Austin companies navigate new world of working remote vs. 5 days in office

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Last year, companies in the Austin area had to adjust and figure out how to shut down their offices and send their employees home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, more and more employers are dealing with workers who got a taste of working remotely and may want to continue their current situation. Companies are pushing to bring people back to the office, but the traditional commute looks different.

As life is back to booming in downtown Austin, Thursday has become the new Monday for people commuting into downtown with some work location freedom.

“We noticed that trend in the market where people want flexibility and don’t want to be in the office five days a week,” Sales Director for Firmspace Alex Gold said.

Firmspace Austin co-working space
Co-working space in downtown Austin (Kaitlyn Karmout/KXAN)

Gold said more businesses are pulling out of their long-term leases or owned office spaces, eliminating the large overhead costs and moving toward co-working spaces. Business at Firmspace has picked up in the last couple of months.

“We really noticed when we hit April and May… when we went from 75% to 90% in just six weeks to two months. Then, in June, we were at full capacity,” Gold said.

Create Scape owner Keller Davis, another co-working space, saw a similar rise.

“There have been five different companies who have done the exact same thing,” said Davis.

David Putman, who works for the commercial real estate company Aquila, said a lot of companies are dealing with lingering uncertainty, but professionals looking for flexibility are finding they have options.

“In some cases, people have moved. They aren’t even in the same city where they once worked,” said Putman. “That’s going to be interesting to see how that unfolds.”

Even so, Downtown Austin Alliance said there are fewer office spaces available than there were during the first quarter of 2021.

“There is an increased interest in people looking to sign office leases,” Vice President of Urban Design with Downtown Austin Alliance Michele Van Hyfte said.

Numbers show the occupancy rate for downtown Austin right now is down nearly 20% from pre-pandemic levels. For Austin as a whole, it’s down almost 8%.

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