Bay Area kids are back in classrooms, but when will parents go back to the office?

Stephanie Sierra Image
Friday, August 20, 2021
50% of SF companies are 'partially' back in the office, data shows
"We were expecting after Labor Day, there would be a large contingent of workers that would return to work, but the new Delta variant has caused us to reassess that number."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Students are back in the classroom, so are parents heading back to the office?

After a long year and a half, students across the Bay Area are leaving their virtual Zoom classrooms at home and finally stepping into a real one. The question is, will parents follow suit? How many employees are actually going back into the office in San Francisco?

BACK TO SCHOOL: Challenges, concerns and solutions for this school year

"Our arithmetic tells us less than 20% of employees are back to work in the entire financial district," said Clint Reilly, the owner of a commercial real estate firm in San Francisco leasing space to companies in the hospitality, media, finance and tech industries.

"Originally we were expecting after Labor Day, there would be a large contingent of workers that would return to work, but the new Delta variant has caused us to reassess that number."

So how many companies are physically back in the office?

"I would say part time, 50% are back in the office to some extent, but again, it's not full time," said Robert Sammons, a senior researcher for commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield. "It's not five days a week necessarily."

Cushman and Wakefield is one of the largest commercial real estate firms in San Francisco and overseeing 85 million square feet in inventory. Sammons says 60% of their clients are tech companies and most of them aren't planning to return to the office until January.

"Tech firms have been a bit slower in getting back to the office," said Sammons. "The big players have delayed their return because of the Delta variant. But, we see that ticking up by the end of the year and by 2022."

WATCH: Bay Area school districts push for in-person learning despite fears around Delta variant

Many parents want their kids in a remote learning program, but most schools are limiting that program to a very small number of students.

Tech giants Facebook and Amazon announced employees won't return until Jan. 3 Google pushed back their return date to Oct. 18 and Twitter just closed down its city offices in late July due to concerns over the Delta variant. Sammons says none of these big tech companies are terminating any lease agreements, which signals parts of downtown may continue to feel empty until January.

"Our vacancy rate is still clearly elevated," he said. "But, we see that improving next year and the mid-part of the decade."

The city's unemployment rate has declined slightly this year from 6.2% in January to 5.4% in April, according to data compiled from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. But Reilly says compared to other major cities, we have work to do.

"For instance more than 40% of the workers are back in New York City," he said. "San Francisco is really lagging the country in terms of the number of people who've returned to work."

A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post found nearly one in three U.S. workers under the age of 40 has considered changing careers or their field of work since the pandemic began.

"Are you getting a sense of fear from these companies, given what we're all going through?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

RELATED: COVID outbreaks in CA workplaces more than doubled between June and July, data shows

"Not really," Sammons said. "I think we've been through so much over the past two years, we are more or less learning to live with it."

Most of Cushman and Wakefield's clients that have returned to the office part time include companies in the professional business sector like law firm and accounting agencies.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.

VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

Having trouble loading the tracker above? Click here to open it in a new window.