Back in May and June, banks in Hong Kong were working out their return-to-office strategies. But as the territory is hit by a fourth wave of Covid-19, banks are reducing staffing levels in their buildings by reintroducing remote working arrangements and split shifts.
There were 103 confirmed Covid cases in Hong Kong today, a low level by the standards of most Western markets, but worrying in the context of a city that was until recently registering minimal infections and has so far avoided Covid-related deaths on a large scale. Cases are spreading in the community rather than being imported, as was the case during the third wave. Infections from so-called super-spreading events linked to 14 dance clubs continue to grow.
The Hong Kong government has tightened social-distancing rules, and banks tell us they have started introducing new policies in reaction to the fourth wave. “From today [Wednesday] we are encouraging everyone in Hong Kong who can, to work from home in line with the government’s approach,” says a Hong Kong-based spokesperson for Goldman Sachs.
Citi has recently reduced its office-based staff from 50% to 30% of its Hong Kong workforce and is “encouraging people to work from home where they can”, says a representative from the US bank.
We understand that at UBS the number of employees coming into the Hong Kong office is currently around 30% compared with about 60% just two weeks ago. The bank declined to comment.
“In view of the recent upsurge in Covid-19 infections, we strongly encourage our staff to work from home where possible,” says a spokesperson for Standard Chartered in Hong Kong. “For functions that require working in the office, we have applied a hard-split A/B team arrangement. We have also shortened our branch hours since last Friday,” he adds.
Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong has also initiated split operations, where required, and is providing flexible working, says a source. The bank declined to comment.
Societe Generale is adjusting its work arrangements “taking into account recommendations and instructions from health authorities”, says a spokesperson. “Business operations are running as normal, with consideration for staff health and safety as a priority. Alternative working arrangements, including distancing measures and enhanced working from home measures, are in place to reduce any risk of contamination in our premises.”
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