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East coast low could bring torrential rain, storms


Forecasters have warned there is a “lot more rain to come” as a low-pressure system moves from southwestern Western Australia to the southeast as we head into the weekend.

But that may be just a taster of things to come.

This system could be the building blocks for the formation next week of an east coast low, essentially a cyclone outside of tropical waters. If that happens, expect huge winds, torrential rain with up to 100mm falling leading to floods.

“Severe weather is a possibility,” said Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe this morning.

A cold front is currently over southern parts of WA, bringing showers to the state’s southern tip although Perth is remaining dry for the next few days.

That front is travelling east and it has moisture in mind for Melbourne, as well as Adelaide and Canberra and maybe even a bit for Brisbane and Sydney too.

Mr Sharpe said the upcoming initial “rain event” should hit the southeast from Friday onwards.

EAST COAST LOW WARNING

However it’s Monday when the real trouble could start.

The system bringing that rain for the weekend could then head out to the Tasman where one forecasting model has it deepening and getting angrier, Mr Sharpe said.

East coast lows have many of the characteristics of a tropical cyclone but because they are not formed in tropical waters, they’re not referred to as that. It doesn’t mean they can’t pack a punch though.

“At this early stage, if an east coast low does develop, the greatest chance of seeing heavy rainfall in excess of 100mm is from the south coast of NSW to the Hunter on Monday and Tuesday, but we’ll have to wait another day or two for this forecast to firm up.”

“There’s the threat of heavy rain turning into flooding, damaging wind gusts along the coastal fringe and very large seas as well.”

Currently the Bureau of Meteorology is indeed forecasting some wet conditions for Sydney early next week with 15mm falling on Monday and then more into Tuesday.

WET WEEKEND

Much of the south and east will have a soggy starter before the main course of the storm.

“An upper cold pool will rise up (from The Bight) and across into South Australia on Friday, and then across southeastern parts of Australia through the weekend,” said Mr Sharpe.

Parts of NSW and Victoria could see rain on Saturday and then Queensland on Sunday.

“From this rain event many drought-affected regions will see a nice top-up to keep them going. Widespread falls of 5-30mm are likely for the Darling Downs, Granite Belt, the NSW slopes, plains and Riverina and northeastern Victoria with heavier falls possible on the eastern side of the ranges and along the coast,” he told news.com.au.

It will be dry for the next couple of days in Adelaide with highs of 16C and lows of 5C. Similar temperatures for the weekend but the skies will open on Friday with showers on Saturday and Sunday too.

Expect settled conditions in Melbourne with maximums of 16C and minimums of 6-8C until Saturday when a shower or two can be expected with the mercury struggling to breach 13C.

Tasmania should avoid much of the rain with sunny days and highs of 13C although expect chilly mornings of 2C in Hobart. Some rain could fall on Sunday, however.

Light frost in Canberra as dawn temperatures drop towards zero. Highs of around 13C. Some rain will sweep through on Friday and Saturday.

For the rest of this week,Sydney should be cloudy with some sun and a possible light shower on Sunday. Maximums will be around 20C with lows of 9C.

Inland parts of NSW could see quite a bit of moisture with this system. Dubbo is looking at possibly as much as 15mm of rain on Friday followed by 6mm on Saturday. Tamworth could get up to 10mm both days.

Hopping over the border, the Granite Belt and Darling Downs of Queensland could also see some healthy falls on Sunday.

Isolated showers will be a feature in Brisbane for the next few days with up to 6mm falling on Sunday as that system brushes past. It could get to 24C on Sunday with 21C on Thursday and minimums in the low teens.

It will be a warm and sunny 32C in Darwin for the coming days with mild 22C overnight temperatures.

Highs in the Perth CBD of around 17-20C with a nippy 4C on Saturday morning. It will get warmer on Sunday, up to 23C, but wetter too. As much as 25mm could fall on Tuesday, with a possible storm.



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Super Rugby AU rule changes hoped to bring crowds back and change future of the game


It’s fair to say there will be many more eyes on Australia’s new domestic rugby competition when it kicks off this weekend than just those of the diehard fans.

Super Rugby AU is Australia’s equivalent of New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, and was quickly formed to fill the breach left by the 15-team, five-nations Super Rugby tournament which went into COVID-19-enforced hibernation in mid-March.

