Rollercoaster work week for CBDs revealed

The Property Council of Australia’s latest office occupancy survey has highlighted the challenge ahead for the reactivation of CBDs, with activity fluctuating between weekly peaks and troughs.

The monthly survey of office building owners and managers, taken before the lockdowns of the past week, has found that office occupancy in the Melbourne CBD fell from 45% to 26% per cent of pre-COVID occupancy levels while other CBDs were largely unchanged.

However, across all capital city CBDs there was a marked difference between peak and trough occupancy through the week. Property Council Group Executive of Policy & Advocacy, Mike Zorbas, said that the survey has revealed that office occupancy on the quietest day of the week is on average only 58% of the occupancy achieved on the busiest day.

“The numbers reveal that the levels of office occupancy fluctuate significantly on different days of the week,” Mr Zorbas said.

“While a number of Australian cities are now facing fresh restrictions, the underlying worker preference for a flexible working week will continue to pose a challenge to the desired level of CBD recovery on the other side of lockdowns.”

“A rollercoaster work week will make planning harder for many CBD service businesses and this will impact the amenity of these crucial locations.”

“Our CBDs support millions of jobs and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity. Ideally we need these economic engine-rooms operating safely and consistently every day of the week.”

“The challenge facing employers, building owners and policymakers will be to try to encourage workers to even out this impact through the working week.”

While there has been a rise in government health restrictions and lockdowns, respondents still identified worker preferences for greater flexibility as the main barrier to achieving consistent occupancy. The survey found that 80 per cent of office building owners and managers are not expecting to see a material increase in occupancy levels within the next three months

Mr Zorbas said that the property industry is continuing to take the initiative to entice workers back to Australia’s commercial centres through a coordinated program of activations and attractions.

In Melbourne, the Property Council’s FOMO Fridays was held conjunction with the City of Melbourne and the Australian Retailers Association. In Brisbane, the Fridays in the City initiative recently wrapped up bringing together reactivation efforts in partnership with Brisbane City Council, the Queensland Government and other CBD stakeholders.

In Adelaide it will be FOMO Fridays pitching freebies to South Australians to get back to the city. In Sydney, the other side of lockdown will see $100 of Friday-only vouchers to 500,000 office workers and a NYE party on the Cahill Expressway. And there will be more to come in other capitals.

“Building owners and managers are not waiting for government leadership to drive CBD reactivation, we are proactively making the case for workers to return to their offices and enjoy all the benefits of face-to-face teamwork,” Mr Zorbas said. 

“We’ve already seen a promising response to our CBD activation initiatives, with the Brisbane Lord Mayor estimating that mall traffic increased by 12.5% on Fridays during the length of our campaign.”

Peak and low day level of occupancy in office buildings

Office occupancy as a percentage of pre-COVID levels by CBD

NOTE: The Property Council’s CBD office occupancy data is now presented as a percentage of the pre-COVID rate of office occupancy, which is estimated at 90%. If a CBD achieves the same level of occupancy as the pre-COVID norm this will now be presented as “100%”.

 

Feb-21

Mar-21

Apr-21

May-21

Jun-21

Melbourne

27%

39%

45%

45%

26%

Sydney

54%

56%

65%

68%

67%

Brisbane

72%

69%

70%

71%

71%

Canberra

72%

72%

70%

71%

72%

Perth

72%

79%

78%

77%

76%

Adelaide

77%

79%

78%

78%

80%

Darwin

89%

93%

93%

93%

88%

Hobart

84%

89%

91%

93%

89%


Figures are based on responses from Property Council members who own or manage CBD office buildings and cover occupancy for the period from 21-23 June 2021.

Media contact: Henry Pike | M 0408 406 637 | E [email protected]