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Early marks and 'cheeky' drinks: Melbourne businesses asked to encourage 4pm Friday knock-offs to revive trade in the city centre

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 3/8/2021 David Adams
a group of people crossing a street in front of Flinders Street railway station: Avalon/Universal Images Group/Getty Images Avalon/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
  • Office workers in Melbourne's CBD would be encouraged to finish work at 4pm on Fridays, under a proposal from the Property Council of Australia.
  • The plan is devised to boost occupancy in Melbourne's offices, which sat three-quarters empty in late February.
  • The real estate industry group wants city events and free public transport to bolster the proposal.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Office workers in Melbourne's CBD would be encouraged to knock off at 4pm on Fridays, under a new proposal the Property Council of Australia (PCA) says would revitalise trade and workplace occupancy in the hard-hit city centre.

The Herald Sun reports the PCA is lobbying both state and local governments to back the campaign, which would see CBD employers guarantee their workforce an early mark each weekend.

The move could be bolstered by public festivities, the PCA says, with free public transportation on offer to encourage time spent in once-bustling laneways.

An extra hour or two of spare time on Friday would drive trade to non-office businesses too, the PCA speculates.

"We’re calling on CBD bosses to introduce a 4pm knock-off pledge, encouraging workers to leave the office together and either go for a walk through the city or enjoy a cheeky after work drink," said PCA's Victorian director Danni Hunter.

Beyond the fanfare of a shorter workday, the proposal aims to counter harsh conditions for the city's commercial landlords.

The PCA, advocates for Australia's commercial real estate sector, says just 24% of Melbourne CBD offices were occupied in February.

That figure marked a 7% dip from January, and reflected the lingering impact of Victoria's snap five-day coronavirus lockdown.

Meanwhile, City of Melbourne pedestrian data shows foot traffic is improving, but still has a long way to go before it reaches pre-pandemic levels.

The move would also challenge Australia's increasing acceptance of flexible working arrangements, which became a necessity for many workers during 2020's lengthy shutdowns.

Australian software juggernaut Atlassian last year revealed it will no longer compel its employees to work in the office, with co-CEO Scott Farquhar saying "we will no longer be held back by the old way of doing things."

The Herald Sun reports the City of Melbourne is not entirely shut off to the PCA proposal.

But any plan to funnel office workers into the CBD will contend with lingering fears of another snap lockdown -- and the realisation that for many white-collar professionals, productivity isn't confined to an open-plan office.

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