A year into the pandemic, it’s easy to look back and remember offices being these bustling hubs that were fully utilized before COVID-19 struck.

But that’s not the case, according to a new report from VergeSense, which measures more than 40 million square feet of real estate globally.

VergeSense found that offices were only 30% utilized pre-pandemic. In Jan 2021, the average utilization was at 7.9%. 

At the same time, there has been a 15% increase in the use of office space for collaboration during the pandemic, according to VergeSense. While 20% of overall utilization was for collaborative work in early 2020, 23% of overall utilization was for collaborative work in early 2021.

Before the pandemic, 83% of office space was allocated to individual work and 17% was dedicated to collaborative work. However, collaborative spaces were 25% more utilized than those for individual work. Only 28% of space dedicated to individual work was utilized pre-pandemic, while 35% of space dedicated to collaborative work was used pre-pandemic.

VergeSense says that space allocation was designed for 9-to-5 employees who had no option to work elsewhere. The ideal situation going forward is to create a system where individual workspace can be variable. “Offices will likely double down on optimized-yet-safe reallocation of desk space in order to assign the remaining real estate to space types that might be more useful—or better, especially attractive for employees returning to the office,” according to VergeSense.

There are signs that companies are already considering alternative strategies, such as hot desks. Green Street, for example, predicts more hot desking and shared arrangements, with 10% to 15% of desks expected to head in this direction.

In general companies are taking their time to reassess their overall strategies, especially with many still locked into long-term leases. WFH strategies are still shaking out and it is looking likely that while many companies will scale back on some space it will not be as much as had been feared earlier. Also, companies are still signing long-term leases but are doing so at lower rates, which is also having an impact on planning.