Working from home and workplace flexibility
It is estimated that the proportion of workers who can work remotely is 47 per cent compared with 53 per cent who are unable to56. Many frontline health care workers, teachers, retail and salespeople or those in the transport, logistics and construction sectors continue to work from their workplace.
While working from home is different for each worker, for the average full-time worker working from home increased from 0.9 days per week to 2.1 days per week in the wake of the pandemic57. Private and public sector businesses are now considering how they can be more flexible, with some private businesses already committing to flexible workplaces.
A global survey by Gartner CFO indicates corporate support for working from home where 74 per cent of companies surveyed plan to permanently shift at least five per cent of their workforce from the office to permanently working remotely58.
In 2016, only 4.3 per cent of workers worked from home on the day of the Census59. Of those working from home, 50 per cent were knowledge and professional service workers. The concentration of these jobs varies across Greater Sydney. The Eastern Harbour City has the highest proportion of resident population in knowledge jobs at 37 per cent, followed by the Central River City with 29 per cent and the Western Parkland City with 23 per cent60.
There will be impacts in terms of office space, particularly in the Harbour CBD, which normally accommodates 500,000 workers61. It will take some time for businesses to recalibrate demand for office space as working remotely continues.
Subdued activity in CBD hubs
The changes in where and how people work will have knock-on impacts on many other aspects of city life. Transport for NSW estimates that in June 2020, the number of unique visitors to Sydney CBD was close to a third of June 2019 levels62.
Office vacancy rates increased across CBD hubs from January 2020 to July 2020, with the greatest increase in Chatswood (refer Figure 2). The office market typically works in cycles and in early 2020, Greater Sydney had some of the lowest vacancy rates (four per cent) of commercial office space compared to rates across Australia (average eight per cent), meaning the COVID-19-related impacts came at the peak of the market cycle63.