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Most employees still working from home

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Fewer than half of workers in Melbourne's CBD have returned to the office full time. Photo: Getty
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Flexibility and work-life balance are behind Melbourne’s slow return to the office, as new data shows less than half of CBD-based employees are back full-time.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions being lifted and businesses offering incentives for staff to work from the office, working from home is the preferred option across various sectors.

A survey by The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry found out of 88 businesses, 42 per cent of staff had returned to the office working one to two days each week and 25 per cent were back three to four.

The vast majority of managers don’t expect their employees to return to the office on a full-time basis.

Many businesses have introduced incentives to get staff back in the office, with 22 per cent offering team drinks or meals, 10 per cent offering free coffee, five per cent offering fitness or wellness sessions and five per cent subsidised transport.

“The results show the return to office has been a gradual process and a large percentage of businesses have adopted hybrid working arrangements,” Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Paul Guerra said.

“What’s encouraging is that people are coming back to the office and embracing the social connection and enhanced collaboration and learning that in-person working offers.”

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said for many Melburnians, the pandemic has forever changed work-life priorities.

“What we are seeing is that the pandemic, particularly the disruption to our working lives for the best part of two years, has changed the way people think they can best balance their work and home or other personal commitments,” she told reporters on Monday.

“Employers understand that they need to support their employees with flexible working arrangements.”

Mr Guerra believes the cold winter weather is likely to have further impact.

“As we head further into winter, it may be some time before we know exactly where the level of office-based working will settle,” he said.

“The survey tells us that people want flexibility and that’s what a lot of businesses are offering. We believe it’s up to individual businesses to determine their working arrangements and this is clearly what they are doing.”

– AAP