Mar 30, 2022 - News

Downtown D.C.'s return-to-office lags region

Office occupancy rates in Washington, D.C., area
Data: Kastle. Chart: Will Chase/Axios

As the District contemplates how to emerge from the pandemic, its office occupancy rate continues to trail the rest of the region.

Why it matters: Where and how people work have major implications for the look and feel and vibrancy of our cityscape, from where people choose to buy lunch (and who gets to collect the tax dollars from those purchases) to the impact on Metro.

By the numbers: More workers are back in the office right now than at any point in the pandemic, according to data from Kastle Systems, which tracks key fob data from thousands of buildings and businesses. But it’s nowhere near pre-pandemic levels.

  • D.C. office occupancy is at 36%, compared to over 39% in both northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, according to Kastle.
  • The three areas were on par before the pandemic.

What they’re saying: Kastle’s chair Mark Ein tells Axios that downtown D.C. is underperforming due to several factors, including the large number of federal jobs still remote.

Zoom in: One big Washington industry that has slowly started bringing vaccinated employees back into the office is K Street.

  • Hogan Lovells, a firm that has over 1,000 workers in its D.C. office, implemented a hybrid work policy at the beginning of the month.
  • Holland & Knight, which has about 300 D.C. employees, started its new hybrid policy this week. Lawyers, advisers, paralegals, and legal support personnel are spending about 50% of their time working in person.

What’s next: The city council's Special Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery votes today on a report of recommendations to “support the trend of moving away from one central, downtown business district, toward the creation of many dense, vibrant, mixed-use zones throughout the District.”

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