Office Occupancy in Cities Return Back to New Normal

Office Occupancy in Cities Return Back to New Normal

As revealed by the Property Council of Australia’s survey report, there has been a big step up in activity in the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne despite the cities still lagging behind other capitals.

Seats in CBD workplaces are gradually be filled as employees returning to their offices more often. The return of workers to their CBD offices is mostly being felt by small businesses that rely on foot traffic within the city.

In April 2021, Sydney’s CBD made a progress by rising to 59% occupancy after recording 50% in March. Melbourne’s CBD also moved from 35% to 41% occupancy. All other capitals showed a relatively consistent number of workers returning to their offices from March to April, with Perth CBD’s occupancy affected by the recent snap lockdown, according to the Property Council of Australia’s latest survey of some of the country’s largest office landlords.

Chief executive Ken Morrison stated that “The benefits of bustling CBDs are significant, not just for the small businesses that rely on city foot traffic, but for the broader Australian economy”..

 “Melbourne and Sydney have been the cities hardest hit by the COVID-19 disruption and it is encouraging to see the big number of workers returning to these CBDs in recent months.”

Mr Morrison also stated that “Flexibility will continue to be a major feature of working in the post-pandemic world, but there is clearly still a long way to go until our CBDs reach the levels of occupancy anticipated in the new normal.”

Almost half of survey respondents identified worker preferences for greater flexibility as the main barrier to achieving full occupancy. About 50 per cent of white-collar workers will spend two days working from home, according to QIC Global Real Estate.

Investa, one of the country’s larger office tower landlords, is taking an optimistic view on occupancy, after completing a deep dive into building use by analyzing the turnstile data from a major CBD building between 2014 and 2018.

The building in the study had 4800 work-points, yet the average number of employees over the four years’ of data collection showed an average peak attendance on an average day of about 3500 people, or 73 per cent of its apparent capacity.

In Melbourne, the Property Council has launched FOMO Fridays in conjunction with the City of Melbourne and the Australian Retailers Association. In Brisbane, the Fridays in the City initiative will bring together reactivation efforts in partnership with Brisbane City Council and other CBD stakeholders. Similar initiatives are in development in other capitals.

Mr Morrison said These campaigns are aimed at encouraging city workers to rediscover what’s great about their CBDs with numerous activities, events and freebies on offer,” 

The below report is based on responses from Property Council members who own or manage CBD office buildings and cover occupancy for the period from 27 – 30 April 2021.

CBDJan 2021Feb 2021Mar 2021Apr 2021

These initiatives proposed by the PCA and its partners are indeed the very leadership activities needed to bring about change from today’s CBD workplace participation but will they work. We think so at least in part such that in the absence of a broad change in mindset on employee return to the office workplace by authorities, owners and Employers the final incentive will be jobs & careers, the question is how long before this card is played on workers.


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