Australia: NSW state ends WFH, but most staff still staying away from office

Many workers in New South Wales are opting to continue working from home.
By: | December 17, 2020

Australia’s most populous state has lifted its public health order which has locked the city down for much of this year after it reported no new cases of COVID-19 for ten consecutive days. 

Nevertheless, most state employers, big companies and staff alike are opting to continue working from home and keeping flexible work arrangements going forward into the next year.  

In Sydney, the country’s largest city, occupancy in the central district is currently 45%, about half of the more than 90% before the pandemic began, said Jane Fitzgerald, executive director of the Property Council of Australia’s NSW unit. Two-thirds of property council members expected a “material increase” in CBD occupancy after three months or longer. 

NSW, home to one-third of the country’s 25 million population, is the first state or territory to allow white-collar staff to return to office for work. The state has advised companies to stagger working hours for staff returning to office, and for staff to wear face masks while commuting to work on public transport. 

Most other states and territories still follow the general regulation to let employees work from home if they prefer. Only Victoria state, Australia’s second most populous state, has restrictions on office workers, limiting employee numbers to 25%.  

READ: Australian unions want better protection for WFH workers

Sydney-headquartered Commonwealth Bank of Australia said it would ask staff to return to office, but “we’ll be working with our people on an approach that is successful for our customers, for teams and for individuals”. 

Australia has so far reported more than 28,000 COVID-19 cases and 908 deaths related to the pandemic.