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Back to the office by PM's Christmas deadline? Don't bet on it

Company bosses are in mixed minds about a big return to their offices in central business districts post-pandemic, with only some set to be back at their desks by Christmas.

But for others, public transport remains the biggest worry for employees who fear catching the coronavirus.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australia's public servants to start filing back to their offices to kickstart struggling CBDs across the country.

David Attenborough, chief executive of Tabcorp, said he would begin encouraging staff back to the office after the Spring Racing Carnival ends in mid-November.

"We're looking forward to getting our employees back into the workplace in a way that will work for them and work for our business," he said.

Mr Attenborough said a number of employees had accessed Tabcorp's internal assistance, which included 24-hour emergency relocation and support services, during the pandemic but would not disclose the specific number.

A number of office tenants are initially aiming to get up to 50 per cent of staff back in the door, using a booking system and rotating rosters to help maintain social distancing requirements.

However, Fifth Frame partner Laura Applebee-Jones, who helps company clients develop strategies for managing their people, said for many this target would not be reached before mid-2021.

She said there was more uncertainty now than in the early days of the pandemic, when businesses responded similarly by prioritising their employees' health and safety.

"It was kind of a clearer situation, there was less ambiguity. Whereas there's a greater level of uncertainty and more optionality for organisations," Ms Applebee-Jones said.


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