Goldman Sachs is preparing for hundreds of staff to go back to its London office this week in the latest sign of companies eyeing a return to more normal working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bankers were classed as key workers if their jobs support the functioning of the economy and financial stability, meaning some have been allowed to go to the office throughout the pandemic.
At Goldman between 200 and 300 workers such as financial traders have been travelling into work throughout England’s lockdowns because of their need to use specialist computer equipment. Other banks are looking at similar plans. A small number of staff are expected to start returning to Credit Suisse from Monday 12 April, for example, although the return will be staggered.
The rapid pace of the UK’s vaccination programme and the easing of rules on travel have meant some companies have considered plans to bring workers back to offices that have been vacated for large parts of the last year.
The government eased some lockdown restrictions on 29 March, although its official guidance remains that people should work from home where possible and minimise the number of journeys made.
Views on the future of work after pandemic restrictions ease appear to differ even within the banking sector. HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, has said it will cut its property footprint by as much as 40% in the long term, and Lloyds Banking Group, the bank with the biggest UK high street presence, has said it will bring in working from home as a permanent lifestyle change, allowing it to cut 20% of its office space.
However, Goldman’s chief executive, David Solomon, has described working from home as an “aberration” that must be rectified “as soon as possible”.
Goldman’s working conditions have come under scrutiny during the pandemic after junior US analysts compiled a report in which they claimed they were subjected to 100-hour working weeks. After the report was leaked Goldman acknowledged that some people might be quite “stretched” by working from home, in part because the bank has enjoyed record trading volumes during the pandemic.
Based on the experience of England’s previous easing of lockdown rules it is thought that Goldman could accommodate about 1,000 workers in its London office while still observing social distancing rules, which are expected to remain in place in some form until at least 21 June.
Goldman Sachs declined to comment.