Government agencies are engaged in a battle for extra space across the capital to accommodate staff returning to the office while observing physical distancing requirements.
It comes as more than half of the nation's public servants have returned to working from the office as COVID-19 restrictions, outside Melbourne, have been loosened.
Figures provided by the Australian Public Service Commission show that as of July 13, 55 per cent of the public service had returned to working from the office. The other 45 per cent remained working from home.
According to some in the commercial property sector this has fuelled a race among agencies to secure the limited, available office space in Canberra that meets Commonwealth standards.
Executive director of commercial leasing and sales at Raine and Horne, Michael Ceacis, said he had received multiple enquiries in the past two weeks from government clients looking for extra office space.
Mr Ceacis said multiple agencies were currently in the market for new short term leases for relatively small sites to allow for physical distancing requirements as public servants returned to work.
He said agencies were seeking lease terms of no more than two to three years and had enquired about spaces ranging from 1000 to 5000 square metres.
"Fitted out space is in demand," Mr Ceacis said, "so there's more than one agency considering the same space."
Agencies were looking for buildings with Commonwealth standard fit outs, including proper amenities, meeting rooms, break out areas and high standard cabling.
"They want to duplicate the additional space to be at the same level of what they're already offering staff," he said.
When presented with sites that may not meet all requirements but could be fitted out at a cost, Mr Ceacis said agencies cited budget constraints meaning this was not possible.
The Canberra Times approached multiple government departments which indicated they had not sought extra office space and had no plans to seek extra space.
Most indicated that current offices could accommodate staff spreading out and all departments said hygiene protocols had been implemented.
Commonwealth offices have twice the amount of space per person than private sector offices.Stephen Oxford
All of the departments said they would continue working from home arrangements for some staff and incorporate flexible working arrangements.
There was a large range in the amount of staff that had returned to the office from different departments.
Services Australia indicated the majority of its staff had returned to the office since mid June. Whereas the Health Department and Treasury said only about 30 per cent of staff had returned.
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment and Prime Minister and Cabinet both had about 50 per cent of the workforce returned.
Executive director at consulting firm Synergy Australia, Stephen Oxford, said he was also aware that several government departments were seeking extra office space in Canberra.
Mr Oxford said it was "illogical" for departments to be seeking short term leases to accommodate staff returning to the office when there was so much vacant space on hand.
A recent Department of Finance report showed vacant space in public service offices had grown and fewer were reaching their designated density targets.
"Commonwealth offices have twice the amount of space per person than private sector offices," Mr Oxford said.
"Social distancing should be managed with practical measures rather than entering into expensive new leases."