The future of that competition remains in limbo, with both South Africa and Argentina isolated and their new case curve still trending upwards. Japan’s Sunwolves were to be mothballed at the end of the 2020 season anyway, and though there were attempts to have them play in the new Australian competition, they’ve now played their last game.

Australia’s four Super Rugby sides — the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, and the Brumbies — will be joined by the Perth-based Western Force in a full home-and-away competition played over 10 weeks plus two weeks of finals.

For the Force, it marks their return to top-flight Australian rugby for the first time since their axing from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season.

Western Force players wait for a try decision during the World Series Rugby match against Fiji in 2018.
The Western Force will be welcomed back to the fold.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

But it’s the law variations in place that will draw the extra attention, and from the moment the Reds and Waratahs run out onto Brisbane’s Lang Park on Friday night. Behind every one of the changes is an intention to make a more enjoyable spectacle of the game for spectators, fans and players alike.

A couple are already in place over the ditch, with Super Rugby Aotearoa implementing 10 minutes of “golden point” extra time in the event of a scoreboard deadlock after 80 minutes.

The other is the allowance to replace a player sent from the field with a red card after 20 minutes. The sent-off player can’t play any further part in the game, but the contest can be restored to 15 players on 15, 20 minutes later.

Neither has been seen in New Zealand yet in three rounds, but Australia’s leading referee Angus Gardner is a fan.

“You definitely want the players to decide the game and as a ref you prefer to not make a decision that decides it,” he said last week, of the extra time allowance.

Gardner has been busy over the past fortnight, running live familiarity sessions around the new variations with the Waratahs and Rebels. The focus on the breakdown contest in Super Rugby Aotearoa — and the sharp upsurge in penalties — were a cause for concern initially, and were undoubtedly a reason Gardner and his colleagues were utilised during these intra-squad sessions around the country.

Ryan Louwrens holds a rugby ball in both hands and prepares to pass it away from a ruck
New rules around the breakdown have sped up play, but has also seen an initial uptick in penalties.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“They’re really rewarding speed to the breakdown, I think for us that’s going to highlight our breakdown presence,” Rebels backrower Michael Wells said, his side spending this week of preparation in Canberra to escape the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Melbourne.

“Attacking wise, you can’t be slow; you have to be really fast. Defensively, if you have a good on-ball presence you’re really going to get pay out of it. I think that was the biggest thing about having Gus [Gardner] here, just to be exposed to those new rules, because it’s different watching it in the New Zealand comp,” Wells said.

But the breakdown focus is having a positive impact already over the Tasman. In half a dozen games over the first three rounds in New Zealand, the rugby on display has been wonderful to watch, no doubt spurred on by huge crowds now allowed with no restrictions in place.

Fans applaud as players line up in the foreground
Super Rugby Aotearoa has returned to huge crowds.(Photosport via AP: Joe Allison)

The crowds will be much smaller when Super Rugby AU kicks off on Friday night, but it’s certainly hoped the rugby is no less exciting. Rugby Australia is also hoping the decision to go a bit further with law variations will have an impact, too.

Several of them roll over from last season’s National Rugby Championship, in which a rampant Western Force ran away with the title. The line drop-out allowance, which rewards the defending team if they’re able to hold the attacking team up in-goal, works as a faster way of restarting play instead of a five-metre scrum that risks multiple resets.

And 50-22 and 22-50 kicks carry over too, borrowing from rugby league’s 40-20, which will force teams to defend differently at the back, as well as open up attacking opportunity.

“Does that open up more space in the front line to play ball in hand?” Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne wondered.

“And if they don’t defend that back field, are we then able to kick and find those 50-22s?”

The players themselves can already see opportunities.

“It’s going to break some teams when we find that space and take those opportunities, it’s going to hurt a lot of teams,” Brumbies centre Irae Simone offered from Canberra.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney loves the removal of calling for a mark in the defensive 22 from kicks originating in the same portion of the field. But he’s equally wary of the architect of the idea.

“I am a bit worried about Matt Toomua and the impact that he is going to have. He is such a talented 10 and he has the ball on a string really,” Penney said of the Rebels and Wallabies flyhalf.

“I thought it was a real breath of fresh air to hear Matt talking about what could be really good for the game.”

