Lloyds Banking Group is redeploying 700 staff into full-time homeworking roles from 2021, in the latest sign that big banks are embracing remote working even as vaccines put the end of Covid restrictions in sight.
The UK’s largest domestic lender – which has 50,000 of its 65,000 employees working from home because of the outbreak – temporarily shifted about 1,000 workers from Halifax, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland branches to customer service teams, in order to cope with a surge in demand in areas such as telephone banking and video chats during the outbreak.
The Guardian understands about 700 staff will be permanently moved, making it the largest tranche of Lloyds workers to ever be shifted into homeworking roles full-time.
“All colleagues will need to be able to work from home for the customer services role,” Lloyds documents explained.
Staff may still be asked to travel into an office for special events or occasional team meetings, including with their remotely based line managers. However, the bank warned: “Your eligibility to meet the criteria needed to work from home will need to be met on an ongoing basis, please consider this carefully when making your preference.”
Lloyds documents said it presented “opportunities for colleagues to help better manage their work-life balance.” It also means staff will not have to live near one of Lloyds’ call centres in cities including Leeds, Liverpool or Belfast, in order to apply for any of the roles.
Lloyds is among the 75% of City firms reviewing their real estate footprint after the boom in homeworking during the pandemic. Barclays also confirmed this summer that it was reviewing the amount of office space it uses after seeing how 30,000 of its 50,000 UK staff had been able to work from home effectively during the crisis.
NatWest has told employees that 50,000 of its roughly 60,000 staff will continue working from home until at least April, when it plans to allow for more flexible working. In the meantime, the bank is developing an app that will allow whole teams to book seating when they want to come into the office – rather than dedicating entire floors to certain divisions.
The London-headquartered lender Standard Chartered is also shifting to flexible working on a permanent basis. It followed a pan-bank review of all jobs that showed 80% across the business are suitable for “hybrid” working. Staff will be able to formally apply for their preferred way of working, starting in early 2021. That will apply to its 2,000 staff in London – where about 10% of staff have been going into the office since the coronavirus hit.
Some big banks such as JP Morgan – which has 19,000 employees in the UK – have raised concerns about the impact of homeworking, including the lack of mentoring for young staff, and a small drop in productivity on Mondays and Fridays. However, the Wall Street lender is still expecting up to 30% of its almost 257,000 global employees to work remotely in future, at least part of the time.
One of the Lloyds Banking Group’s staff unions, Accord, welcomed plans to redeploy branch staff to homeworking customer service roles, saying it would help save jobs. Lloyds has announced about 2,000 staff cuts since September as part of its restructuring programme.
“Working from home in the long term isn’t suitable for everybody but we’ll work to ensure that there are support services in place to help everybody to make a success of this positive initiative,” Accord said.
It is understood that some of those staff may eventually be allowed to work from the office part-time, depending on their circumstances and how government guidance evolves in the long term.
A Lloyds spokesperson said it was shifting staff in response to customer behaviour. “We are asking our branch colleagues if they would like to make a move from their branch role to one in our customer services teams. This means we can have the right amount of support in the areas our customers want it.”