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Mobility: Is New Normal the Old Normal?

Why Revisit Mobility Trends?

It’s been a while since we last looked more comprehensively at German mobility data. At the time we did so, because in times of the COVID19 shock, we (and many others) were grasping for straws in order to get our head around the short term economic impact of the pandemic. One source of near-time high-frequency information was mobility data. With COVID19’s grip on the economy loosening, our interest in mobility data research decreased as well. Furthermore, the war in Ukraine is currently the biggest source of economic uncertainty, hopefully not much longer though. Our research focus has shifted accordingly (see our Ukraine Research Special with more than 50 infographics already). The war also means that even if mobility is back to normal, the economy might still lag behind.

Nonetheless, a few recent incidents prompted us to revisit German mobility trends:

  • First, we had our most intense travelling/event weeks in more than two years. We went to the OMR /FinanceFWD conference in Hamburg, which happened to overlap with BaFin’s “BaFinTech” conference in Berlin, which we visited afterwards. Then we went to two events in our own neighborhood Düsseldorf, including Börsen-Zeitung’s 70th anniversary celebration. As you can see, we are moving a lot and considering the very crowded trains, other people are as well.
  • Secondly, Dirk Elsner, a well-travelled business friend, shared his scepticism about surveys claiming that most Germans are still working from home, pointing to overly crowded trains via Twitter.

Data Caveat:
Google mobility data shows the difference to „normal“ defined as the median for each weekday from 3 January to 6 February 2020. We admit that this is a pretty short period for a statistical baseline, but this is the best we get. In addition, we understand the data as being neither seasonally nor calendar day adjusted, which can explain certain big swings you find in it. In order to mitigate these distortions, we calculate 7-day rolling averages while smoothing peaks and troughs. Therefore, underlying trends show up more clearly.

German Mobility is Back to Normal!

Google is providing mobility data for six categories, all of which are back to normal on our analysis. The only exception is Park mobility, which is highly above „normal“ levels, but this is largely a function of sun hours and temperature. Grocery and Retail mobility on the other hand is back to normal or even slightly better.

Is the Home Office Then Dead Already?

Below we show Work mobility, meaning how many people are in typical office places, and Transit mobility, which measures how many people are at transit places such as bus stops or train stations. It is fairly evident, that both categories are almost back to normal. Normalising mobility is also confirmed by lower residential mobility, meaning fewer people are at home. This seems like an obvious consequence of being back at the office.

That makes us wonder if post COVID19 home office (or remote work) strategies of many companies are more talk than walk, or if employees are so eager to get back into the office and away from home that they don’t care.

Search Interest for „Suits“ Increases Dramatically Too…

The above findings also nicely fit with earlier research of us indicating the comeback of the suit. We would argue that a new suit is required if old suits do not fit anymore and the return to the office requires more formal clothing and therefore a new one…