Omicron rise jeopardizes return to work targets

“The biggest challenge at the moment with delivering rapid antigen testing to employees is their availability,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and any government announcements, but anticipate that this may be something we do for employees working in key operational roles in the future.”

Riku Kaliramana runs Flagstaff News & Lotto on William Street in Melbourne’s CBD, saying a further delay in workers returning to their offices will almost certainly push companies like his over the edge.

Riku Kaliramana runs Flagstaff News & Lotto in Melbourne's CBD and says that if office workers do not return soon, companies like his may have to close their doors.

Riku Kaliramana runs Flagstaff News & Lotto in Melbourne’s CBD and says that if office workers do not return soon, companies like his may have to close their doors.Credit:Photo: Scott McNaughton

Having just managed to escape the successive COVID lockdowns, Mr Kaliramana said many small and micro enterprises in the CBD are betting on a better 2022.

“We were hoping this thing would last two years, so after this lockdown we might return after the school holidays, but everything is still the same.”

“The revenue we used to generate in a week or an hour, we can not even generate in a whole day at the moment.”

“We used to trade 13 hours, now we only trade 9 hours, and we used to have two workers, but right now I work alone,” Mr Kaliramana said.

“We need people in the city, that’s all I can say, if there are no people in the city, then I do not think the city will be back as it used to be,” he said.

For Paul Signorelli, CEO of Doltone House Group with more than 30 venues, Omicron has already thrown the company’s schedule in Sydney into disarray.

Paul Signorelli of Doltone House Group has been working from home since getting COVID-19 this Christmas.

Paul Signorelli of Doltone House Group has been working from home since getting COVID-19 this Christmas.Credit:Dean Sewell

He was forced to cancel a New Year’s Eve event at Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont after 70 percent of the 350 guests had canceled their tickets. Three grooms with COVID-19 postponed their weddings, which were scheduled for January. And the long-awaited January reopening of Biaggio Cafe, which has been closed since March, has also been put on hold.

Most of Biaggio’s regular patrons from the nearby Google building in Pyrmont still work from home. “That cafe is a victim of COVID. It just has not had a chance to reopen,” Mr Signorelli said.

“In the next quarter, there have been a few nervous customers, especially in business and in the social sector, which are weddings and private events. This Omicron has scared a lot of people the way it travels through society.”

Since getting a positive COVID-19 test result on Christmas Day, Mr Signorelli has been working from his home and many of his staff are isolating themselves as well.

“We have seen a bit of a handbrake pulled up [on staff returning to the workplace], all services will be affected in January and February when we come out on New Year’s Eve, ”he said.

Paul Nicolaou, CEO of Business Sydney, said many companies in Sydney are “reevaluating their schedules to bring staff back to their jobs” based on high caseload and recent government advice.

And it’s a feeling shared by almost all the major CBD employers. The major accounting and consulting group KPMG has indicated that its return to the work plan may be in trouble due to the outbreaks in NSW and Victoria.

“Our people are currently enjoying their annual holiday closing and our offices are due to reopen from January 10,” said Dorothy Hisgrove, National Managing Partner – People and Inclusion, KPMG.

Our “Work from Anywhere” policy means that people can choose where they want to work, but in geographies such as NSW and Victoria, where the current Health Council is working from home, if you can, we will encourage our people to respect this, “Mrs Hisgrove added.

In light of the uncertainty surrounding the supply of RATs and rising case numbers, Tim Finlayson, CEO of the four major law firms King & Wood Mallesons, said the firm will continue to encourage a hybrid way of working.


“At this point, it is still a personal choice for our employees when working in the office unless the role cannot be performed externally.

Another of the four major law firms, Herbert Smith Freehills, also intended to reopen its offices on Jan. 10, but a spokeswoman said the decision could be reviewed. “We are closely monitoring the latest developments in the pandemic and will review our plans closer to our reopening date.”

Medibank is also taking a wait-and-see approach. The company welcomed staff back to the Docklands office in December for three weeks before its traditional closing period. The majority of the staff should be back by January 10th.

“At this point, we expect the office to be available for ours again [fully vaccinated] employees from 10 January, we are closely monitoring the development of the situation and any changes in the government’s advice, ”said a spokeswoman for the company.

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