AUSTIN, Texas - Workspaces have looked different following the pandemic, but a new report shows Austin is leading the nation in office job growth. Analysts said this could provide insight into what the future of the workplace might look like.
"Because it's a very pleasant place to be, it's a tourist destination, people have increasingly migrated there to improve their quality of life, it has ushered much stronger office demand," Avison Young Innovation and Insight Advisory Platform leader Craig Leibowitz said.
For those still working from home, it may not last for much longer. Depending on the industry, analysts said employees may be back in the office within the next six months.
"In the next call it 4 to 6 months, we're going to hit some sort of equilibrium whether it's 30 percent below pre-COVID levels or 40 percent below pre-COVID levels, remains to be seen in so many respects, but we're going to reach that equilibrium at some state of affairs which will serve as a proxy for how much space occupiers truly need," Leibowitz said.
Data tracked through the census and cell phone pings, showing where people go, reveals Austin is leading the country in office employment growth, adding almost 70,000 office jobs between February 2020 and August 2022.
Leibowitz said because students are back in class, data predicts office spaces should fill back up.
"This is the number one thing office CEOs point to, your students are back in school, you're going back to the office and in the past, employees had leverage, and they'd say, you know what, great, if you're forcing me to work in the office 3 to 5 days a week, I'm just going to go to a different organization because of the labor market being so employee favorable. In the current environment, that is now more and more firmly in the rearview mirror," Leibowitz said.
He said tech industry workers have remained at home, but banking, finance, insurance, and others are heading back into the office which should help the bed rocks of the local economy.
"The greater return to office efforts are and the broader economy of cities at large, the greater the likelihood of a more vibrant neighborhood across retail experiences, think about shopping malls, retail corridors, and so forth, but also unique areas of interest such as hospitality, recreation, and tourist destinations," Leibowitz said.
Austin resident Will Ramirez said he wants to stay working at home.
"I was super distracted all the time because there was just so much happening. Working from home it's super quiet, I can just kind of work at my own pace and really zone in on things when I need to really focus and get work done," Ramirez said.
Meanwhile, Austin resident Chase Propst currently works from home but said he wants to be back in the office.
"At first it was fun, but now I'm tired of it," Propst said.
The data showed demand for office space remained strong, and development activity has, too with 6.2 million square feet of office product currently under construction.