AEDA Business Summit: A University-style approach to CBDs

Last updated 12 Dec, 2022

For CBDs across Australia to thrive in a post-COVID-19 environment they need to turn to universities for inspiration, demographer Bernard Salt AM says.

The Demographics Group Executive Director – who is the keynote speaker at the inaugural Adelaide Economic Development Agency’s Business Summit this month – says businesses will have to use the “on and off campus” learning style, when evolving the approach for people working from home.

Mr Salt, who expects the number of people working from home to increase a further 10 percent, says more employees will complete tasks at home and come to the office for upskilling. He says workers will behave similar to university students who attend lectures and tutorials on campus, but finish assignments and study at home.

“I think the CBD will be used as a more coming and going kind of way,” Mr Salt says.

“My view is that the office building will start to resemble something that is not unlike a university campus.

“You don't actually write an essay at university, but you're researching, collaborating, skilling and attending lectures, for example.

“Then the CBD becomes a place of learning, celebration, interaction and networking…but the real work, the grunt work, is actually done in a Zoom room in Noarlunga, or Gawler or over in Norwood.”

Bernard Salt

Bernard Salt AM is headlining the AEDA Business Summit in May.

Mr Salt says he has been tracking the proportion of people working from home for the past 25 years. About five per cent of the workforce operated from home between 1996 but, when the pandemic began in 2020, numbers increased for the first time.

He says the world needed a “bizarre, global social experiment” like COVID-19 to see benefits of working from home.

“In many instances, not in all instances, employees have found that they're more productive,” Mr Salt says.

“It is very interesting that prior to the pandemic the home was invading the office, now the office is invading the home.

“We have been exposed to a better way of learning - a more efficient way of working - so the CBD needs to think of itself as a cool campus of learning, celebration, upskilling and schmoozing.”

The AEDA Business Summit is on Wednesday, 25 May. Tickets available until 18 May. Visit for more information.