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Office occupancy climbs as pandemic moves further in the rear view

By Kyle Robbins
02 June 2022 | 1 minute read

After two years of working from home being normality, May saw office workers slowly filter back into the capital city central business districts.

Across the country, there was a considerable increase in the number of workers who returned to the office, according to the latest Office Occupancy survey conducted between 23 and 30 May by the Property Council of Australia.

Adelaide led the way with occupancy rates in the South Australian capital reported as 71 per cent for May, with peak days increasing to 80 per cent, followed by Brisbane, which experienced a significant jump from 39 per cent in April to 60 per cent, while Perth rose to 63 per cent and Brisbane 64 per cent. 

Both Sydney (55 per cent) and Melbourne (48 per cent) lagged behind the rest of the nation’s capitals, although the report does dictate that Sydney’s peak days hit 66 per cent occupancy. 

The figures highlight the significant shift undertaken throughout the country since the peak of the Omicron variant in January, when Perth was the only capital to record above a 13 per cent occupancy. 

Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said the results were a pleasing sign that “more individuals and workplaces are embracing the benefits of face-to-face connection and the CBDs are regaining much of their vibrancy”.

Noting that “this positive lift has occurred at a time when COVID and now the flu are circulating widely, forcing many people and families to stay home or isolate, on top of some extremely wet weather on the east coast”.

The council anticipates that the trend will continue to grow, even as working-from-home arrangements become a permanent fixture of professional life going forwards. Adding that 50 per cent of respondents to the Office Occupancy survey believe it would be a minimum of three months or more before occupancy levels materially increase.

“Many businesses and building owners are embracing change and evolving the role of the workplace for their teams,” he said. “It is clear that CBDs will continue to have a very strong role to play in a post COVID world, even as businesses and their employees evolve to new ways of working.”

This claim is supported by its latest Office Market Report detailing the demand for office spaces has risen simultaneously with occupancy rates. National CBD markets saw office demand lift by 1 per cent, while non-CBDs experienced a 0.7 increase. 

Mr Morrison said: “These are a striking set of figures which illustrate that the office is alive and well in today’s economy, even as the pandemic changes how we use workplaces.

“The reality is that most CBD businesses continue to see the office as integral to their future, and that is reflected in increased demand for office space over the past six months.”

Office occupancy climbs as pandemic moves further in the rear view
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