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Boston-Area Employers Share Return-to-Office Plans

More than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of businesses worldwide, many employers remain uncertain about when employees will return to the office full time. A recent survey of more than a dozen major Boston employers reveals that many have pushed back return-to-office plans until much later this year. Even as vaccine distributions are ramping up, many employers remain cautious about bringing all employees together again under one roof just yet. Employers in the survey employ more than 400,000 people across Greater Boston, and their responses suggest that it’ll be some time before things return to normal for office workers – if they ever do.

Boston Return to Office

In January, demand for office space across the Boston area was lower than in previous years. Momentum has yet to pick up, and it is unclear when things will improve. Quarter over quarter, demand for Boston offices is down by 21%; year over year, demand is down by 67%. Some big employers have already taken steps to reduce their office footprints drastically. Raytheon Technologies, for example, recently announced that it would shed millions of square feet of unneeded office space – partly because of the pandemic and partly because of its recent merger with United Technologies Corp.

Even as many millions of square feet of office space remain unoccupied across the city, several additional office projects are currently proposed or underway. These include a 23-story office tower in Downtown Crossing, 401 Congress Street in the Seaport and the $1.3 billion Winthrop Center development. Many prominent local employers, including Tufts Health Plan, State Street Corp. and Sanofi, have been devoting vast amounts of time, energy, and money to developing new headquarters buildings in the area. This suggests that the glut of unused office space could be even more significant than anticipated in the months to come.

To understand the different ways that major Boston employers are grappling with return-to-office plans, here’s a quick rundown of what a few of them said:

As you can see, employers are all over the place when it comes to bringing workers back to the office. Therefore, there’s no way to predict when Boston’s office space market will go into true recovery mode.