Thousands of HSBC and JP Morgan staff to work at home regularly

Banks among firms seeing benefit of lockdown ‘flexibility’ and organising permanent switch away from offices

HSBC and JP Morgan are to have thousands of employees working permanently from home, in the latest sign that some of the changes wrought by coronavirus could outlast the pandemic.

Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s chief executive, said 10% of the US investment bank’s 255,000 employees may work from home full-time. Other staff will continue to work at home for some of the time, he added in a letter to shareholders published on Wednesday.

Representatives for HSBC’s UK call centre staff are in discussions with the bank concerning up to 1,200 workers making a permanent switch to remote working.

Services companies across the world are considering whether to continue some of the ways of working forced on businesses by lockdown rules.

In the UK, the government is planning to remove all social distancing rules after 21 June, a move that could allow workers to return to offices en masse.

The construction of JP Morgan’s new HQ in New York will continue, and more employees will be consolidated there, said Dimon. However, overall the changes would “significantly reduce our need for real estate”, he wrote.

The bank will use more digital tools for employees to book office seats and conference rooms. For every 100 employees, it could need “seats for only 60 on average”, Dimon said.

Cost-cutting will be a key motivator for many businesses moving staff to permanent home-working, but flexible working patterns will also be offered more as perks to retain staff, said Victoria Short, chief executive of the recruitment company Randstad UK.

“There’s an increased expectation from your employees that you will offer some form of flexibility,” she said. “If you want to remain competitive in the war for talent, having this as an option will become increasingly important.”

Many employers – and particularly professional services companies – have already said they intend to embrace hybrid work patterns, giving staff access to offices when necessary but also allowing them to work from home.

Grant Thornton, the UK’s sixth largest accountancy firm, found that nine in 10 of its staff wanted to work most of the week from home, its chief executive, David Dunckley, told the Financial Times this week. The company reduced the size of its Manchester office last year.

The accountancy firm PwC last week said its flexible working policy would allow its 22,000 staff to work from home about half the time.

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However, some companies have shown they are keen to return to office-based work. London staff at Credit Suisse and reportedly at JP Morgan are expected to start to return in the coming week, while the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, described home-working as an “aberration”.

Goldman’s investment bankersstarted to return to their City of London office this week, with numbers expected to double, as between 200 and 300 workers join colleagues whose roles have forced them to stay at their desks throughout successive lockdowns.

HSBC has not yet finalised the number of staff who will work from home. However, about 70% of the bank’s 1,800 call-centre staff volunteered to never return to the office, according to an internal survey by Reuters, which first reported the discussions.

An HSBC UK spokesman said: “We are in discussions with contact centre colleagues who serve HSBC UK retail customers about ways that we can offer flexibility on work location while ensuring the way we work meets our customers’ needs. These discussions are continuing.”

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Jasper Jolly

The GuardianTramp

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