Bosses aren’t banking on a return to the office: City firms face having to scrap plans to scale back working from home if Freedom Day is delayed
- Big banks had told staff to prepare to start commuting again from next Monday
- But some are considering pushing returning to offices back as far as September
- There are even proposals in the City of London to convert workplaces into flats
Major City firms face having to scupper their plans to bring employees back to the office if Freedom Day is pushed back beyond June 21.
Banks including NatWest, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan had told staff to prepare to start commuting again from next Monday, when restrictions on social distancing are due to be lifted.
But some are considering pushing this back as far as September if there are delays to the lockdown roadmap, which allows workers to sit next to one another again and fill offices up to pre-pandemic levels.
Commuters are seen on London Bridge on Wednesday morning. Banks including NatWest, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan had told staff to prepare to start commuting again from next Monday
One bank executive involved in the process of bringing colleagues back to the office told the Financial Times: ‘A lot of work has gone into preparing for more staff returning to the office from June.
‘If the dates get pushed back after late June, there is a feeling among most banks that we may as well push our own return dates back to September.’
Some UK banks, including HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds, have not set hard dates for workers to return to their desks, although all say they are following Government guidance.
But the American investment banks JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have taken a much harder line and insist that employees have to be in the office in order to do their jobs properly.
London’s Square Mile is seen above. Some UK banks, including HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds, have not set hard dates for workers to return to their desks, although all say they are following Government guidance
German banking giant Deutsche Bank had told staff to prepare for a slow return from June 21.
It has also been less open to the idea of flexible working, in which staff work from home for part of the week. British groups such as NatWest, on the other hand, have backed it.
The lender has said just 13 per cent of staff will be in the office full time, with around a third based at home and the remainder switching between the two.
Lingering restrictions following the second Covid wave have kept offices empty – and there are even proposals in the City of London to convert workplaces into flats.
Firms providing serviced offices claim occupancy rates are still sharply lower than they had hoped. But they are being inundated with enquiries about booking spaces – suggesting there is a growing appetite for office working.
Beyond the financial industry, businesses in other sectors – from cinemas and restaurants to live events groups and beauticians – are also desperate for social distancing requirements to lift.
If Freedom Day is pushed back, transport groups will suffer as staff continue to stay at home, and city centre shops and restaurants will miss the lunchtime office trade.