Faster Sydney CBD office rebound second time around

Workers returned to their offices in Sydney’s CBD after the latest lockdown at a 50 per cent faster rate than they did following the lifting of last year’s stay-at-home orders, an analysis of the city’s leading buildings has revealed.

Research from real estate services company CBRE, using visitor traffic and demographic data from Pathzz, showed that employers and their staff returned in bigger numbers over the six weeks following the lifting of Sydney’s lockdown on October 11.

“Office reactivation and recovery is much faster than in 2020,” said CBRE senior research analyst Nick Baring.

“The rebound time reduced by half and can be attributed to a number of factors, such as occupiers being more efficient and drawing on previous return-to-the-office plans, NSW reaching its vaccination threshold, and having a greater understanding of the virus.

“Ultimately, we are ahead of the 2020 recovery timeline.”

But it appears that the return-to-office trajectory has since eased and that Sydney CBD visitor numbers remain well down on pre-pandemic levels.

The Pathzz technology analysed foot traffic in the Sydney CBD’s 95 largest office buildings, based on net lettable area, and found that 14 had significantly higher visitation.

A key reason was that they had essential services tenants and tended to be close to food, retail and transport facilities.

“However, it’s important to remember that individual building visitation is affected by the return-to-work plans and policies of their major occupiers,” Mr Baring said.

Millennials have been the slowest to return, recording a 5 per cent decline in share of total visitations post-lockdown compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Michael Cook, group executive at Investa Property Group, which owns eight office buildings in the Sydney CBD, said after an initial surge the number of returnees has levelled off with Christmas looming.

Mr Cook said office staff at smaller businesses have come back much faster than staff at larger operations.

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