Dallas and Austin are the only major U.S. markets with employees swiping into the office at even half the rate of pre-pandemic activity. In comparison, the number of workers swiping into New York offices is only 43%.

While some metros have embraced more remote work for the near future, Houston employees will return to their offices in droves, even if only for a few days a week.

The Wall Street Journal reported that 85% of companies in Houston have employees who are already returning or planning to return to their offices. Most companies have adopted hybrid strategies, with the average Houston worker showing up at the office only 10.7 days a month.

Houston employees have historically returned to the office at higher rates during the pandemic than those in other metros, and this year will be no different. As office leasing volume rises, downtown Houston will experience its regular hustle and bustle again.

Why Texas Leads the Return-to-Office Rates

Experts point to Texas’ low reliance on public transportation as one of the factors that have paved the way for quicker returns to the office than other metros.

More than 90% of Texans use a personal automobile as their primary mode of transportation, according to Texas A&M University research. While Omicron stalled New York City subway operations in early 2022, Texas employees were able to get to and from work without the same kinds of delays.

In Houston, some employees also face shorter commutes than in other top markets, creating less friction for employees returning to on-site work. CNBC found the average commute in Houston is about 27 minutes, compared to 34.7 minutes for New York City commuters and 32.8 minutes for D.C. workers.

Additionally, Houston has several big-name companies relocating to its city limits and thus bringing more on-site employees downtown. Oil giant ExxonMobil, skincare company Obagi Cosmeceuticals and information technology leader Hewlett Packard Enterprise are just a few of the businesses that have recently moved to the Houston area.

How to Create a Stronger Office Reopening Plan

A strong office reopening plan starts with an exciting office.

The office should be a place employees want to return to, complete with flexible workspaces and benefits they can’t get at home. That’s why most companies are renovating their offices before launching on-site work policies.

Over 60% of companies are making changes to the physical workplace, according to Envoy. Some top changes include creating more social zones, collaborative spaces, standing desks and focus pods.

Begin by surveying employees about their ideal working arrangements and dream office amenities. Then, find a full-service relocation partner who can help you craft a renovation schedule that minimizes disruptions to your business.

Your relocation partner can help you receive new furniture deliveries, store office supplies until needed and re-install everything in the newly-renovated space. While your partner handles the logistics of your renovation, you can begin crafting the guidelines and incentives for the office return.

By the time employees return to the office, you’ll have an exciting new space — without any of the stress that comes with an office renovation.

Whether you’re moving, renovating or refurbishing your office, Armstrong can get you back to business sooner. Our Houston team will not only plan and budget your relocation, but also completely unpack and organize your new space. Get started by calling 281.897.1118 or requesting a free quote online.

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