Working from home is making Melbourne a nicer place to live

23 July 2020 3 min. read

The Covid-19 pandemic and all that comes with it is driving up the liveability of Melbourne’s middle and outer suburbs, according to an analysis from PwC. The shift has a lot to do with the absence of long commutes due to virtual working conditions. 

PwC’s CityPulse is a real time tracker of living conditions in cities across Australia, resting on three pillars – live, work and play. Using these metrics as a framework, the firm collects data on economic opportunities in each city, alongside the availability of key services and facilities.

One advantage of a live tracker is that PwC can monitor drastic changes that come about in living and working conditions, such as the ones that are unfolding under the pandemic. Lifestyles changed dramatically under the lockdown, which forced many to rethink what they value in their city.

Thrown into sharp focus is the change in working conditions. Most businesses were forced to transition their employees to ‘work from home,’ arrangements, which might have posed a challenge at first, but soon became an opportunity. As businesses learned to sustain productivity in the virtual space, many realised that they could save significantly on overheads and fixed costs.Home working is making Melbourne a nicer place to liveVirtual working is now being considered as a long-term arrangement as a result. In response, PwC has tweaked the metrics in the CityPulse tracker to add ‘Commute Saving’ as an indicator. Almost immediately, the liveability of Melbourne’s middle and outer suburban rings increased.

No doubt, Melbourne has always been among the most liveable cities in Australia, and across the world. However, as pointed out by PwC Melbourne Managing Partner Peter Konidaris, liveability has always been highest in the regions in and around the city’s central business districts (CBD).

“But new ways of working accelerated by Covid-19 might be the catalyst for change,” said Konidaris. “While inner-city suburbs continued to be the majority of suburbs with the highest absolute liveability scores in our new analysis, the improved scores in pockets across the northern, southern, eastern and western city boundaries create a more balanced picture of liveability across Victoria.”

Konidaris highlights the Melbourne suburb of Point Cook – more than 20 kilometres from Melbourne CBD – as an example of this shift. Residents of Point Cook have an average commute that is 30% higher than the Melbourne average. Under lockdown, half of Point Cook’s residents had work from home options. As a result, PwC found that Point Cook has enjoyed the highest jump in liveability live scores since the start of the pandemic.

It remains to be seen whether virtual working conditions become a permanent fixture, and consequently whether the liveability in outer Melbourne remains high. If things remain as they currently are, Konidaris highlights that it could be transformational for Melbourne.

All of a sudden, infrastructure projects to improve travel to the suburbs would take on new significance, as would investments in amenities in suburban regions such as Point Cook. “Wouldn’t it be great to see a Michelin-star restaurant in Point Cook or Arts Centre Beaconsfield?” said Konidaris.

“Our analysis highlights a big opportunity to increase liveability across our northern, southern, eastern and western city boundaries as remote working continues to increase. To see an even greater jump in liveability we need to iron out gaps in ‘Play’ – aspects of the locality that make it an appealing place for leisure activities,” he concluded.