Property Council data supports Gradual Return to Office

9 February 2021

New data shows that CBD office workers are gradually returning back to their workplaces in January, despite by COVID outbreaks in several cities over the Christmas period.

The latest survey of CBD occupancy by the Property Council of Australia found that nearly all capital city CBDs were busier at the end of January than they had been before Christmas.

Whilst the PCA and major Landlords can take some comfort from the numbers, they do not paint a great picture with Sydney and Melbourne still with less 45% and 31% occupancy respectively.

The biggest challenges are in the larger corporations and state government departments where work from home has been efficient and calls to return the office have been resisted.

It is fair to suggest that the December / January period is traditionally quiet and that a better test will be in February.

Property Council Chief Executive Ken Morrison said the survey results are a positive sign for Australia’s economic recovery but there was still more progress needed.

“As we start the new year it is encouraging to see so many CBD workers coming back to their offices to enjoy the benefits of face-to-face connections and collaboration,” Mr Morrison said.

“While we have a long way to go to get back to pre-COVID levels, increased CBD occupancy is a godsend for the thousands of businesses that rely on bustling city centres to survive.”

“Our CBDs support millions of jobs and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity.”

The only decline in occupancy was recorded in Perth with the recent 5-day snap lockdown resulting in a drop from 77% to 66% in the final week of January.

Respondents pointed to a drop in government public health restrictions and reduced safety concerns as factors contributing towards increased occupancy. Worker preferences for greater flexibility were recorded as the predominant reason preventing a return to pre-COVID levels of occupancy.

Office building owners and managers are increasingly expecting a material increase in occupancy levels within the next 1-2 months.

Mr Morrison said that building owners and managers have been working tirelessly to ensure workplaces are COVID-safe to support tenant businesses and their employees in returning to full productivity.

“There’s now a growing impetus for people to come back to their workplaces as public health restrictions are scaled down,” Mr Morrison said.

“The mission for policymakers, employers, and the property industry over the coming months will be to maintain momentum and ensure our CBDs return to full activity as quickly as possible.”