The recovery in activity in London’s offices and hotels after the pandemic lockdowns lagged behind many rival European cities in 2022, according to data that measure the use of lifts in buildings.

Offices and hotels in Amsterdam showed the largest increases in elevator usage last year, research by Finnish elevator company Kone found. London offices were ranked fifth in terms of how much the use of lifts rose during the year, and its hotels came tenth.

Data on elevator journeys are used as a proxy of activity levels in commercial buildings such as offices and hotels. The figures will add to worries among some policymakers and landlords over the slow return of workers to British companies’ offices.

The average number of journeys per office elevator increased 56 per cent over 2022 in London, but this compared with a doubling of use in Amsterdam, and a stronger rebound in Milan, Stockholm and Helsinki. Cities that reported a higher rise in the use of lifts in hotels over the year included Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Helsinki, Hamburg, Stockholm, Milan and Paris.

The Kone data set covered elevator journeys taken in offices and hotels in big European cities from January to November 2022. It excluded December, when London was also hit by strikes and elevator use fell again sharply.

Using the full-year figures, London recorded the lowest increase in lift usage against all 10 major European cities. The city was still one of the busiest in terms of overall activity, however, even if the growth through the year was less pronounced.

Bar chart of Change in elevator journeys, Q4 2022 vs Q1 2022, % showing The rebound in activity in London is lagging other European cities

The Financial Times last month asked more than 60 financial and professional services firms for their permanent plans over office use, with many now opting to leave it to the employee or team to decide when it makes most sense to come together in an office. Others, however, are taking a stronger line in enforcing guidance over how many minimum days staff are required to be in their buildings.

The responses showed that Tuesday to Thursday were now the typical days in the office for many British workers, a point supported by travel data from Transport for London.

A sharp fall in the number of workers commuting to London offices on Mondays and Fridays has dented overall occupancy.

According to Remit Consulting, which has been monitoring occupancy levels throughout the pandemic, offices in the capital are still only about a third-full on average — half their pre-Covid level.

As well as structural changes to working patterns, London offices have been affected by domestic issues that some European cities have avoided.

A combination of strikes and Christmas holidays pushed occupancy levels down to just 3.9 per cent in the final week of 2022, according to Remit.

“Office occupancy rates in the last few weeks of 2022 were driven by another set of exceptional circumstances, with a series of rail strikes prompting a slump in the figures from the middle of the month,” said Lorna Landells, a consultant at Remit.

The Kone data showed that tourists and office workers steadily returned to European cities throughout 2022.

Tessina Czerwinski, director of smart and sustainable cities at Kone, said: “Seeing positive growth in workplace elevator activity across Europe is an encouraging sign of cities bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels of urban usage.”

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