Melbourne Workers Set to Return to City Offices

Melbourne Workers Set to Return to City Offices
A general view of pedestrians crossing the bridge with the Yarra River and CBD in the background on November 06, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Melbourne workers are expected to return to city offices in droves on January 18, with new research showing most feel safe and ready after being home-bound for nine months.

Private workplaces in Victoria are able to return to 50 percent capacity from Monday, with public service offices permitted to ramp up to 25 percent.

"Our message to workers returning to the city is that we've missed you, welcome back," Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said in a statement.

A Roy Morgan survey of 503 city workers from late November to mid-December shows almost two-thirds were either willing to return to their central Melbourne workplaces (44 percent) or had already (15 percent).

The most commonly cited factors making workers feel safe to return were COVID-safe plans and adherence to health measures.

Nearly 60 percent of people surveyed wanted to return to the workplace for improved health and wellbeing, while 53 percent were motivated by the improved productivity of the office environment.

The survey, commissioned on behalf of the City of Melbourne, found only 10 percent of respondents were not willing to return to the office at all.

"Our research shows that while many people have embraced greater flexibility and convenience working from home, they don't want to live at work," Capp said

Victoria's staged return-to-work plan was delayed a week to allow health authorities to mop up the Black Rock cluster, seeded by Sydney's northern beaches outbreak.

Mask rules also ease to pre-Christmas levels from Monday, making them mandatory in limited settings including supermarkets, large indoor retail areas, public transport, hospitals and airports.

Callum Godde in Melbourne