CBD office occupancy rises in March: PCA

Office occupancy was highest in Adelaide’s CBD – at 61 per cent.
About a third of Melbourne CBD offices are now occupied, according to the PCA.

CBD workers are heading back to their offices with occupancy rates in Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra all more than doubling over March, according to Property Council of Australia research.

The industry body’s latest Office Occupancy survey found Melbourne’s occupancy increased from 15 per cent to 32pc in March, Sydney’s office occupancy reached 41pc from 18pc the previous month, while Canberra hit 45pc, up from 21pc.

The March survey of office owners also found more modest increases in Brisbane and Adelaide, where occupancy lifted from 41pc to 48pc, and 47pc to 61pc, respectively.

Perth was the only city to see a decline in office occupancy as it entered its peak Omicron infection period, with rates dropping from 55pc to 45pc, the lowest rate since July, 2020.

While the big gains in many cities were coming off Omicron-induced lows, PCA chief executive officer Ken Morrison said the data was very encouraging.

“It’s heartening that people are returning to the office in such numbers, particularly given considerable weather events on the east coast and the continuing isolation impacts of the pandemic,” Mr Morrison added.

“To see office occupancy rates double in some of our major CBDs is especially pleasing and bodes well for further recovery in the months ahead,” according to the executive.

“While most businesses are encouraging some flexible working arrangements with their staff, there are huge benefits in personal connection and it’s good to see these being embraced once again”.

According to the survey, office occupancy rates vary between peak and low days (story continues below).

For example, on a peak day in Adelaide, the occupancy rate reached a high of 72pc, but on a low day, it fell to 49pc.

The PCA survey also asked respondents when they expected to see a major improvement in occupancy levels, and although 32pc believed it would take one to two months, more than half (56pc) said it would take over three months.

According to the survey, the majority of office owners believe that a preference for greater flexibility (42pc) is the primary driver of occupancy levels.

“As forecasted, office occupancy rates accelerated in March as more businesses reopened after the school holidays,” Mr Morrison said.

“We hope to see this trend continue as the Property Council works with business and all levels of government to bring back vibrancy into our CBDs,” he said.

Source: PCA. Latest survey conducted between March 24-31.

This piece has been republished with permission. For more PCA research, follow this link.

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