February 2022

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2022

An interesting phenomenon is occurring in Australia, with a reverse migration of workers from sea or rural-change locations back to the major CBDs. People are in search of higher quality work and employment prospects as there is a gradual return to in-office employment. As discussed recently in an AFR article, and supported by a PwC survey, as life returns to normal there is a realisation that there will be an ongoing requirement for face-to-face work, and being based in a regional location can be career limiting. There are high-profile exceptions to this rule such as Atlassian who are allowing workers to work from home indefinitely. A rural location can be an idyllic setup for many but when there is an ongoing, weekly commute to a CBD location to factor in, this setup can be difficult to manage on an ongoing basis.

As a result there has been an uptick in rental demand in the CBD centres, as some workers seek to maintain both a rural base as well as a CBD ‘bolthole’ to engineer an ongoing hybrid sea-change setting. There are other factors at play too, notably high-quality high school education [either private or selective schools] is often based in the capital cities. As such we may see a demand for ongoing work-from-home from younger workers with young (or no) children, while staff with high-school aged kids may be more likely to return back to capital-city locations.

This sea-change migration and the following reverse migration is a somewhat unique Australian phenomenon in APAC, given the wide-open spaces available. In our other coverage locations of Singapore and Hong Kong, most folk live in quite close-quarters and in these small city-states there isn’t really a feasible option to move to a rural setting. In HK and SG, there is a huge appeal to spending time away from your home and in a comfortable office setting. Further, office interaction and socialising at lunch or after work for a quick drink with colleagues in both HK and SG is very much part of the work culture.

As this reverse migration takes place in Australia, we may see a reduction in demand for rural and regional property, combined with an increase in demand for city-based rentals. Aside from outlier companies it is becoming clear that most companies and employees have a preference for hybrid or full in-office employment. Some workers seeking to retain a full WFH employment may find their career prospects limited, as firms gradually hire staff who can simply head in to work in the office like the ‘olden days’.

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