Back in March, the coronavirus pandemic forced companies to move staff out of the office and into working at home in a matter of days. As restrictions start to ease, many workplaces have started to make plans for employees to come back but a return to the office will not be as abrupt.
In fact, some workers won't even be going back to the office.
The head office for Trek Australia and New Zealand had planned to move to a bigger office pre-pandemic but the company has decided to refurbish its Fyshwick premises as about 40 per cent of its workforce will continue to work remotely.
"We have gone through an extensive design process and we just see it as an opportunity to review what we do and how we operate going forward," Trek Australia and New Zealand director Jason Pye said.
"We did an analysis on each of the staff members and we've now completely shifted our thinking in terms of how and where people need to be.
"It's been great for us, we have been forced into being more efficient. We've seen staff actually be more productive working from home."
The cycling company is not alone in its approach.
Many Canberra businesses had made the switch to working remotely and have reported being surprised about how well it worked, Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt said.
"The degree to which people are able to successfully work for a remote working model has probably taken many people by surprise and for the most part businesses have been able to work effectively," he said.
"Teams have been productive because they are able to fast-track the use of technology that perhaps they won't using effectively before but have discovered has worked, video conferencing is the obvious example."
Obviously things like hot-desking, which is something a lot of workplaces have done really is a real issue and just shouldn't be expecting people to desk share.Unions ACT secretary Matthew Harrison
Mr Catt said member organisations had planned to have a rostered approach, where teams would work one week in the office and the other week at home.
But for Canberra's office leasing market it could mean demand may fall. One in 10 Canberra offices are unoccupied, according to figures from the Property Council of Australia. However, this was the lowest rate for Canberra in seven years.
JLL Canberra managing director Andrew Balzanelli said many companies would likely reassess office needs.
"Most organisations have been working remotely and in some cases tenants may look at this being a new norm for parts of their business," he said.
"It is fair to say that groups will likely review how they utilise office accommodation and look at buildings that offer greater flexibility, services and amenities for their staff and mode of operation."
But Mr Balzanelli still believed there would be demand for office space.
"Canberra benefits from the fact that 62 per cent of occupied office accommodation is underpinned by the Commonwealth," he said.
Working from home is still encouraged under the first two stages of the government's three-step path out of social distancing restrictions, if it works for the employee and employer.
Earlier this week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a decision on stage three is scheduled be made on June 19, which means many employees could possibly be back at offices by late-June.
The national cabinet has developed COVID-19 safe workplace principles that businesses and workers would have to follow.
Under these, a return to the office would look very different, beyond some staff members continuing to work remotely; shared kitchens, hot-desking, rigorous cleaning and lift usage are likely to be among some of the things to change.
"Social distancing is incredibly important," Unions ACT secretary Matthew Harrison said.
"Obviously things like hot-desking, which is something a lot of workplaces have done really is a real issue and just shouldn't be expecting people to desk share.
"I think it's incredibly important that there is rigorous sanitation in the workplaces and that there is appropriate personal protective equipment for people [but] you don't want people to be using PPE that is needed by front line workers."
But Mr Harrison stressed employees should continue to work remotely for as long as they could. As well as that, he said considerations should be made for people who wanted to remain at home.
"I think it will be a very individual case for people but the option is there obviously if it has worked for employers and employees that is something that should be able to be put on the table for people to discuss," he said.
"If people can stay at home the longer that can happen is probably good and important for us to be able to get an understanding of what's going to happen because obviously this is very new.
"If somebody is in a high-risk group than they shouldn't be expected to return to work either."
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