As workers start to head back into city CBDs, Telco giant Optus is shouting coffees for all employees, and giving a boost to a local small businesses while it’s at it.
In Melbourne, Optus is paying for coffees from local small business Seedling Cafe for all staff members every Wednesday for the next six weeks.
It’s part of a nationwide drive to help encourage people back into the office. But it’s also an example of a corporate doing its bit to support the small businesses that make our cities what they are.
And it’s a welcome boost for Seedling Cafe, after two years of lockdowns and work-from-home orders.
Even when restrictions started to ease, ongoing mask mandates for offices kept workers away from offices, leading to severely reduced footfall for CBD businesses.
It was Optus, which has its Melbourne office opposite Seedling, that reached out to suggest the free coffee campaign, Seedling owner Georgia Mackie tells SmartCompany.
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While initiatives like this one will attract employees back into the office environment, they also serve to support those businesses that are the heart and soul of the community.
And as Melbourne reopens, big businesses have an important role to play in supporting smaller ones, Mackie says.
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“Big businesses want to have a thriving CBD that their workers want to come and spend time in,” she says.
“Supporting those small businesses to be there and helping them recover is a really important part of that,” she adds.
“That’s what Melbourne is built on.”
The “critical role” of city SMEs
Speaking to SmartCompany, Optus corporate affairs manager Justin Stolarski says it was important for Optus to invite employees back into the office in a way that made them feel “excited and supported”.
While the organisation is embracing flexible work, when employees are back in the office, things like a free coffee are “a small gesture of appreciation for the amazing work that they do”.
Seedling cafe was already a favoured haunt for many in the Melbourne team, Stolarski explains. In Sydney, Optus is shouting coffees from Bluestone Cafe.
But he agrees that enterprise organisations have a role to play in supporting SMEs, whether that’s through partnerships like this, catering contracts or other procurement.
“Small businesses play a critical role not only in the Australian economy, but in most of our daily lives,” Stolarski says.
Melbourne’s buzz is coming back
Over the past two weeks, Mackie says there has been a noticeable shift in the vibe in the CBD.
There are people walking around the streets again, customers are happy to be back and enjoying the vibe of the city. Things almost feel back to normal, she laughs.
“It’s really heartwarming … that vibrance and that buzz that Melbourne is known for is slowly coming back.”
However, that doesn’t mean small businesses are automatically out of the woods.
With the moratorium on rent ending soon, Mackie says the next few months will be crucial “in making sure those businesses that have gotten this far can continue to stick around”.