Latest Sydney occupancy data demonstrates CBD in need of further investment amid strikes, floods and flu

The number of workers heading into their Sydney CBD offices remained steady in June, according to the latest Office Occupancy Survey by the Property Council of Australia.

Property Council’s NSW Executive Director Luke Achterstraat said there had been an encouraging eight-fold increase from 7 per cent occupancy in January to 55 per cent in May, and this number remained constant at 55 per cent in June.

Mr Achterstraat said various factors affected the rate of return to office in June.  

“Last month we have faced disruptions to our train network, strikes, inclement weather and waves of COVID-19 and the flu which have inevitably kept people at home,” Mr Achterstraat said.

“Given all these factors it is encouraging to see office occupancy has remained at 55 per cent and has not gone backwards.

“One month of data does not equal a trend, so now is the time for government and employers to double down and maintain momentum for the return to office.

“Now is not the time to be bringing back conversations about work from home advice or mask mandates in offices,” he said.

Mr Achterstraat said it had been over two years since COVID was detected on our shores and employers were committed to COVID safe plans with vaccination rates remaining very high.

“We need to support our CBDs and offices particularly with economic uncertainty on the horizon – these figures should be a wake-up call to policy makers.

“Initiatives such as the Vivid Festival have demonstrated their value and as the biggest employer in the country, the NSW public service must ramp up their return to office,” he said.

Mr Achterstraat said global capital was continuing to back the future of the commercial office sector with vacancy rates in Sydney remain at globally envious lows of just 9.3 per cent coupled with a strong pipeline of new investment.

Sydney recorded peak occupancy levels at 66 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, with low days at 38 per cent and 31 per cent.

The latest office occupancy survey found the preference for greater flexibility including working from home was the major driver of occupancy levels, while 79 per cent of respondents (up from 63 per cent in May) believe it will take 3 months or more for occupancy levels to materially increase.

“Winter was always likely to be a difficult time for the pandemic, but we do expect to see office occupancy grow towards a higher ‘new normal’,” Mr Achterstraat said.

The survey was conducted in the field between 23 and 30 June 2022.

Media contact: Aidan Green | E [email protected]