MEDIA RELEASE
STALL IN RETURN TO OFFICE


[14 July 2022]

The number of Australian workers heading to their CBD offices stalled in June, according to the latest Office Occupancy survey by the Property Council of Australia.

The Property Council of Australia's latest Office Occupancy survey found while Perth’s office occupancy rate continued to improve between May and June (63 to 65 per cent), and Melbourne’s lifted slightly (48 to 49 per cent), occupancy levels in the ACT declined in the reporting period (60 to 53 per cent), with rates in other major cities remaining steady.

Property Council Chief Executive Ken Morrison said the impact of the spread of COVID-19 and the flu was clearly stalling the return to office.

“Although office occupancy rates have steadily recovered since the beginning of the year, this month there was a clear pause in workers heading to the office,” Mr Morrison said.

“The continued spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses, extremely wet weather on the east coast, combined with industrial action in NSW have all clearly hampered workers being able to get into their CBD workplaces.

“Before the Delta strain hit in the middle of last year we saw a real resurgence in the return to office and we would expect occupancy to lift again once the current unfavourable impacts subside.

“I don’t think these figures are a reflection of workers not wanting to be in the office, but rather a reflection of people being forced to stay home for a range of reasons, whether it be to care for sick kids, rest themselves or to avoid dangerous weather,” he said.

The survey, which was in the field from 23-30 June, coincided with a rise in the number of COVID-19 and flu cases around the country.

In the year to July 6, Australia recorded 187,431 influenza cases with activity peaking in May and June, according to the Department of Health. Likewise, COVID-19 cases picked up in June after falling across Australia since mid-April.

Adelaide continued to have the highest occupancy levels across the country, remaining stable at 71 per cent, followed by Perth (65 per cent), then Brisbane, which also remained at 64 per cent.

Sydney’s occupancy rates remained steady at 55 per cent, with a teacher strike and train strikes occurring during the survey period. Sydney and Melbourne 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.

“These results are somewhat disappointing given recent gains, but they’re also not surprising given the events we’ve faced,” Mr Morrison said.

“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’,” he said.

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

Office Occupancy rates:

Market

Melbourne CBD

Canberra

Sydney CBD

Brisbane CBD

Perth CBD

Adelaide CBD

Jul-20

20%

49%

36%

48%

67%

62%

Aug-20

8%

53%

33%

50%

61%

68%

Sep-20

11%

51%

39%

58%

70%

74%

Oct-20

8%

70%

44%

68%

85%

81%

Nov-20

14%

72%

50%

68%

85%

76%

Jan-21

34%

76%

50%

70%

74%

77%

Feb-21

27%

72%

54%

72%

72%

77%

Mar-21

39%

72%

56%

69%

79%

79%

Apr-21

45%

70%

65%

70%

78%

78%

May-21

45%

71%

68%

71%

77%

78%

Jun-21

26%

72%

67%

71%

76%

80%

Jul-21

12%

73%

7%

67%

78%

15%

Aug-21

7%

8%

4%

60%

77%

65%

Sep-21

6%

8%

4%

51%

76%

64%

Oct-21

4%

7%

8%

57%

79%

64%

Nov-21

12%

17%

23%

63%

77%

73%

Jan-22

4%

7%

7%

13%

66%

11%

Feb-22

15%

21%

18%

41%

55%

47%

Mar-22

32%

45%

41%

48%

45%

61%

Apr-22

36%

39%

42%

51%

50%

59%

May-22

48%

60%

55%

64%

63%

71%

Jun-22

49%

53%

55%

64%

65%

71%


ENDS

Media contact: Rhys Prka | 0425 113 273 | [email protected]

Ellie Laing | 0416 007 830 | [email protected]