NEW YORK - Cubicle culture is nothing like it used to be, and according to a new study it will be a while before office workers in Manhattan are back at their desks.
"This is not a statement that New York is not going to come back strong, the question is when," said Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO Partnership for NYC.
The group is a non-profit representing the business community. It surveyed companies with one million employees in Manhattan and found that only 10% of office workers in the borough have returned, only a slight increase from 8% in August.
Only 15% are expected back in their offices by the end of the year.
Real estate has been the most aggressive industry in bringing employees back to the office - 73% have already returned.
Wylde said they began surveying companies in May and since then the total number of employees expected to return has steadily decreased.
"What we've discovered in this last survey in October is that the conditions on COVID, the recurrence, the hot spots in Brooklyn and Queens, have really shaken people and has slowed what people thought would be a more aggressive return to the office," she explained.
Haylie Baker, who works at a tech start-up based in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, is still working from her bedroom in the East Village. She said it can be tough some days, but she's not ready to head back anytime soon.
"Personally, I'm not really rushing it because I don't really want to take the subway right now. I'd rather be safe and working from home has been very doable and it's kind of just a routine now," Baker said.
Joseph Tighe, though, is one of the small percentage of New Yorkers who has returned to an office. He said it's been smooth sailing so far.
"The increased cleaning in the office definitely makes me feel a lot more comfortable being here and in the space all day long, seeing people out on the subways that are adhering to PPE, that makes me a lot more comfortable as well," said Tighe.
The Partnership analysis found that factors influencing a return to the office include public transit safety as well as schools reopening and the availability of childcare. But, 87% of the employers surveyed said the status of the virus itself is the number one concern.
"The availability of a vaccine is very important. I think that will be the key to unlocking this situation," said Wylde.
The Partnership plans to do another survey early next year to see if city workers are more optimistic, or less.