The Figures Saw a Strong Bounceback in the Later Weeks of January

By Paul Norman
CoStar News

3 February 2023 | 9:27

UK office occupancy has reached a new high since the pandemic started in the first month of the year.

The latest research from Remit Consulting reveals a strong bounce back in the second, third and fourth weeks of the month, with the week ending 27 January recording a national average of office occupancy of 34.3%, the highest figure since the start of the firm’s Return survey in May 2021.

The average number of staff working from their offices got off to a slow start at 15.4% on the week ending 6 January, but that included a bank holiday in England and Wales and two in Scotland.

Remit’s survey has been used by the real estate industry as the most reliable insight into office occupancy since national lockdowns were enforced because of the pandemic in March 2020.

The latest report confirms the established pattern of higher office attendance from Tuesday to Thursday, with occupancy over the middle three days of the week now regularly pushing 40%.

Lorna Landells of Remit Consulting said that despite rail strikes, occupancy levels in January 2023 were stronger by a sizeable margin than 12 months previously, when the country was dealing with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In London, the West End experienced a weekly average occupancy rate of 43.9% last week. At the same time, the weekly average for the Docklands submarket reached 49.4%.

“This is a dramatic improvement for an area of London which has previously held a position behind the West End. Perhaps the preponderance of banking institutions has begun to play its part,” added Lorna Landells.

There are diverse views in the property sector regarding what constitutes maximum occupancy for offices, with some industry commentators suggesting that, due to holidays, external meetings, staff sickness and other operational issues, offices were only ever 60-80% “full” before the pandemic.

The Return Report is compiled by Remit Consulting weekly and is based on data provided by building managers from office buildings in major cities around the UK, many in central and prime locations. The data is obtained from the buildings’ access control systems, providing an overview of the number of staff and visitors entering a property on weekdays. This is presented as a percentage of the capacity of each building