Sydney CBD office workers return
Sydney CBD workers are returning to the office in droves as commercial office owners remain committed to fostering Covid-safe work environments. Image – Canva
  • Sydney office occupancy levels have tripled since November as lockdowns lift
  • Two-thirds of office owners optimistic for substantial rise within 90 days, as investment into Covid-safe offices continues
  • Flexible work from home arrangements pose threat to business sector, innovative ways to entice people into CBDs required says Property Council

Eased restrictions have seen office workers returning to Sydney’s CBD, tripling last months office occupancy volumes according to the Property Council of Australia.

The Office Occupancy survey gave hope for the revitalisation of the city’s business district, following a tough 107-day lockdown.

Sydney workers flock back to offices

Property Council’s NSW Executive Director Luke Achterstraat said the results of the survey indicated office occupancy levels rose from a meager 8%, to a more positive 23% in November.

Relative to all other capitals, Sydney was one of the hardest hit cities by restrictions preventing office workers from attending the workplace, in addition to Melbourne and Canberra.

At the other end of the scale, Darwin and Hobart’s CBDs suffered much fewer Covid-induced consequences and are currently operating at 92% of pre-Covid office occupancy levels.

Overall level of occupancy in office buildings as a percentage of the pre-Covid rate

Office occupancy levels overall PCA
Source: The Property Council of Australia

Mr Achterstraat added that the upcoming festive season combined with lifting restrictions shows promise for numbers to continue rising and economic recovery to remain on a strong trajectory.

“The CBDs have shown their resilience and this bump up in activity comes at the
perfect time on this first day of summer,” he said.

Office owners remain optimistic

Two thirds of Sydney office owners also feel positively, responding with confidence that more workers will continue to return in droves over the next 90 days.

“Restrictions are easing, business events are resuming and our public servants are returning to offices, so we can expect further increases in office occupancy into the new year.”

Luke Achterstraat, Property Council

He added that the pandemic has created further discourse about the future of work, with the survey indicating that employees tend to value flexible working arrangements most, such as working from home.

What is influencing the current level of occupancy?

Influences on current office occupancy
Source: The Property Council of Australia

The Property Council has previously called for restrictions on working from home arrangements, emphasising the threat it poses to the health of economies and business sectors.

This means we need to adapt and entice people into our CBDs through the
immersive experience that only a city can offer – with employers and office owners
already leading the charge,” said Mr Achterstraat.

Further investment is solution to CBD slump

According to Mr Achterstraat, commercial office owners remain strongly committed to CBD areas and continue to produce significant investment into creating Covid-safe office spaces.

“Further swathes of investment are underway to create work environments that are hubs for collaboration, problem solving and human interaction.”

Luke Achterstraat, Property Council

He also welcomed further government investment into rejuvenating the only lively Sydney CBD.

“The Government’s recently announced $50m CBD reactivation package – across
Sydney, Western Sydney, Parramatta, Illawarra, the Hunter and more – is a strong
endorsement that CBDs all across New South Wales generate the jobs, experiences
and investment we all desire,” Mr Achterstraat concluded.

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