Despite COVID-19 outbreaks over the holiday period, the “back to office” momentum is building across Australia’s CBDs, a new survey has shown.
The latest survey of CBD occupancy by the Property Council of Australia showed that nearly all capital city CBDs were busier in January compared to December as more office workers return to their workplaces.
The data revealed that Melbourne saw the highest rise in occupancy, doubling from 13 per cent before Christmas to 31 per cent in the week after Australia Day.
Sydney, meanwhile, maintained a 45 per cent occupancy rate from December to January despite the recent lockdown in the Northern Beaches.
Among the contributing factors to increased CBD occupancy were “a drop in government public health restrictions and reduced safety concerns”, the survey identified.
On the other hand, worker preferences for greater flexibility was recorded as the top reason preventing a rebound to pre-COVID levels of occupancy.
According to Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison, the increasing number of CBD workers coming back to their offices ultimately points to a continuous recovery for the national economy.
“While we have a long way to go to get back to pre-COVID levels, increased CBD occupancy is a godsend for the thousands of businesses that rely on bustling city centres to survive,” Mr Morrison commented.
“Our CBDs support millions of jobs and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity.”
Of all capital cities, only Perth and Darwin saw a decline in their occupancy rates over the same period.
Perth went from 77 per cent in December to 66 per cent in January following the recent five-day snap lockdown, while Darwin saw a slight drop from 82 per cent to 80 per cent.
Despite the drop, Darwin does currently hold the record for highest office occupancy at 80 per cent, alongside Hobart.
Moving forward, office building owners and managers do expect a significant increase in occupancy levels to take place over the next one to two months.
With more people seeking to come back to their offices as public health restrictions are scaled down, building owners and managers “have been working tirelessly to ensure workplaces are COVID safe and support tenant businesses in returning to full productivity”, according to Mr Morrison.
“The mission for policymakers, employers and the property industry over the coming months will be to maintain momentum and ensure our CBDs return to full activity as quickly as possible,” the chief executive concluded.