Majority of Houston businesses have some workers returning some of the time

Offices remain half-full due to hybrid work models


Texas is leading the return-to-work race. It’s also an early indicator of what that return might look like in the rest of the country.

In Houston, 85 percent of companies have employees who are returning to their offices or who are planning to do so, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Just not all employees all the time.

With many companies implementing hybrid work strategies, the average Houston worker is showing up at the office about 10.7 days a month, compared with 17 before the pandemic, according to an analysis of Central Houston.

Despite the small office crowds, Texans are lining up at restaurants, basketball games and other traditional gathering spots outside of work.

Texas offers a glimpse into what the return-to-office movement might look like in other cities across the country as the year progresses. Even as Covid infection rates drop and more companies lure employees back to their desks, offices may remain well below capacity.

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​​“It’s hard to imagine, when you look at office workers who can do their jobs remotely, that those numbers are going to get above 60 percent to 65 percent nationwide,” said Brian Kropp, chief of human-resources research for advisory and research firm Gartner. “This is just the remote hybrid future. We have kind of arrived.”

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While most of Houston and the rest of Texas are satisfied with the new hybrid world, for landlords, things just keep getting worse. Some were optimistic that companies would opt for more space to allow for social distancing in case of future outbreaks. Instead, companies that signed leases during the pandemic have downsized their workspace because of their new work schedules.

Overall, the state boasts some of the highest back-to-work rates in the nation. Texas’ low reliance on public transportation and decision to keep public schools open through most of the pandemic have paved the way for more workers to return to the office. However, the state’s dependence on cars left it vulnerable to sky-high gas prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Workers, especially those who have lower incomes, are pushing back against return-to-office plans.

“The viewpoint from a lot of employers is, ‘Yes. Go ahead. It’s totally fine to keep working from home as gas prices rise,’” Mr. Kropp said.

Even if gas prices return to normal levels, Houston’s return-to-office rate may well hit a ceiling hindering it from reaching pre-pandemic levels, says Central Houston’s chief executive, Kristopher Larson.

[Wall Street Journal] – Maddy Sperling