Business owners in Canberra City say they are eager for more clarity on a shift to flexible work for ACT government workers, as they try to rebound from a tough year.
Tim Manning opened his cafe, ARC, in February this year, in the Constitution Place building which also houses a number of ACT government departments.
The cafe lost about 95 per cent of their trade during the territory's lockdown, Mr Manning said, and has since climbed back up to about 75 per cent of where they were pre-lockdown.
"We're just trying to adjust and plan for what is coming through the door and what the likelihood for more people to be around, less people to be around [is]," Mr Manning said.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt said many businesses were still waiting for detail on ACT public servants' work arrangements next year, as the Chief Minister announced a shift to flexible working.
"We think there's an opportunity here for the ACT to lead the way by helping their staff get back to offices in Civic and Dickson, and in other parts of the city," Mr Catt said.
"Getting back to the office when we think about helping business is a simple and probably one of the most powerful ways that you can actually help those businesses in the city."
Mr Catt was speaking after ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr last Thursday announced the territory's public servants would be embracing a more flexible working model than their federal government counterparts.
"I think hybrid working is the way of the future," Mr Barr said, as he outlined that the era of in-office 9-to-5 work is over for the ACT's public servants.
"We need to change our mindset around CBDs and start thinking about central entertainment districts."
"I think the concept of 9-to-5 white-collar public sector employment simply being the mainstay of all activity in any CBD, whether it's Canberra or anywhere else, the pandemic will change that or has changed that forever."
Mr Catt said businesses needed to be included in discussions about changing working models.
"I think if that is the pathway of the ACT public service, that we are going down a pathway of remote working hubs ... in different locations, the sooner we can see that plan and the sooner businesses can understand how that might impact them, and also where the opportunities may be for businesses, the better off they'll be."
"We haven't had any actual consultation as yet on plans to set up those remote working hubs, or where they might likely be located across Canberra," Mr Catt said.
"We're very conscious that COVID has changed the way offices and businesses operate, and to an extent that that may become a permanent change and we have to be flexible enough to understand that," Mr Manning said.
"We also just know that the city and a vibrant hospitality scene is part of what has evolved Canberra over the last decade."
"We hope that any decisions that are being made take into account that there are small businesses that are extremely affected by bigger decisions that are made across organizations," he said.
"And that it is difficult when you're a single business operator to really be able to maintain your business if the business model completely changes overnight."
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