According to the Office for National Statistics 53% of workers travelled to their place of work last week. The expectation is that will steadily increase after the Easter holidays.

The boss of Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, said that working from home is not the “new normal” and he expects all staff to return to their offices over the next few months. He called working from home an “aberration”. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Solomon has faced criticism for demanding that staff return to their offices, whilst he was using the company jet to fly to his mansion in the Bahamas to work. Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive of J P Morgan, has said that working from home has had a negative effect on productivity on Mondays and Fridays. He said: “There are a lot of people who have been hired into our companies who have never been into our company. How do you build a culture and character? How are you going to learn properly? The clear implication of this is that when the time is right, staff in these companies will be going back to their offices. Jess Staley, CEO of Barclays, has said that he hopes staff will be able to return to their offices soon.

Never one to miss an opportunity to save money, Lloyds has said it intends to reduce its office footprint by around 20% over the next three years, including 8% in 2021. As part of Group Strategic Review 3, the office footprint was reduced by 23%. So, Lloyds will have almost halved in size since 2018. But it is not just office buildings the bank is planning to abandon. In a roundtable discussion with analysts, William Chalmers, Chief Finance Officer, indicated that headcount reductions would get back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2020, the bank’s headcount reduction was about 2%, compared to 4-5% in previous years. He also said there would be further branch closures in 2021.

Notwithstanding some of the notable exceptions, remote working for non-branch staff is here to stay even as COVID-19 abates. The question is really about the balance between office and home. In a recent BTU survey, 63% of staff said that they would like to work from home for 3+ days a week. Only 5% said they wanted to go back to the office full time. The bank has said that it’s looking at a new hybrid model of working, which we have been advocating for some time, but that must sit within a set of guiding principles detailing how it’s going to work. All staff must have the same opportunities and be treated in the same way. So, we wouldn’t want to see a Managing Director in one area deciding that all his/her staff should return to the office, when others are being more flexible.

Staff should have the option to spend up to 3 days a week working from home if they want.

On those days they are not working from home, staff should also have the option to work from local offices or hubs rather than being required to work from their pre-pandemic place of employment.

The bank operates a system of market related salaries which, in some cases, are linked to geographical location. The bank should commit to maintaining current salary levels and should not use the fact that staff are working from home – for up to 3 days a week – as an opportunity to reduce salary levels over time. In most cases their salaries are driven by costs where they live as much as where they work.

In our most recent survey, 89% of staff said that their line managers trusted them to work remotely from home. Once we are out of lockdown then some line management behaviours may change and trust levels may begin to deteriorate. The bank should commit to not using surveillance tools to monitor staff whilst working from home. We are aware that some organisations are using firms such as Time Doctor, which takes screen shots of workers’ screens and offers “optional webcam features” to take pictures of staff at home every 10 minutes. There is no suggestion that the bank is considering employing such services, but we want it to commit to never using such surveillance technology to monitor what staff are doing.

Given that geography is no longer a factor regarding where many staff can work, the bank should remove locations from any internal job adverts with immediate effect. Such a move would open up career opportunities to those staff who can’t apply for roles currently because they don’t live within commutable distance of the bank’s main locations.

Members with any questions on this newsletter should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).

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