Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged public servants around the country to get back to working in the office in a bid to help revitalise the nation's cities.
Fresh from a national cabinet meeting with leaders from around the country, Mr Morrison said on Friday afternoon city mayors had discussed with him the need for bringing workers back to office buildings.
Now was the time, with the exception of Melbourne as it endured its fourth COVID-19 lockdown, he said.
"I have a very simple message and it is time to get back to the office," Mr Morrison said.
"And here, in the ACT in particular, and for Commonwealth employees, we've been saying that for some time as other states have in other jurisdictions."
The Prime Minister also took aim at international companies who had embraced more flexible working arrangements during the pandemic, calling on them to push workers back to central offices.
"The challenge is that we've got many corporates ... who are using US, or European, or UK rules regarding people's presence in the office," Mr Morrison said.
"They're not appropriate to Australia, they should be indigenised to Australia, and we've been encouraging them to standardise their working arrangements to be consistent with what's happening here in Australia and not overseas."
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the territory government would continue to encourage flexible working arrangements and had seen productivity increase since more public servants were working from home.
"Back to the office will suit many people and we have a fantastic office for people to come back to in the CBD and other offices around Canberra, but it's not a suggestion that if you are not working from the office every single day, that you are not working," Mr Barr said on Friday.
Mr Barr said there needed to be a nuanced understanding of the future of office-based work.
"It's a balance between workplace flexibility and the need to utilise work facilties that we have, and that are either paid for by companies or government," he said.
But Mr Barr said the recovery plan for Canberra's city centre would focus on increasing diversity, and driving more economic activity outside the window of 9am to 5pm on weekdays.
"As an employer ourselves, we are encouraging flexibility. And we will continue to do so," he said.
"People are doing a lot, a lot of work for ACT government, and whether they're doing that in an office building some days and working from home on others, what we have witnessed is actually productivity increasing across the public sector in the ACT."
Federal public servants shifted to working from home arrangements in March 2020 after the country plunged into tough restrictions to halt the spread of the pandemic.
In August 2020, the Australian Public Service Commission recorded a peak of around 64 per cent of federal public servants working remotely.
The commission released a circular a month later instructing departments and agencies to begin filtering workers back into the office as restrictions eased around the country.
By the end of the year, about 78 per cent of Canberra-based federal public service workers were back to their usual work location while the national number sat at 65 per cent.
But figures released to questions on notice last month showed employers in about 30 agencies had approved more than 20,000 work from home requests for either part or all of the week.
The Australian Taxation Office approved more than 10,000 flexible working requests since September, suggesting nearly half of staff are spending at least some of the week working from home.
Other agencies allowing workers more flexibility included the Health Department and CSIRO with more than 2500 requests approved each and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources with 1104 staff receiving approval on working arrangements.
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