Banks stall return-to-work plans as UK government changes advice

Banks pause plans to bring staff back to the office as the government backtracks on its policy

The reliance on technology enabling bank staff to work from home looks set to continue as major banks put plans to bring staff back to offices on hold.

As the UK government changes its advice from go to work if you can to work from home if you can, banks have halted plans to bring staff back.

Prime minister Boris Johnson this week encouraged workers to stay at home to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

According to The Guardian, HSBC and Goldman Sachs sent memos to staff informing them that they were changing plans to bring people back to major offices in London.

In a memo to staff, HSBC said it was pausing its planned return of staff at its investment bank, based at London’s Canary Wharf. According to reports, an HSBC memo said: “We will pause any further consideration of ‘phase one’ teams returning to offices.”

Banks do not need to rush people back because technology has proved successful in enabling many staff to continue working remotely.

Barclays CEO Jes Staley recently said that the reaction to the Covid-19 lockdown had been a learning curve for the bank and had helped it to understand how a “dynamic work environment” would operate.

“It’s extraordinary that we’re running a bank of the complexity of Barclays with over 60,000 people working from their kitchen tables,” said Staley. “A lot of credit goes to our technology staff and our operations people who have enabled us to do that.”

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Banks and financial services firms had to adapt quickly. Not only did they have to enable tens of thousands of staff to work remotely, but also had to cope with a surge in digital and telephone banking among their customers as branches closed and people were advised against using cash.

Nationwide Building Society, for example, sent 12,000 staff home to work when the lockdown was introduced and the success of technology to support home working over the last few months has given it confidence to increase remote working in the future.

“Colleagues have a single platform that could support collaboration across the society and was accessible across multiple devices, offering them more choice on how they manage their working day around other priorities,” said Nationwide.

Meanwhile, Denmark’s Danske Bank said: “The Covid-19 experience of sending thousands from the office to work from home will have a lasting impact on how work is structured and conducted at Danske Bank.”

The bank’s CEO, Chris Vogelzang, added: “This experience has proved that there is so much untapped potential in the virtual workspace that we need to explore and use to create a more attractive and flexible workplace, while still maintaining the inspiration, energy and social connection that comes with belonging to a physical team and environment.”

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