Office return nears

Chris O''Hara was working remotely throughout the peak of the pandemic, using his caravan as an office. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS 207665_27

By Mitchell Clarke

More locals are set to leave the comforts of the home office and instead begin the dreaded commute back into the CBD, but Premier Daniel Andrews has said the typical 9 to 5 working week is “no longer a concept”.

From Monday 18 January, the public sector can return onsite at 25 percent capacity for each site while all other office workplaces can increase to 50 percent capacity, the Premier revealed on Thursday.

Plans to allow the increased capacity were put on hold for a week following concerns surrounding the Black Rock cluster in late December.

The increase in onsite staff will be a welcome boost for struggling CBD traders, but Mr Andrews said many employees wouldn’t want to rush back full time.

“Many people, after 12 months of flexible work, will want to retain a portion of that, not all of it and it’s not every worker, but many people I think will want to work a day or two at home because it works for them,” he said.

“We will see people return to the CBD but I think it would be just unwise, and the evidence does not bear it out, to assume that we’re going to have 100 percent of people who worked Monday to Friday every week working from an office in the city or the suburbs.

“It’s no longer a concept. It’s the lived experience for many people over a long year and for some, not all, but some, it’s something that works.”

Mr Andrews said his request to all employers and employees would be to “sit down and have a good faith discussion” about what worked best for both the business and the worker.

“I think there is a balance point to be struck there and I’d be confident that people can do that,” he said.

“I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from many, many very big employers about productivity not really being impacted. In fact, in many cases actually, (productivity) is being enhanced by people working in a much more flexible way.”

The option to remain working remotely will positively impact the road network including the problem plagued Monash Freeway, public transport system and general Covid safety.

Record keeping requirements for workplaces will remain unchanged, which means that an employer must keep a record of all workers and all visitors who attend the premises for longer than 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mask restrictions will also be eased from 11.59pm on Sunday 17 January, meaning masks will only be mandatory on all domestic flights, at airports, in hospitals, on public transport, in commercial passenger vehicles, at supermarkets and other large indoor retail locations, including shopping centres.

It’s recommended that masks are worn in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

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