After months at home, workers can trade the trackies and kitchen commute in for a return to the actual office, with the government ending most mandates from early April.
But the question remains as to whether people will be ready to return, in particular to the emptied CBD area.
Spark and Vodafone as well as Auckland Council today said it would take them some time to carry out a health and safety risk assessment and talk to their staff about a return.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Checkpoint he himself had just returned to the office, after he finished his isolation period that started when he tested positive to Covid-19.
Half of his office was coming in on a day-to-day basis, a sort of switch-up between teams to reduce the risk of any potential transmission.
“The nature of our work is we can work pretty much effectively from home. I have more difficulty with that because of poor broadband at home,” he said.
“But at the point at which it’s deemed safe for everybody to come in, I’ll look forward to that. Because working from home is one thing, yet the social interaction, the casual conversations … chewing the fat together, those are really an important part of how we our jobs.”
While Auckland’s Omicron peak appears to have passed, Goff said he believed some businesses would still want to wait until after the surge in general was over before asking workers to return.
“I’m keen for people to get back, I make the call for my own office but I don’t make the call for the council as a whole, the chief executive does that.
“But in the discussions we’ve had, he’s indicated that as soon as the risk assessment shows that it makes sense for people to come back, he’d like to see them back at work. That might mean there’s some aspects of working from home, maybe people do four days in the office and a day at home if that demonstrates to work well for the council and its workers.
“I don’t think we’ll go back to the ‘old normal’ but I think it does make a lot of sense to bring people back into work so they can get all those benefits I talked about, like social interaction.”
Other than workers, he said Auckland’s CBD would also have some of its pre-pandemic vibrancy restored thanks to eased border restrictions.
“I mean getting working holiday visas back … that’ll make a huge difference.
“And just between two to three weeks, we’ll have visitors back from Australia and a couple of weeks after that, we’ll have visitors internationally from visa-waiver countries.
“We’ll have the first wave of the international students coming back, another 5000 international students, all of those things breathe life into the city centre in Auckland.”
This morning, there was an event to celebrate Auckland playing host to the World Rally Championship, for the first time in 10 years.
“That’s going to bring 34,000 visitor nights to the city, it’s going to advertise Auckland as a destination to 80 million broadcast audience around the globe,” Goff said.
“Our council agencies are working closely with events organisers to try and bring these events back, to bring life back to the city. Rally enthusiasts will love it but so will the hospitality and accommodation industry.”