A male rugby union player kicks the ball from a penalty goal attempt with his right foot.
Matt Toomua could have a huge impact with his boot under the new rules.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

As Rugby Australia works to negotiate its way to new TV deal for 2021 and beyond, the hope is that these variations and the exciting rugby it anticipates will result will be really good for the game over a longer term. Arguably, the future of the professional game is counting on it.

But the condensed campaign means there won’t be time for the five sides to work their way into contention. Most agree the Brumbies start overwhelming as the favourites, given they were running second overall when Super Rugby was suspended.

Brumbies prop James Slipper says that just means the side is already determined to pick up where they left off back in March.

“It’s always important to start well,” he said.

“We actually addressed that this year in Super Rugby and we did start well.

“What you find is when you have a good start is you try and build on that momentum and that winning habit.”

Super Rugby AU Round 1 fixtures

Friday: Queensland Reds vs NSW Waratahs, Brisbane 7:15pm AEST

Saturday: ACT Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels, Canberra 7:15pm AEST

Western Force have the bye.



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Coronavirus rules to be relaxed to bring big crowds back to stadiums, concerts, pubs, restaurants and other venues around Australia


Thousands of fans would be able to attend sporting events again and limits on the numbers of people in indoor venues would be scrapped under relaxations of coronavirus rules flagged on Friday.

Speaking after a National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said states were working toward rules which would let stadiums capable of seating up to 40,000 people host crowds of up to 10,000

He said states and territories were on track to implement the changes in July.

The changes would apply to events like sporting matches, concerts and festivals, though venues would only be able to seat 25 per cent of their capacity.

“It would have to be a large, open area. There would need to be seats at the appropriate distance. It would need to be ticketed, so people would be able to understand who was in attendance at that event,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said venues with capacities of more than 40,000 people could be allowed to fill a quarter of their seats, but said the details of that were still being worked out in conjunction with chief health officers around the country.

A crowd of Geelong Cats fans in a stadium grandstand, wearing blue and white, holding banners and shaking oversized pom poms.
Fans could be back at footy games under the new rules.(AAP: Julian Smith)

“When you’re up above 40,000, you’ve got more than 10,000 people going to a gathering, that has implications for the egress and access of and to those premises, public transport crushes, all those sorts of things,” he said.

“That will require much more significant work.”

Outdoor festivals will be allowed, but they will need to offer seating to patrons.

“If we’re talking about large folk festivals where people roam around from tent to tent, and gathering to gathering, that is not something that is being talked about here,” Mr Morrison said.

The changes will be implemented as states move to ease restrictions at their own pace.

Friday’s National Cabinet meeting heard that all states and territories were on track to complete the move to the new stage three restrictions next month.

Protests condemned despite new crowd rules

A limit of 100 people on indoor gatherings will also be scrapped, with no limit on numbers, but a requirement that venues allow for four square metres of space per person.

Mr Morrison said that would allow for weddings, funerals and other indoor events to only be limited by the size of their venue, but said nightclubs would remain shut.

Thousands of demonstrators flocked to Sydney's CBD to protest racial injustice at the Black Lives Matter rally. June 6, 2020.
The risk of coronavirus at protests remains too great, authorities say.(ABC News: Jack Fisher)

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said even though governments around Australia would soon move to allow stadiums to reopen and allow socially-distant crowds to gather, it was not acceptable for protesters to flout health restrictions.

“Events where you have a large number of people who don’t know each other, and who we can’t contact-trace easily or track, are one of the highest-risk events,” he said.

“These sort of events really are dangerous.”

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against Indigenous deaths in custody last weekend, and one person has since tested positive for COVID-19.

“We saw in Victoria that one of the people who was at the event potentially could have been infectious,” Professor Murphy said.

“We won’t know for another week or so whether that has led to any spike in cases in that state.”



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GWS Giants want to bring corporate sponsors back to games, but ordinary fans will have to wait


Greater Western Sydney expects to learn as soon as Friday whether it will become the first Australian sporting club to welcome supporters back to matches.

The Giants are hopeful up to 350 corporate partners could be let into their round-two meeting with North Melbourne on June 14, despite ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

But the plan hinges on whether a fresh New South Wales government ruling that allows up to 50 people in restaurants also applies to corporate hospitality facilities at Giants Stadium.

The Royal Agricultural Society, which operates the venue, is awaiting government approval.

