Return To Office

Occupancy On Upswing As Workers Return To Office

AUSTRALIA – A survey revealed that office occupancy levels at central business districts (CBDs) across the country is rising as more employees are returning to their workplace, reported The Australian Financial Review (AFR) on Wednesday (4 November).

The top performers are the CBDs of Perth and Adelaide, where the office occupancy level reached more than 70 percent. This is followed by Canberra (63 percent), which saw the highest increase in October after the Australian Public Service Commission instructed employees to return to their workplace as long as it’s safe to do so.

While office buildings in Sydney’ CBD are merely 40 percent occupied, this is better than in Melbourne (7 percent), where the authorities directed staff to continue with remote working if they can, although they have also relaxed a stringent lockdown in the state of Victoria.

The occupancy levels were compiled by Property Council of Australia based on a survey of 102 office lessors, which collectively own or oversee the lion’s share of office buildings in CBDs across the country.

“The shift is on and more CBD workers are coming back to their offices, which is an important step in Australia’s economic recovery,” said the council’s CEO Ken Morrison.

“This is encouraging news for the Australian economy given the critical role of CBD-based businesses in supporting jobs and economic activity, including for all of those businesses which depend on CBD workforces for their viability.”

The poll also looked into factors that affect decisions to return to the office. In October, worries over public transport & workplace safety surpassed concerns about public health restrictions.

However, Australia’s biggest office lessor, Dexus, identified government orders on public health as a major impediment that prevents more employees from returning to the workplace. For instance, businesses in New South Wales (NSW) are required to let their staff work remotely as long as it’s feasible.

“It’s very hard to have a productivity argument with your staff when there is a health order out there. But what bosses are telling me is that organizational productivity is suffering,” said Dexus’ Executive General Manager Kevin George.

“Management teams want their people back in the office. By changing the health orders I think you’ll find the leadership in organizations will require people to come back to the office,” he added.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan analysts forecasted that overall occupancy level of office building across all CBDs in Australia would fall by 10 percentage points if employees will work from home on a longer-term. The consequence of this is lower rents and weaker selling prices of office properties.

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