HSBC is the latest large employer looking to increase the number of employees working in a hybrid environment with its decision to move most of its 1,800 UK call centre staff to permanent home working.
In February, the bank said it would be reducing its office space by nearly 40% over the next few years, including at several UK properties.
Chief executive Noel Quinn said: “The nature of working within our offices will change to have a higher occupancy per square foot, because we’ll have a hybrid style of working.”
Hybrid workforce planning
The latest move comes in the wake of an employee survey and an offer of £300 a year to each employee to cover expenses such as higher heating and electricity bills at home.
About 70% of the call centre staff opted to permanently work at home while 25% wanted to go into the office for some of the time. Just 5% preferred to go back permanently, the survey revealed. It was unclear how many of those who said they wished to continue at home did so because they no longer had an office close enough to return to.
HSBC employs about 32,000 people in the UK out of a global workforce of 200,000. It said: “We are in discussions with contact centre colleagues who serve HSBC UK retail customers about ways that we can offer flexibility on work location while ensuring the way we work meets our customers’ needs. These discussions are continuing.”
The union Unite said it was supportive of HSBC’s decision given that it was on a voluntary basis with those voting to go into an office being allowed to do so. It warned though that banks should not force their staff to work at home if they did not want to and that employers must ensure that staff at home were properly supported.
Dominic Hook, Unite’s national officer, said the contract changes for the 70% opting to remain at home were being finalised with teams, with those taking it up expected only to come in to HSBC offices for training.
HSBC had already closed a call centre in Swansea since the pandemic’s onset. Its other major call centres are located in Leeds and Hamilton, Scotland.
Hook said: “HSBC are at the forefront of this [hybrid working].”
“If it’s genuinely voluntary and people’s rights are protected then that’s fine, but people need to go in with their eyes wide open.
“After a year it may not seem that bad, but after five it might feel different.”
But other financial institutions are not as enthusiastic with Barclay’s boss Jes Staley saying working from home is getting “old” for employees.
“It’s remarkable it’s working as well as it is, but I don’t think it’s sustainable,” he told the World Economic Forum in January, while JP Morgan Chase’s head of asset and wealth management Mary Erdoes told the meeting: “It is fraying. It is hard.
“It takes a lot of inner strength and sustainability (without) the energy that you get from being around other people.”
Last month a report found that organisations were rethinking plans to cut office space amid concerns about how hybrid working would work.
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