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Americans Return To Restaurants, Movie Theaters At Higher Rate Than Offices
Markets Open After Losing Ground On Wednesday NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 20: People walk past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on January 20, 2022 in New York City. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up over 200 points in morning trading following days of declines. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Spencer Platt / Staff
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A recent report revealed that many Americans are going to restaurants and taking part in sports events while a lot of them are still staying away from the office, instead opting for remote work. 

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Thousands of companies that closed their offices in March 2020 have yet to announce return plans. An average of 33% of the workforce returned to the office during the first week of February in the 10 major cities monitored by Kastle Systems, which records building-access-card swipes.”

The amount has been slowly going up from 23% in the first week of January when some companies told employees to go home due to health concerns. Late Monday, Kastle noted that the workplace return rate for the second week in February went down a small amount from the first week. The number is still not close to the high point of 41% in the first week of December prior to the surge of the Omicron variant. This remains true for cities like New York which is experiencing an infection rate close to the amount it experienced prior to Omicron.

At the same time, the return rate to movie theaters during the first week of February was at 58% of what it was prior to the pandemic, per a Kastle analysis of industry statistics, according to the Journal. Restaurants were almost three-quarters as full as they were prior to the pandemic, and air travel had come to around 80%. “Attendance at National Basketball Association games was 93% of what it was in February 2020, Kastle said,” per the Journal.

“There’s a huge divergence between the ways that people are coming together in the other parts of their lives and the way they aren’t in the office,” said Mark Ein, Kastle Systems chairman.

The return to the workplace doesn’t just affect the companies whose employees might prefer to work from home, but it also has an impact on the businesses who rely on busy downtown activity. Tens of thousands of small businesses around the country depend on employees who work in offices and commuters as their customers. 

“In Manhattan, about 10 to 15 customers a day pass through the First Class Barber Shop near Grand Central Terminal. Before the pandemic, the daily average was 50 to 60, said the owner, Nikita Shimunov. He has cut his staff from five to three, but he will still have to consider closing unless his landlord agrees to renegotiate his rent,” the Journal noted. 

“I pray every day,” he said.

Politicians are even starting to weigh in on the dilemma.

“Business leaders, tell everybody to come back,” recently said New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) in comments to a civic organization. “Give them a bonus to burn the Zoom app and come on back to work.”

Some businesses have stated renewed return dates while others are unsure if they should implement a vaccine mandate for workers. Many employees appear to prefer the flexibility of working from home, making executives reportedly anxious to require them to return to the office in the midst of a labor shortage. While there is some concern that remote working could alter a company’s culture, some studies have also revealed that employees are just as, or even more, productive when they don’t work in an office setting. 

As The Daily Wire reported last month, “The Wall Street Journal reported on the mindsets and priorities of many employees, noting that more are interested in a flexible work schedule than the physical location of where they work.” 

The Journal reported, “Ninety-five percent of people surveyed want flexible hours, compared with 78% of workers who want location flexibility, according to a new report from Future Forum, a consortium focused on reimagining the future of work led by Slack Technologies Inc.”

The data was gathered in November 2021 from a survey of more than 10,000 “knowledge workers.”

The information also showed that 72% of employees who weren’t content with their job’s flexibility on time or physical location would probably look for a different option in the next year. 

The Future Forum survey also discovered that people doing their work in a hybrid form of splitting time between a remote spot and an office went up 12 percentage points since May. “More than two-thirds of those surveyed said a hybrid setup was their preferred way of working,” the Journal noted. 

Some executives worry about how a hybrid working environment could have negative effects on certain groups of workers at a company, “especially women, working mothers and people of color, who when surveyed said they were more likely to prefer flexible arrangements,” the Journal added. 

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