Saturday 8 May 2021 9:45 am

Square Mile's largest employers embrace hybrid working, the details

The majority of the largest employers in the City of London have vowed to continue with some sort of hybrid approach to working, after pandemic-led restrictions forced the biggest home working experiment in history.

With Covid-19 cases falling and millions of people successfully vaccinated, staff are trickling back into London’s offices, and companies are turning their attention to what the workplace will look like when government guidance around home working eases.

If countless surveys are to be believed, most employees have reported enjoying the flexibility of working from home.

Not having to commute to the office five days a week has been welcomed, and many feel their work-life balance has improved as a result of spending more time at home.

However, employees also appear largely in agreement that collaboration is more challenging remotely. ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real phenomenon, and some staff have reported missing their colleagues and the idle chit-chat that comes with office life.

It is perhaps unsurprising then that the vast majority of the Square Mile’s biggest employers are leaning towards the hybrid model for the post-pandemic world.

City A.M. canvassed the Square Mile’s 10 largest employers by office size to find out what a week day in the City of London might look like after Covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Though the finer details are still being worked out at most of the firms – and many bosses are awaiting guidance from the government – the majority plan to continue to grant staff more flexibility over where they work.  

BoE to embrace hybrid working

City A.M. understands the Bank of England – the Square Miles’ third largest occupier of floor space, according to July 2020 data from the City of London Corporation – is moving to a hybrid model, and is in the process of reviewing its approach to work with the ‘new normal’ in mind.

Japanese holding company Nomura is also understood to be moving to a hybrid way of working, with corporate staff expected to be in the office for around 50 per cent of the time.

Big Four firm Deloitte, like rivals PwC and KPMG, is also going down the hybrid route, with a spokesperson saying: “We will continue to look at how we enable flexibility for our people to work where, when and how they wish to.

“Our hybrid working model will also see continued investment in our office space design to facilitate collaboration, connection and innovation for both our people and our clients.”

Deutsche Bank, too, is actively working towards a hybrid model, and is in consultation with employees to work out the finer details on what that might look like.

A spokesperson for the German investment bank said most staff will be offered the chance to work remotely two to three days per week, after 90 per cent of staff that responded to an internal survey said they wanted some degree of remote working following the pandemic.

The 10 largest occupiers of floorspace in the City of London

  • Goldman Sachs – 826,000 square feet
  • UBS – 796,000 square feet
  • Bank of England – 709,000 square feet
  • Deloitte – 536,000 square feet
  • Nomura – 500,000 square feet
  • CMS – 220,000 square feet
  • JP Morgan Chase – 360,000 square feet
  • M&G – 332,000 square feet
  • Deutsche Bank – 312,000 square feet
  • Schroders – 310,000 square feet
  • Bank of New York Mellon – 300,000 square feet

    Source: The City of London Corporation, as at July 2020.

Staff at BNY Mellon, meanwhile, will not be expected back into the office until “at least” September, according to a spokesperson.

During its Q1 earnings announcement, BNY Mellon CEO Todd Gibbons said the bank would embrace hybrid working arrangements post-pandemic after a successful year.

“We’ve proven our ability to maintain high-quality service for our clients, adopt and deploy new technologies quickly,” he said, speaking of pandemic-led changes at the bank.

“We’ve collaborated with one another virtually over this past year. We’re going to take the best of what we’ve learned to continue to innovate and drive enhanced value for our clients and our employees, including assessing what our workforce and workplaces will look like.”

Asset manager Schroders last year announced it had embraced “permanent flexible working” for staff.

“We believe re-thinking the rulebook on flexibility will ultimately prove a huge shot in the arm for Schroders’ productivity in the long term, while also highlighting Schroders as a forward-thinking employer of choice,” global head of HR Emma Holden said at the time.

Similarly, it will be business as usual at CMS, as the international law firm operated a flexible model before the pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “Recognising that everyone’s circumstances are different, we continue to encourage our staff and lawyers to discuss with their managers the support they need.

“We have always supported and continue to support agile and flexible working.”

City A.M. was unable to get a response from investment manager M&G, however, last summer it said it wanted to make savings by extending remote working beyond the duration of the crisis, with staff expected to come to the office no more than two or three days a week, according to the Financial Times.

Caution around the ‘new normal’

Not all of the Square Mile’s 10 largest offices plan to embrace flexible or hybrid working with such gusto.

For Goldman Sachs, the employer with the largest footprint in the City of London, hybrid working will soon be a thing of the past.

Goldman Sachs employees in the UK will return to the office by 21 June, in line with the government’s easing of lockdown that should see the UK largely restriction-free.

In an internal memo circulated among staff, and seen by City A.M., chief executive David Solomon said: “We know from experience that our culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together.”

In what looks like a more moderate adoption of flexible working, Swiss investment bank UBS – the Square Mile’s second larger occupier of floor space – is understood to be offering “case-by-case” flexibility to employees.

Speaking to Bloomberg earlier this month, chairman Axel Weber said he saw “very little need to be in a race to get back to the office”, and that the new normal would see a greater number of people in the office, but there would be no hard-and-fast rules around it.

However, he said critical and high-risk roles like traders were likely to return to the office.

For JP Morgan, many of its roles will continue to be performed full-time in the office, including retail bank staff, as well as jobs in vaults, lockbox, sales and trading, critical operations functions and facilities, amenities, security, medical staff and many others.

However, “some” employees will work under a hybrid model, and around 10 per cent of staff overall will work from home full time.