Office occupancy rates start to bounce back post-Omicron peak

After nearly two years of working from home, Australians are finally starting to head back to the office.

New data from the Property Council of Australia shows office occupancy rates have bounced back to pre-Omicron levels with Melbourne and Canberra recording their highest rates since June 2021.

The February survey of office owners revealed Melbourne’s CBD reached 15 per cent occupancy, while Canberra achieved 21 per cent, levels not seen in those capitals for eight months, when occupancy was at 26 per cent and 72 per cent respectively. 

Sydney recorded 18 per cent occupancy, which was just shy of its November figure of 23 per cent.

The strongest rebounds were recorded in Brisbane, where occupancy jumped from a record low of 13 per cent to 41 per cent, and Adelaide, which came off a low of 11 per cent in January to achieve 47 per cent occupancy in February. 

The only CBD which didn’t record a positive boost was Perth, which recorded its lowest office occupancy rate (55 per cent) since the survey commenced in July 2020. Perth’s office occupancy rates have dropped the past three months.

Source: Property Council of Australia

Property Council Chief Executive Ken Morrison said the results made for a promising start to the year.

“Given occupancy really bottomed out in January because of the Omicron wave and holidays, it’s heartening to see such a significant turnaround just one month later,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is still a long way to go and there are local factors affecting each city, but these figures are a strong start which we expect to accelerate in March, as more businesses reopen their offices.” 

Mr Morrison said while it was a good start to the year, more needed to be done to help occupancy levels fully recover.

“It’s important that governments, councils and business have a big focus on bringing our CBDs back to life,” he said.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.