WFH, Productivity, and Evolving Preferences

With worker productivity weakening, business leaders are calling for employees to return to in-person work. The WSJ recently reported recently reported that many employers are recognizing these challenges and requiring in-person work: “Some 72.5% of business establishments said their employees teleworked rarely or not at all last year, according to a Labor Department report. That figure climbed from 60.1% in 2021. The survey showed about 21 million more workers on-site full time in 2022, compared with the prior year.”

Employees, too, are acknowledging the importance of interpersonal connections at work. According to Fast Company, that’s especially true within the Gen Z workforce: “People have claimed that Gen Z workers are ‘quiet quitting’… No, a lack of work ethic isn’t to blame—but a lack of interpersonal connection and belonging in the workplace may very well be.”

Many companies are reducing their office footprints, but there are plenty of promising signs for the long-term stability of Chicago’s CBD:

  • Increased Foot Traffic

    For the first time since the pandemic, more than half of Chicago’s workforce has returned to the office. Chicago has now surpassed other major markets including New York and Los Angeles as employers reestablish pre-pandemic workplace policies and emphasize the need for collaborative office space.

  • Public Transit Use

    CTA ridership increased by nearly 25% through 2022, and Metra ridership jumped by 42% in the same timeframe. Even though public transit usage remains below pre-pandemic levels, the consistent increase in commuters coupled with higher levels of foot-traffic are positives for the Loop’s economy.

    Source: CBS Chicago

  • Federal Legislation

    Federal workers returning to the office could be the first step to bringing government employees of all levels back for in-person work, which could help restore life to Chicago’s struggling Central Loop. More than 80% of government office space in Chicago is located in this submarket.

    Source: CoStar

  • Google’s Commitment to Chicago

    Even though Google is reducing their overall office footprint nationally, they are expanding their presence in Chicago by purchasing the 1-million square foot Thompson Center in the Central Loop. Chicago remains a top location for growth in the eyes of Google, citing untapped tech talent and the extensive public transit system as two main drivers of their decision.

    Source: CoStar

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