Gradual and flexible return to Melbourne CBD offices

A survey by the Victorian Chamber has revealed the return to office trends of Melbourne CBD-based businesses since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

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The return to office survey asked businesses about their experiences with staff returning to the office to help better understand the impact on Melbourne’s CBD.

Small, medium, family and large businesses across a range of sectors in Melbourne’s CBD were asked about days in the office, mandates, incentives, productivity and reasons for not returning.

Overall, the survey results highlight a gradual return to office using a primarily hybrid approach, in many cases aided by company incentives or mandates. While most businesses don’t expect employees to return to the office full-time, a hybrid approach will likely persist in the future with various reasons offered for return-to-office hesitations.

Days in the office

According to the survey, 41 per cent of employees are working in the office one to two days each week and 28 per cent three to four days, with 19 per cent are working in the office five days a week. About 12 per cent of employees have not returned to the office since restrictions were lifted.

Mandates

Of the businesses surveyed, 40 per cent have not introduced a required minimum number of days employees must work from the office, while 20 per cent have asked employees to return a minimum three days per week.

Incentives

Among the incentives to encourage employees back to the office, 21 per cent of businesses were offering team drinks or meals, 10 per cent offering free coffee, five per cent offering fitness or wellness sessions and five per cent subsidised transport.

Barriers to return

About 34 per cent of respondents said work-life balance was the main reason for not returning to the office, followed by length of commute (31 per cent) and fear of contracting COVID-19 (15 per cent).

Productivity

Productivity was a close split, with nearly half of surveyed businesses saying they’d seen an increase in productivity when employees worked from the office.

Outlook

69 per cent of respondents indicated they do not expect employees to return full-time to the office.

Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Paul Guerra said: “This is a crucial, point-in-time survey as it provides the first detailed look at the reality of the return to office situation in Melbourne’s CBD and it’s largely a good news story. The results show the return to office has been a gradual process and a large percentage of businesses have adopted hybrid working arrangements.

“What’s encouraging is that people are coming back to the office and embracing the social connection and enhanced collaboration and learning that in-person working offers. It’s also good for our CBD businesses that benefit from greater trade.

“As we head further into winter, it may be some time before we know exactly where the level of office-based working will settle. The survey tells us that people want flexibility and that’s what a lot of businesses are offering. We believe it’s up to individual businesses to determine their working arrangements and this is clearly what they are doing.”

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