“We’re really intent on trying to get it happening and we should know in the next 48 hours,” GWS chief executive Dave Matthews told Fox Footy on Wednesday night.

If the plan is approved, Matthews said corporate supporters and sponsors would fill the available spots inside the stadium, rather than everyday members or fans.

“They’re regular, passionate supporters who have a capacity to really invest significantly in the club,” Matthews said.

GWS are also hopeful masses of fans will be allowed to return to AFL venues later in the season.

AFL players run towards the stands as their fans cheer and celebrate their prelim final win.
Regular Giants fans and members, seen here at the MCG in last year’s prelim, won’t be the first back through the gates.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

That possibility has prompted a request to the AFL from the Giants and cross-town rivals Sydney, who are seeking to play their ‘Battle of the Bridge’ towards the end of the revamped home-and-away season.

“If that opportunity presents itself we’d like to see the derby played later in the year,” Matthews said.

The AFL is unveiling its fixture in four-week blocks this season to allow itself as much flexibility as possible.

West Australian teams Fremantle and West Coast are hoping their stint in a Gold Coast hub does not go past the scheduled four weeks, but their future will be dependent on WA relaxing its rules on interstate travel.

Even if the Dockers and Eagles aren’t able to continue the season in a normal fly-in, fly-out manner, they hope a new hub could be created in WA.

A smiling Justin Longmuir talks during a media conference wearing a purple Fremantle Dockers shirt.
Justin Longmuir hopes the WA clubs’ stint on the Gold Coast won’t be for longer than a month.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“Clearly the best-case scenario is that the borders are relaxed here and then we can get back to some normal travel, fly-in, fly-out,” Dockers coach Justin Longmuir said.

“The AFL has been really supportive. They understand what we’re sacrificing to go over there and they’ve put a lot of things in place to make it as easy as they can for us.

“They understand that after a while, we’ll need to come home to family and friends.”

ABC/AAP



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Business

bring in the COVID captain


A study by Ernst & Young has estimated it will take about 30 per cent longer to catch a lift at peak times. That is likely to see more people bring in their own morning coffee and lunch, to avoid spending time loitering in the lobby.

Selina Short, managing partner for Oceania real estate, hospitality and construction at Ernst & Young, said this crisis is demanding a new juggling act of management teams with the “now, next and beyond” needing to be worked on simultaneously.

At this early stage there is equal commentary between businesses needing less space to allow for flexibility, and more space as the move towards fixed seating and appropriate spacing.

AMP Capital CEO office & logistics Luke Briscoe

“Business are figuring out how to manage and support a large remote workforce; they are in the detail of how to bring people back into the office safely; and they are thinking about the long term impacts to the future of work,” Ms Short said.

The days of going to the ‘hang out’ zones, piling into a meeting room or even gathering for a birthday cake will all but disappear.

Hot desking is now a thing of the past under new government orders. Often touted end-of-trip facilities in an office-building basement may no longer be a drawcard.

Charter Hall chief executive David Harrison said rising unemployment and a slowing economy may result in slowing demand for office space in terms of expansion.

“Thirty years ago, the average workspace ratio per person was 25 square meters of office space. Now it’s around 10 square meters per person on average,”Mr Harrison said.

“I think it’s going to go back up to one person to 13 sq m. The trend towards activity-based working or agile workplaces will reverse and it will reverse very quickly.”

That change will be driven by concern about employees welfare, both physical and mental, in confined spaces.

Mr Harrison said the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was likely to be “bouncy” for different industries.

“Dependent on the industry and sector, some will see a V-shaped recovery and some will experience a deep U-shaped recovery,” he said.

Cushman and Wakefield’s workplace solutions expert, Lisa Mhaya, said there are at least 40 different surfaces that are touched on the journey to, and once in, the office. These are the areas that will change working habits dramatically.

Ms Mhaya has been working with a number of businesses in the past few weeks and says landlords are adhering to the principles of the “6-feet office”.

“The major focus will be on distancing, installing sensors to monitor people numbers, crowd management for lifts, temperature testing and dedicated isolation rooms,” Ms Mhaya said.

“Some lesser known but high-impact changes will include the removal of all commonly used stationary; fewer meetings; decisions on who should continue to work from home based on demographics; creation of new roles in the office such as a COVID block-captain.”

