Tens of thousands of Australian public servants have been told to return to the office if safe to do so, six months after departments began working remotely due to COVID-19.
The Australian Public Service Commission will send out a circular to all government agencies on Tuesday, saying public servants in areas where there is limited or no transmission of coronavirus should go back to the office with restrictions in place.
Agencies would need to ensure COVID-safe practices were in place and physical distancing could be maintained. They would also need a plan in case of any outbreaks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was eager for state and territory public servants to follow suit.
"It is important, whether it's here in the ACT or in Sydney or in Brisbane or in Perth or anywhere else, where the health advice enables it - obviously Victoria is in a different position right now - for public servants to be back in their offices, buying lunch at their local cafe and doing all those things that will support particularly those CBD economies," Mr Morrison said.
"It's time to get our CBDs humming again and I think the Commonwealth public service taking the lead in that regard is a good thing."
Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott told department secretaries in March staff members needed to start working from home "as soon as practicable" amid concerns from unions, politicians and staff about the risk of the virus spreading through offices.
In the intervening months, departments have started bringing people back slowly however many people are still working remotely.
The move will be welcomed by small businesses and landlords across Canberra, who have been concerned the move to working from home would have a long-lasting economic impact.
ACT Property Council executive director Adina Cirson said months without office workers had turned Canberra's business districts into ghost towns.
In July, the commercial occupancy rates were around 44 per cent.
That rose slightly to 48 per cent in August, but Ms Cirson said if public servants continued to work from home for the longer term, there would be devastating consequences for local businesses.
"In cities where landlords and business owners have put in place policies to make workplaces safe there really is no reason why ACT and Commonwealth public servants shouldn't be back in the office," Ms Cirson said.
Gareth Hartley - who owns Mingle cafe in Civic which is normally full of public servants from neighbouring buildings - said his trade was 60 per cent below normal levels.
Meanwhile suburban cafes had seen a boost in sales because of the work-from-home directive.
"The cafes in the suburbs are having a Sunday every day," Mr Hartley said.
Anthony Brierley of the ACT branch of the Australian Hotels Association said cafes and convenience stores near the large public service office blocks did not know how much longer they could hold on with just a trickle of trade.
"I'm getting business owners calling me in tears about their situation. So much of this could be changed in a simple and cost effective way by getting public servants back to the office," Mr Brierley said.
Sam Vekariya is the owner of the Fat Goanna Cafe at Brindabella Business Park.
The cafe has been supported by the JobKeeper payment, and is staffed by 10 people, including Mr Vekariya.
Earlier in the year a few casual staff members were stood down, and Mr Vekariya is concerned he'll need to cut his workforce further if sales do not pick up.
"Well I think when JobKeeper is going to be cut down I'll go ahead and stand down one or two people after that, because I can't afford to pay that amount of money," he said.
Since September, the cafe has been paying full rent, and they are not able to get more rent support from their landlord.
"We got the first three months [full] rent relief, then from July we got 50 per cent, then 25 per cent, then from September we pay full rent no matter what we do in the business."
"So we talked to the airport saying we aren't fully prepared ... [they said] the government has given a lot of benefit to you guys with JobKeeper.
"If you aren't making money, then we can't make the rent. If the government doesn't support [the landlord] they are not going to support us."
Mr Vekiriya said other businesses in the park have similar concerns about dwindling sales as public servants continue to work from home.
"Everyone has the same problem," he said.
"I've talked to next door, there's one more cafe across the road, they are in the same boat."
With the business park being close to the airport, Mr Vekiriya is optimistic about an increase of foot traffic when more flights come through to Canberra.
The return of public servants will also be a welcome boost.
"It's such a relief," Mr Vekiriya said.
"It's really good news."