Barclays | Offices 'may be a thing of the past', says boss

Offices 'may be a thing of the past', says boss

The coronavirus pandemic has raised several concerns and questions about what the future workplace may look like.

With social distancing measures set to be in place for many more months, the workplace may look very different to what we are all used to. For example, face-to-face meetings may now be a thing of the past as these have been moved into a virtual space. Business travel may no longer be necessary as professionals are forced to make phone calls instead, while mandatory medical screenings will likely become part of day-to-day life at work.

However, according to the boss at banking giant Barclays, big city offices ‘may be a thing of the past’, according to a BBC report. Jes Staley recently revealed that the firm would need to re-think its long-term ‘location strategy’, as around 70,000 of the bank’s staff are currently working remotely due to coronavirus.

Several banks, including Barclays, have expensive offices based in financial hubs including the likes of London’s Canary Wharf, but Staley has since revealed that the bank is re-evaluating how much office space is needed as staff are able to carry out their daily tasks from their homes.

He explained: “There will be a long-term adjustment to our location strategy. The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past.”

Staley added that in the future, its retail branches may be used by investment banking instead or as call centres.

Exit strategy

Prior to the UK Government sharing lockdown exit plans, Barclays previously said it hadn't set anything in stone for when its office and branches may open, though indicated that sites in Hong Kong would be first, followed by Singapore and Tokyo, then later Europe, where extensive social distancing measures will also be in place.

Staley also noted that the future may be difficult for the business, as the bank recently reported a 38% fall in profit for the first quarter to £913million. “Given the uncertainty around the developing economic downturn and low interest rate environment, 2020 is expected to be challenging,” Staley added.

Future of work

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, the ONS reported that less than 30% of the UK workforce, which equates to around 8.7million people, stated that they worked from home. This has of course been flipped on his head as the majority of the UK’s workers have been forced to work remotely.

With this in mind, Kiran Bance, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at ITN, told HR Grapevine that employers and organisations will need to embrace a more agile business model in order to manage the future workplace. She added: “I think organisations will be much more open to agile working – flexible working is probably one element of agile working.

“We will see certainly post-coronavirus, depending on what stage we are thinking post, but in the next few weeks as we start to reintroduce staff back into the workplace, I think a big measure of agility is going to be needed to adapt to the new working environment,” Bance added.

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