Banks prepare for their post-pandemic office setups

SINGAPORE: Major banks are adjusting their work arrangements in line with their expected post-pandemic needs, slowly increasing onsite staff to adequately support operations. Most are predicting a gradual return to the office with elements of the previous work-from-home arrangements also maintained.

United Overseas Bank, for example, is "taking a prudent approach", and maintaining staggered start times, lunch breaks, and end-of-day arrangements for colleagues at the office. “We are taking a gradual approach towards having 50% of our people who have been working from home returning to the office,” Dean Tong, head of group HR, said.

“While we see more people gradually return to the office, our end goal is a permanent hybrid work model that enables our people to work remotely up to two days a week, giving them greater flexibility in managing their work-life priorities and mental wellbeing.”

UOB has introduced an employee wellness program with various initiatives and resources for continuous connectivity, and to manage the staff’s holistic wellbeing at any work location. It further offsets the expenses of sports activities and psychiatric treatments for staff.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) is also using a gradual onsite approach. Francisco John Celio, head of group corporate security, said, “We prioritise the health and safety of our employees, and we take a measured response, abiding by guidelines and regulations.”

Celio added that OCBC has been preparing its employees for hybrid work arrangements: “Flexible work arrangements which have been in place before the pandemic, such as working part-time, and starting/ending at an earlier/later time, will continue to be implemented.”

DBS Bank’s spokesperson stated the same. “The health and safety of our employees remains paramount even as we look forward to welcoming more colleagues back in the new year. DBS’ work-in-office measures are in line with the government’s vaccination-differentiated safe management measures,” they said.

In 2021, DBS applied a permanent hybrid work plan and a job-sharing strategy for more work flexibility.

DBS also initiated “Together,” a programme to care for the mental, physical, and emotional health of all 12,000 employees.

Citi says its employees are benefitting from remote work, as is the bank. “As such, we intend to create additional flexibility going forward even when it becomes safe for us to be together again,” Sarab Preet Singh, head of HR for Singapore and ASEAN said.

The government requires that from January 15, only fully vaccinated workers or have had recovered from Covid-19 within the past 180 days may return to the workplace.

Unvaccinated workers must work from home, take unpaid leave, or — as a last resort — have their contract terminated.

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