Workers bribed to return to CBD ghost town

New data from Roy Morgan Research tracking people movements across Australia’s capital cities shows that activity across Melbourne’s and Sydney’s CBDs was less than half their pre-COVID level at the end of April.

Across the smaller capitals, people movements remained less than two-thirds of their ‘normal’ level:

CBD people movements

People movements across Australia’s capital cities remains depressed.

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Commenting on the findings, Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine noted:

“The latest results show Capital City CBDs are still operating at levels well below those they were used to before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. The large number of office workers continuing to work from home, as well as the ongoing lack of international tourists, continue to place added pressure on businesses in Capital City CBDs that rely on passing foot traffic…

“The flexibility of working-from-home is likely to remain a key point of appeal for many office workers and provides an ongoing challenge for Inner City Councils looking to revitalise their cities and return activity closer to pre-COVID ‘normality’.”

In a sense of desperation, the City of Melbourne, the Victorian government, the Property Council of Australia and the Australian Retailers Association have joined forces to incentivise workers to return to Melbourne’s CBD by offering free donuts, discount cocktails and other perks as part of its FOMO Friday’s campaign:

The event, FOMO Fridays, will run every Friday, from May 14 to June 4…

The new promotion includes giveaways and retailer discounts as part of the council’s $100m city recovery fund in partnership with the Victorian government.

Freebies include King & Godfree hampers in Carlton, cocktails in Chinatown and doughnuts in Bourke Street Mall…

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the Friday events gave workers another reason to return to their city workplaces and end the week on a high.

“FOMO Fridays is a great way to reward city workers returning and provide a major boost to retail and hospitality businesses across the City of Melbourne,” she said.

I’m sorry, but free doughnuts is no substitute for not having to travel an hour each way on public transport.

Working from home has eliminated a wasteful part of the production process by eliminating the need for millions of workers to waste money, fuel and time travelling into central locations to work. It has also provided greater work/life flexibility.

That said, my view is that a hybrid model, whereby employees work part from home and part at the office, is most enticing and productive structure long-term.

This hybrid model offers the best trade-off in terms flexibility and productivity, and seems to be preferred by most employees according to recent workplace surveys.

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