Not business as usual in the CBD

Though Western Australia’s lockdown restrictions have eased, many retail and hospitality businesses face an uphill battle due to the lack of workers returning to their offices in the CBD.

Senior human resource management lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney Dr Robyn Johns says a lot of businesses are thinking about shifting their employees to work from home after the pandemic.

“There was resistance previously as to how certain jobs could be transitioned to remote working, but obviously with COVID-19 they’ve had to come up with solutions very quickly and they’ve found out that it has worked,” she says.

“I think there is going to be expectations from employees, certainly various surveys that I’ve seen going around, people are saying they want to work from home.

“They want the flexibility to be able to do it.”

Dr Robyn Johns on the rise of remote working. Audio: Johanna Peres.

Senior ANZ economist Felicity Emmett says we’ve seen the empty CBD’s and the impact that it’s had particularly on the hospitality sector.  

“If we see a more permanent shift to work from home, then organisations and venues like coffee shops are going to take a lot longer to recover.

“It’s possible that they don’t ever go back to the same sort of level of revenue that they saw before this crisis.”

“You could see some of these business fail.”

Felicity Emmett on the other possible implications of employees permanently working from home. Audio:Johanna Peres.

Bocelli’s Espresso co-owner Leo Agnello says that it would be a disaster if workplaces permanently kept their employees home after the pandemic.

“A lot of cafes will go broke. We rely very heavily on office workers.”

What’s the future for cafes like Bocelli’s Espresso in the CBD? Photo: Johanna Peres.

Mr Agnello says before COVID-19 around 40 percent of his customers were office workers but now that’s dropped to five percent.

Lilian Pavledis of Koko’s dry cleaning and alteration service says business has been really slow since reopening.

“We’ve only had about two customers today, otherwise normally at this time in the morning we would have had 10.

Lilian Pavledis says its been quiet in the city. Photo: Johanna Peres.

London Court News and Lotto owner Michelle Watson says her business continued trading during the restrictions period with reduced hours.

“Our revenue was down to only trading of 25 percent of our usual,” she says.

“We are heavily dependent on office workers because of our location on St Georges Terrace.

“Eighty percent of our customers are office workers.”

Michelle Watson working at London Court News and Lotto. Photo: Johanna Peres.

Mr Agnello says if things do recover it will probably be some time next year.

“The future seems bleak but hopefully things will get back to normal.”