Asia Greatly Surpasses West In Return-to-office

Asia Greatly Surpasses West In Return-to-office

ASIA PACIFIC – While companies in the US and Europe struggle to lure their workers back to the office, the matter is already settled in Asia as many white-collar employees in Singapore and Hong Kong have willingly returned to their workplace, reported Fortune magazine on Wednesday evening (29 June, SGT).

Based on a March survey of 150 companies in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region by property consultancy CBRE, 38 percent of firms expect their staff to be in the office full-time. Another 24 percent expect their employees to be in the office most of the time.

On the other hand, a survey of 185 office tenants in the US showed that only 5 percent expect their workers to be back in the office full-time, while 32 percent expect their staff to be in the office most of the time.

“Compared to the US, it’s pretty much back to the office from Japan all the way down to Australia,” said Henry Chin, Research Head for Asia Pacific at CBRE.

In Singapore, employees are mostly back in their workplace, with commuting volume just 14 percent below pre-pandemic rates, according to Google mobility data. In rival financial hub Hong Kong, commuting levels have fully recovered to what they were in January 2020, and the time residents are spending at work has rebounded faster than time spent at shopping centres, beaches, or parks.

Conversely, commuting level in London is at 35 percent below pre-pandemic levels, while that in Manhattan is at 45 percent below COVID levels.

One reason for the disparity is that Asian homes tend to be smaller due to their expensive price. An average flat in Hong Kong, which is deemed as the priciest residential market in the world, is 430 sq ft and priced around US$1.3 million, while the average apartment size in the US is 882 sq ft.

“One factor pushing down Asian levels of work-from-home, particularly in places like Hong Kong, is that apartment sizes are smaller,” explained Nicholas Bloom, an Economics Professor at Stanford University and a co-founder of Working From Home Research.

Having small living spaces can make working from home more difficult and sharing the space with loved ones aggravates the situation. In Hong Kong, about 75 percent of millennials still live with their parents, as per the Urban Research Group of City University of Hong Kong. Young Singaporeans often live with their parents too, as those under the age of 35 can’t access public housing unless they marry.

“There were people begging to come back into the office. Some snuck into the office, just to get some peace of mind, just so they could be out of the house,” added a manager at a multinational insurance firm in Hong Kong who requested anonymity.

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