Bring Back Workers To Sydney’s CBD, Says Productivity Chief
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales’ Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat is calling on employers not to abandon Sydney’s central business district (CBD). He also urged them to ensure it survives by bringing their workers back into the city at least three days per week, reported The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday morning (5 September, SGT).
While five-day work week in the office was a thing of the past, city centres like Sydney CBD, Parramatta and Chatswood, remain vital to innovation and attracting tourists with a vibrant central destination.
“If someone were to say to me, why do we want people back in the CBD, (I have) two answers”. One is innovative productivity, which he calls “water cooler capital”.
He explained that “during the breaks, people sit around, have a cup of water, a cup of tea and they talk to each other about ideas. That was not happening over (Microsoft) Teams and Zoom.” But these breaks are crucial as it leads to leaps in innovation and growth.
Although task-based productivity –discrete tasks like making reports and writing letters – initially improved while people worked from home (WFH) during the COVID-19 pandemic, Achterstraat explained that innovation suffered.
Aside from that, young people who were entering the workforce were negatively impacted as they weren’t offered an understanding of their company’s culture. He said that based on anecdotes, the staff most likely to head into the office now are people below the age of 30 and those over 55.
“The people in the middle tended not to come in as much… So what we’ve concluded is that it’s better if people come into an office three days a week.”
“I’m also a firm believer [that] it’s better if the whole team comes in on certain days,” added Achterstraat.
According to the Property Council’s latest research, the office occupancy level at Sydney’s CBD dipped to 52 percent of its pre-COVID rate in July, which is lower than in the prior months, and significantly lower than the 67 percent recorded in June 2021 before the spread of the Delta variant.