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For landlords, they will work with tenants to uphold the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) side of the business.

Luke Briscoe managing director office & logistics at AMP Capital, said there is no question that the way businesses use office space will change as a result of our recent work from home experience – but this doesn’t mean that it’s for the worse.

“Having discussed with many of our customers, the feedback is mixed, with some businesses indicating their intent to increase flexibility, while others reinforcing the need for social interaction and a business ‘town centre'”, Mr Briscoe said.

AMP Capital is undertaking a comprehensive survey of our 870 customers, where we will talk to their experience with working from home, their likely demand in the future and how COVID will change their office accommodation behaviours.

“At this early stage there is equal commentary between businesses needing less space to allow for flexibility, and more space as the move towards fixed seating and appropriate spacing between team members becomes the preference,” Mr Briscoe said.

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National Cabinet to bring forward meeting on lifting coronavirus restrictions, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says


Nationwide restrictions on movement and business could be eased as soon as next week, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring Australians have “earned an early mark” in the fight against coronavirus.

Mr Morrison said National Cabinet would bring forward a key meeting on relaxing Australia’s coronavirus restrictions to next Friday, a week earlier than scheduled.

But he again tied the relaxation of restrictions to downloads of the Federal Government’s COVIDSafe app, saying “millions more” Australians needed to sign up.

“Australians have earned an early mark through the work that they have done,” he said.

“That decision will now be made next Friday, and we’ll be meeting twice over the course of the next week to ensure that we work through the many things that have to be resolved in order to make those decisions.”

Mr Morrison said a Treasury briefing to National Cabinet today had underscored the impact restrictions were having on the economy.

“We need to restart our economy, we need to restart our society,” he said.

Mr Morrison would not be drawn on which restrictions may be eased, though it remains likely barriers to international movement will remain for some time.

“We’ll be looking at all the matters that are currently subject to restrictions, and we’ll be reviewing that and making decisions about which are the ones we can move on,” he said.

“That’ll be a welcome relief for the community. [For] the economy to move to a higher gear, that’s what we want to see happen.

“I’m not going to flag any particular ones at all, it’s important that the National Cabinet consider that on the best possible medical advice.”

Want to go to the pub? Download the app

The Prime Minister said 11 out of 15 conditions set by National Cabinet for easing restrictions had been met.

“Of those that remain outstanding, there was one that Australians can do something about, and that is downloading the COVIDSafe app,” he said.

“This is a critical issue for National Cabinet when it comes to making decisions next Friday about how restrictions can be eased.”

Mr Morrison said more than 3.5 million Australians had downloaded the app, but there would need to be “millions more”.

When asked how soon Australians could go back to the pub, Mr Morrison replied that the first step would be to download the app.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the 15 conditions considered by National Cabinet ranged from hospital surge capability to sentinel testing to detect coronavirus spread in the community.

But he stressed the importance of bolstering the app’s download numbers.

“The methodology is really up to speed except for one thing — except for the app uptake,” he said.

“That’s not green at the moment, as the PM has said, we need the app uptake to be higher before we can say that that final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of contact tracing is there.”

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Privacy concerns over new technology to help track the spread of coronavirus



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What will tomorrow’s workplace bring? More elbow room, for starters


Even if such changes won’t greet most employees at first, their return to the office may be carefully choreographed.

In the short term, signs may be posted reminding everyone to wash hands — and perhaps stick with elbow bumps rather than handshakes and hugs. Disinfectant wipes will be everywhere.

Some companies are considering phasing in employees to limit the number of people on the premises and ease them back to office life after a prolonged period of sequestering at home.

“You’re trying to build confidence and a secure feeling,” said Matthew Barlow, a vice chairman of Savills, a real estate company.

Remote-work practices that many companies have adopted in recent weeks are likely to continue in some form for the foreseeable future, leaving some offices lightly populated and making it easier for workers to spread out.

Alternating groups of employees at the office is also under discussion.

“There could be A teams and B teams working different days,” said Scott Rechler, chief executive and chairman of RXR Realty.

Moving desks farther apart could also give workers more elbow room.

The whole point of kinetic furniture was to bring people together. Now it has a different function: to pull people apart.

