Activity levels in offices are running at a fraction of their normal levels, new research shows.

The Property Council of Australia surveyed those of its members who own and manage major CBD office buildings.\

It found that across all capitals, occupancy levels were well below pre-COVID levels.

Worst impacted are Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, where occupancy levels are less than half what they were prior to COVID (see chart).

Occupancy levels of offices in the CBDs of Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart, meanwhile, stood at well below normal occupancy levels.\

The latest research highlights concern that office markets in CBDs may be impacted over the long-term due to COVID, with flow-on effects in terms of the vibrancy of cities and the impact of fewer workers coming to town on sectors such as hospitality and retail.

Melbourne is expected to be especially hard hit as workers are required under the state’s reopening roadmap to work from home where possible until the last stage of reopening.

This will not occur until the Victoria has had 28 days of no new cases, does not have any active cases and there are no outbreaks of concern in other states or territories.

But there has been caution about allowing offices to reopen amid concerns about COVID spread both within offices and on public transport.

Property Council of Australia chief executive officer Ken Morrison said Australia should move to reopen CBD office markets.

He applauded calls from Prime Minister Scott Morrison for public service agencies to get public servants get back to the office as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Our CBDs are big drivers of productivity and economic activity,” Morrison said.

“Their reactivation is absolutely essential to economic recovery, including supporting all of those businesses which depend on CBD office workers for their viability.

“You can’t have economic recovery without thriving CBD economies.

“Building owners and managers have worked to ensure their office buildings are COVID-safe and ready for workers to return. It’s time to get Australia moving again.”