But now some executives are opening their office doors, propelled by the easing of Covid restrictions and falling cases. Office occupancy across the country reached a pandemic peak of 40% in December, fell due to the Omicron variant, then started to rise again, reaching 38% this month, according to data from the company. Kastle security. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, American Express, Meta, Microsoft, Ford Motor and Citigroup are just a few of the companies that are beginning to bring workers back.
When more than 700 people answered recent questions from The Times about returning to their desks, as well as in interviews with more than two dozen of them, there were myriad reasons why people preferred working at home, in addition to Covid safety concerns. They mentioned sunlight, sweatpants, quality time with the kids, quality time with the cats, more hours to read and run, space to hide the day’s anxiety or a lousy year. But the most debated was about workplace culture.
“There’s no point going back to the office if we’re just going back to the old boys’ club,” said Keren Gifford, 37, an information technology worker in Pittsburgh who has not yet been forced to return to his office. “What a relief to not have to go day after day, week after week, and fail to make friends and have fun.”
Many, like Ms Gifford, realized they felt like they had spent their careers in spaces built for someone else. Take something as simple as temperature. Most building thermostats follow a model developed in the 1960s that takes into account, among other factors, the resting metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. This left women to spend their pre-pandemic years filling cubicles with shawls, heaters and blankets they could burrow into “like a burrito”.
Some even kept their desks full of mittens, like Marissa Stein, 37, a staff member of an environmental nonprofit. Once Mrs Stein started working remotely, she was able to set her home temperature to 68 degrees, a compromise between her husband’s cooler preferences and her own.
“Sometimes I’ll sneak up to 70 when my husband isn’t careful,” she said.
But that’s just the smallest example of how the office has been physically designed to meet the needs of a very specific type of worker.