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Bosses are pleading to save CBDs

Peter Switzer
7 February 2022

Bosses are pleading with governments to come to the rescue of CBDs and their businesses, which pits the needs of an economy against the social and health concerns of employees.

The Daily Tele reports the views of Tony Shepherd, chairman of Venues NSW and former president of Business Council Australia, who is very concerned. “Capital cities are wealth generators, how can a state and country expand with a dead centre?” he said. “We need an urgent return of international tourism, to remove restrictions on late night opening hours and encourage people back to the workplace if we are to re-fire the CBD. Employers must encourage staff to return to the office permanently, it’s unsustainable for them to return three days a week.”

Justin Hemmes says big businesses have to put their foot down and get their staff to return to work but in reality they need government support. The owner of many pubs made an interesting point in the Tele. “The CBD is busy at night and weekends but not during the day…” he revealed.

Meantime I’m told it’s nearly impossible to get into gyms at 9am each day, which begs the question: if people can go to gyms without fear, why are offices so threatening?

Many worried employers believe this boycott-the-office trend by employees is a failure of leadership. “The state government needs to change the rhetoric and the public health order that encourages people [to] still work from home — it’s been the death knell of the CBD. Workers need to come back to reactivate the city and boost corporate movement and business,” Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said.

Last week, MYOB’s recent Business Monitor, “…which sampled more than 1,000 SMEs in December, found that 45% of SMEs thought running a business over the past 12 months had caused them anxiety, while 24 per cent said it had led to depression,” Business Australia reported. “In rating their own level of wellbeing from zero being “very poor” to 10 being “excellent”, 32% of SME owners and operators scored themselves five or lower,” the report found.

Mental health came in as the most immediate concern for business owners, up 2 percentage points from June 2021. And the key reasons for business-related causes of mental health challenges among working Australians were identified as financial concerns/cash flow (29%) and the COVID pandemic and its wider economic impact (27%). 

This is not only going to lead to the exiting of business owners from the economy, others will simply downsize their operations. The long-term impact could be a lot of people working from home might find they will be spending more time at home but without a job, unless government leaders take decisive action to help small business owners riding a lot of losses because of their role in keeping people safe from the pandemic.

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