Companies that have been rolling out return-to-office mandates since the beginning of this year are getting more serious about enforcing them. Last week, a Google executive told employees that office attendance records will be considered in their annual performance reviews. This follows Google calling workers back to the office three days a week in April. The big tech firm will also reportedly send reminders to employees who have frequent office absences. Another major office occupier, AT&T, last week asked 60,000 of its employees to return to in-office work at one of the company’s nine offices, despite the fact that around 9,000 of those employees do not live near one of the offices. The move was thought by some to be a round of layoffs in disguise, by either forcing employees to relocate or resign. And still other big employers, like BlackRock, Disney, and Chipotle, are requiring employees to be back in the office four days a week.
Employers tightening up their return-to-office mandates comes at a time when the country’s office market is seriously struggling, due not in small part to remote work trends. A large number of the world’s biggest employers are planning to shed office space within the next few years, a recent survey found. And recent data has shown a rise in the number of distressed sales, as some office property owners have looked to offload their buildings at a discount. But there was some good news recently, when new data came out showing that office occupancy nationally surpassed 50 percent for the first time since early March of this year. While office occupancy is on the uptick overall, occupancy rates are still nowhere near where office owners and tenants want them to be. Maybe the stronger enforcement of office mandates like we’ve been seeing lately could help change that.