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Future of office work uncertain as debate shifts to 'no jab, no job'

Business

Workers may face the prospect of vaccine mandates being imposed on their offices.

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The Property Council has been grappling with how to deal with the complexity of the issue because currently CBDs are half empty. Vaccine mandates may make that worse.

On slow days Brisbane’s CBD is currently only 46 per cent full, but improves to about 60 per cent on other days.

The impact is not only felt by property owners but by the retail businesses that catered to the workers.

Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said the business community was grappling with how it would manage “the bifurcated world of the vaccinated and the unvaccinated which is soon to be upon us.

“Many members are engaging with their own staff to understand how comfortable people are at the prospect of working alongside the unvaccinated and what the implications of this are. As a property industry, we must also consider vaccination issues as they relate to third party building services staff and other occupants of our assets.

“These are vexed issues which policy makers seem to be happy to leave squarely on the heads of business leaders, made all the more difficult because the future will not be a COVID-zero one.   

“Australia is on the cusp of a big and welcome transition, with vaccines being the enabler of this shift. It’s a transition that can’t come soon enough for most.’’

But Morrison said property organisations are clarifying their legal obligations with the workforce.

Both the NSW and Victorian governments have been very clear that vaccinated people will have far more freedoms than unvaccinated people and it is likely that we will see a number of property companies incorporating mandates into their operations.

He said recent outbreaks had not impacted all cities equally and had created two distinct challenges for the CBDs.

“For the capitals that have been less affected, we need to find a way of enticing workers to increase their number of days in the office,’’ he said.

“Once we’ve overcome the immediate threats to public health, it is critical that building owners and employers work together with all levels of government to get our CBDs firing on all cylinders once again.”

A Property Council survey of its members done at the end of August found that the majority of respondents did not expect to see a material increase in CBD office occupancy levels within the next three months.

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