Kelly Griffin, principal at architecture firm NBBJ

Over the past decade, many companies eliminated private offices in favour of open plans, but the amount of space per office worker declined 25 per cent, said Janet Pogue McLaurin, an architect and principal at the design firm Gensler, which has been tracking changes in the workplace in annual surveys since 2008.

The typical workstation of a decade ago — the cubicle — was 2.40 by 2.40 metres. By 2015, the workstation was down to 1.80 by 2.40 metres, and in recent years, the contraction has continued.

Benching — desks lined up side by side — has been another way workers have been squeezed.

A benching desk with a width of 1.80 metres would be consistent with current social distancing guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many desks are not that wide. And often one row of desks faces another row, so that employees are directly opposite their peers.

To create a 1.80-metre radius around each employee, companies may have to pull desks apart or stagger employees so they are not facing one another, experts say.

Companies are considering other ways to give employees breathing room.

A conference room intended for 12 might be repurposed as a meeting room for six. In lounge areas, chairs could be placed farther apart. Chairs on casters will permit people to roll seats a safe distance from colleagues.

“The whole point of kinetic furniture was to bring people together,” said Kelly Griffin, a principal at NBBJ who leads the architecture firm’s workplace strategy group. “Now it has a different function: to pull people apart.”

Hot-desking hiatus

Ten per cent of US office workers no longer have assigned seats, according to Gensler. This so-called hot-desking, or hotelling — where employees do not have designated desks but instead come in and find a place to sit — may go on hiatus, if only until the fear of contagion fades.

“Maybe we don’t move around quite as much,” McLaurin said.

Or gather in large groups. All-hands meetings may not resume immediately, said Michael Kleinberg, president and partner of MKDA, an interior design firm. “Nobody is going to want to come,” he added. “I think there’s going to be a continuation of Zoom meetings for a while.”

However, the pandemic may result in fundamental changes that will be around for years to come, altering how office buildings are designed.

Just as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks created tighter security measures in office buildings and flooding from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 prompted the elevation of mechanical systems, the coronavirus may focus attention on air circulation and filtering.

Sensor-activated controls may also increase, reducing the number of surfaces that need to be touched in an office and allowing workers to use lifts and open doors with the wave of a hand.

Certain materials may come to the fore. Smooth surfaces that are easy to wipe will be preferable to textured or porous ones that could harbour germs. And antimicrobial materials used in hospitals and laboratories may migrate to offices. Interest has surged in new materials such as those that mimic sharkskin, to which microscopic organisms have difficulty adhering.

Some old metals may experience a revival. Copper and its alloys — including brass and bronze — have been shown to be essentially self-sanitising, able to kill bacteria and, early studies suggest, perhaps even the coronavirus plaguing the planet.

Work-from-home continues

The ability to work from home at least a few days a week — long sought by many workers — may be here to stay.

Even firms that previously insisted on everyone’s being in the office — either from force of habit or a suspicion that employees would loaf if not under management’s watchful eye — have discovered that the work-from-home experiment that the crisis has thrust on large swathes of the workforce has turned out better than expected.

“A big light bulb went off during this pandemic,” said Anita Kamouri, vice president at Iometrics, a workplace services firm.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, expects more than 25 per cent of employees to continue working from home multiple days a week, up from less than 4 per cent who did so before the pandemic.

“I don’t think that genie is going back into the bottle,” she said.

Already preliminary findings from a new study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest that more than 34 per cent of respondents have switched from commuting to working at home across the United States. In the Northeast, more than 40 per cent have made the switch.

The digital infrastructure for remote work already existed, said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and a co-author of the study. “The tools people found are working pretty well,” he said.

If companies do allow more of their employees to log in from home, some may consider reducing their office footprint, which could have significant ramifications for commercial real estate.

But if the amount of space devoted to employee workstations and other functions increases, demand for space could balance out.

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Lounges, cafes and other gathering spaces that sprang up to make collaborative work easier may become even more important if employees do more work from home and commute in for meetings.

At the Seattle office of B+H Architects, an informal space called the Sandbox was designed as “a place to meet and exchange ideas,” said Doug Demers, a managing principal at the firm.

The circular room has a large digital screen for sharing information and curved seating that provides a sense of enclosure.

People working from home could call in remotely, Demers said, but he thinks this kind of space will be one of the things that draw employees back to the office because it helps provide a sense of community.

“There will be a higher value around spaces where we come together,” he said.

The New York Times

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