Pokémon GO battles, blockbuster movies and after-hours beats are helping Brisbanites break the habits of COVID and return to the CBD.
Brisbane’s Fridays in the City campaign, led by the Property Council and Brisbane City Council, is ramping up for its final week, with everything from late-night shopping to bar-hopping on the menu.
Backed by landlords responsible for 40 per cent of Brisbane’s commercial office space, the campaign has driven an increase in foot-traffic across the CBD since it kicked off on 21 May.
Niantic Labs, the developer of Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, has thrown its support behind the campaign. Players of the augmented reality games are encouraged to battle their foes and collect unique items at designated locations around the city.
Jen Williams, the Property Council’s Queensland executive director, says “Fridays in the City is all about reminding people why the city is a great place to visit”.
“The Property Council’s most recent office occupancy data confirms that remote working remains the key challenge for Australia’s CBDs. Brisbane’s CBD office occupancy is sitting at 71 per cent of where it was pre-pandemic – and it’s been hovering at this level for the last six months.
“Our CBDs are our economic powerhouses. The property industry is stepping up with food and beverage deals, retail offerings, gift vouchers and giveaways galore. We want people join us for Fridays in the City and see what they’ve been missing.”
Fri-YAY favourites in the city
ISPT is one landlord that has stepped up to the plate, offering everything from Wintergarden gift vouchers to $2 cheeseburgers, early bird parking to giant Jenga sets in office lobbies.
But Malcolm Kemp, ISPT’s property investment manager, emphasises that enticing people back to the office doesn’t require lots of dollars.
“A building is a community – and it’s the little things that build community. It doesn’t have to be a $10 million piece of placemaking to create community. It’s the one per cent that people really value.”
Kemp lists a range of creative activation ideas that ISPT has embraced in recent years, from football tossing competitions to celebrate State of Origin to sales of Legacy badges and poppies in commemoration of Anzac Day.
“One of our most popular activations was a giant snow globe at Christmas time. People loved bringing in their kids to get a Christmas photo. One small activity brought a whole new demographic and dimension to the office.”
Kemp agrees that reorienting people back to their office after a year of remote work will take time, and says corporate leaders also have an important role to play.
“There needs to be a shift in language and focus from the C-suite.” Leaders can encourage flexible working, he says, but mid-week rather than on Monday and Friday, which are the days when a lively CBD matters the most and when productivity is at the greatest risk.
Kemp points to banking giant JP Morgan, which ordered its staff back to the office late last year after noting productivity slips on Mondays and Fridays, as well as the need for more “organic interaction”.
How Brisbane will break the COVID habit
Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index also points to potential perils of remote work.
After surveying 30,000-plus people in 31 countries and analysing of trillions of productivity and labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn, Microsoft found 70 per cent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue. But 65 per cent are craving more in-person time with their teams. Digital overload is increasing the working week, with more than half (54%) feeling overworked, and 39 per cent feeling exhausted.
“A Christmas party once a year won’t fix this,” Kemp says.
He throws down the gauntlet to the property industry. “We need to step up and be part of the solution. Our challenge is to come up with third spaces that tenants value and will want to be in five days a week.”
The Property Council’s Williams agrees. With Brisbane shaping up as the preferred city for the 2032 Olympics, the city is poised for growth, she says.
“But to position Brisbane for the future and capitalise on the generations of investment that have already been laid down, we must break the habits of COVID and get our people back together in the city.”
Check out the activities and activation ahead as part of the last week of Fridays in the City.