White-collar workers in the U.K. returned to their offices last week in numbers not seen since the start of the pandemic as the vaccination rollout continues and lockdown restrictions ease.

Office occupancy levels across the U.K. topped 40 per cent Tuesday through Thursday last week, reaching a high of 45 per cent on Wednesday, according to data from Metrikus. That’s higher than any point since the 72 per cent recorded on March 12, 2020, shortly before the government urged the public to move to working remotely.

Embedded Image

The Metrikus data is based on sensors installed at large office buildings in the U.K.’s biggest cities, which track daily entries. The proportion of these workers heading back to the office has surpassed the peaks they reached in the fall, when the government also attempted to soften lockdown measures before infections spiked.

The new numbers come as companies grapple to anticipate how many people will want to return to the office and how to accommodate those who do, with companies from PricewaterhouseCoopers to Standard Chartered Plc ushering in a new age of flexible working.

Working Habits

“The steady growth in the index seems to show that the gradual lifting of restrictions has slowly increased the appetite for some workers to return to the office,” said Michael Grant, chief operations officer at Metrikus. “There’s a major opportunity to do more work to understand what impact the pandemic has had on working habits,” he said.

Employers will have to adapt to strong preferences among workers about which days to head to the office, with Tuesday and Wednesday alternating as the most popular choices. Companies may need to consider incentives for employees to travel into work on Fridays on the other hand, which are consistently the least popular day of the week, said Grant.

The Metrikus data bears that preference out. Last week, attendance fell to 32 per cent on Friday, down a quarter from Thursday.