sydney harbour bridge night time grey out
Image – Canva.
  • Prior to current lockdown, Melbourne office occupancy very low
  • Sydney had strong recovery post-Northern Beaches lockdown
  • Occupancies generally not improving

Since the start of this year, hopes were that office occupancy would make a healthy comeback.

Late in March, The Property Council of Australia (PCA) figures showed Melbourne jumped from 27% to 39% in occupancy, while most other cities only showed marginal changes, a variation of 5% or less.

The April figures boded well for Sydney, the city saw a 9% jump in occupancy to 65%.

The Property Tribune also reported that for the month of April, Brisbane’s office occupancy levels were ‘subdued’, with concerns raised over the overall health of the CBD given that:

“All businesses in the CBD are interrelated and largely reliant on office workers. From dry cleaners, to take away outlets, to electronic scooter companies, everyone relies on the consistent foot traffic that workers generate.”

Jen Williams, Queensland Deputy Executive Director PCA

The latest data

Today, the PCA released its most recent survey of office occupancy across the country.

The past few months were filled with optimism, but as half a year has now passed, that confidence didn’t seem to translate into activity.

Prior to the latest lockdown, PCA launched FOMO Fridays in Melbourne in a bid to bring office workers back into the city.

The campaign was to run from 14 May to 4 June, the current lockdown was announced on 27 May.

“We are already hearing reports of an increase in foot traffic, uptick in office occupancy and a boost in revenue for retail traders and hospitality venues off the back of these campaigns.” 

Ken Morrison, Executive Director, PCA

PCA also launched a similar initiative in Brisbane, Fridays in the City started on 21 May and will run through to 25 June.

Office Occupancy, compared to pre-Covid levels  

January-21 February-21 March-21 April-21 May-21
Melbourne 34% 27% 39% 45% 45%
Sydney 50% 54% 56% 65% 68%
Brisbane 70% 72% 69% 70% 71%
Canberra 76% 72% 72% 70% 71%
Perth 74% 72% 79% 78% 77%
Adelaide 77% 77% 79% 78% 78%
Hobart 89% 84% 89% 91% 93%
Darwin 89% 89% 93% 93% 93%

Source – Property Council of Australia.

It is clear that prior to lockdown, Melbourne was far behind other cities across the country, the effort to bring workers back now more difficult.

“Once the current lockdown has concluded, there will need to be a redoubling of efforts to return the Melbourne CBD into the vibrant city centre that it was prior to the pandemic.” 

Mr Morrison also said this starkly contrasted the rebound in Sydney following restrictions.

“Melbourne’s occupancy levels now sit 23% behind Sydney, which has maintained encouraging momentum since the Northern Beaches lockdown disruption earlier this year.” 

The PCA survey also found that “81 per cent of office building owners and managers are not expecting to see a material increase in occupancy levels within the next three months.”

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