COVID-19 is impacting all aspects of our lives and it is one of the kinds of calamity that we haven’t dealt with in our recent past so we don’t have many hints on how to get past through it. Businesses all across the country have been hit hard by this and one of the hardest hit places are the CBDs. The infographic above puts together some facts about CBD and its importance along with an estimated impact on the CBD due to COVID-19 closure. The real question here is if this is correct way of looking at things ignoring the other side of the story.
Glass half empty
There is no denying on how important Sydney CBD had been to the Australian economy and to stress the point, I put together some numbers in the infographic above from Sydney City Government Website highlighting this contribution which probably should not have come as a surprise to you. You see news articles like below that use this historical importance of Sydney CBD as the only way out to success where linking CBD’s success to country’s success:
- Working from home is costing Sydney’s CBD $10 billion
- Sydney CBD needs to ‘swing hard’ to recover from double-digit economic hit
Above is certainly one way of looking at things, however, the mess that COVID-19 has brought us also brings with it an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective and define a new ‘normal’.
Glass half full
For industries where working from home (wfh) is possible, it has helped us revisit what are the things that are important and what are the things that we are just doing thinking this is how they are always meant to be done:
- How much time do we save by not coming to the centre of the city at the same time?
- Average Sydneysider spent 71 minutes travelling to and from work per day as of 2017 as indicated here.
- About 420k workers travelling to city as of 2016 as per here.
- The latest numbers are likely to be higher than these. Is this time worth spending or we are doing this because it was ‘normal’ to do?
- What can be the impacts of this saved time on our society as a whole?
- How does that translate to cost-saving or more spending power?
- There are also a cost-savings associated with not coming to the city centre. This means more spending power for all of us.
- Are all the carbon emissions worth?
- What are we learning from this pandemic?
- One of the most important thing from any setback is to take the learnings forward and not to repeat the same mistakes.
- Is this dependency on the CBD worth it going forward and how does that prepare us to deal with future pandemics?
- Can the resources be used better?
- Can the rental space be used better if we don’t need it as much as we think we did?
- Can the saving be used to invest more in digital infrastructure/employee development?
We can argue/disagree with the points specified above and have better arguments in favour of returning back to the CBD. The most important point is to have this healthy discussion happening while seeing this COVID-19 as our opportunity to redefine the normal and not be confined by the old normal.