Occupancy data from the Property Council of Australia shows that office buildings in the Melbourne CBD were at 47% of capacity in February.
This compares with an office occupancy rate of more than 80% in Perth and Adelaide during the same period, and around 60% in Sydney.
The Property Council of Australia’s Victorian executive director Cath Evans says the state government to ensure that public sector workers comply with its mandate to work on-site for at least three days a week.
She contends that this would encourage the private sector to get staff back to the CBD in the post-pandemic environment.
“While every other CBD metric is indicating Melbourne is a vibrant city, the 9 to 5 economy is still vital to our city’s health”, Cath Evans told the Herald Sun.
“It’s important to consider that Melbourne competes nationally and internationally with peer cities like Sydney – but also Auckland and Singapore – the economic health of our CBD is a deciding factor for businesses looking for a place to establish offices”.
The Productivity Commission’s 5-year Productivity Inquiry, released in July 2022, contended that remote work has ushered a “massive productivity boost” via accelerating the adoption of digital technologies.
Therefore, why should policy makers actively fight against these gains merely to support the financial interests of the property lobby?
Surveys repeatedly show that Australian employees want to keep working remotely in some capacity. This relates to the time and cost savings from not having to commute into work, as well as the flexibility remote work provides.
The argument that workers need to return to CBD offices in order to support CBD businesses is also myopic.
While these CBD businesses have certainly been disadvantaged by remote work, suburban businesses closer to people’s homes are benefiting as economic activity is redirected there.
Therefore, remote work presents a transfer of economic activity, not lost activity.
As usual the Property Council is talking its own book. The welfare of workers and suburban businesses must also be taken into account by policy makers.