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April 8, 2021updated 15 Apr 2021 10:47am

No office for you: HSBC embraces remote working

By Eric Johansson

HSBC has become the latest company to embrace remote working permanently as the Covid-19 crisis slowly evaporates. The move comes as market analysts expect working from home to become commonplace in the future.

Businesses around the world were forced to quickly adopt remote working in 2020 as countries went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. As societies slowly reopen, a growing number of companies are deciding to make the situation permanent for their staff.

HSBC is the latest bank to do so, having announced that about 1,200 of its UK call centre employees will be able to continue to work from home permanently. The number represents roughly 70% of the bank’s call centre staff based across England, Scotland and Wales.

Those workers have volunteered not to return to the office once social restrictions ease, trade union Unite told Reuters. About 25% wanted to go in and work in the office at least part-time and 5% said they’d prefer permanent office work. HSBC staff opting to work remotely full-time will still be expected to come in to the office for training.

The bank has reportedly also offered home-working employees a £300 top-up payment per year to cover extra costs such as electricity and heating bills.

An HSBC UK spokesperson told Reuters that the bank was continuously discussing how it could “offer flexibility on work location while ensuring the way we work meets our customers’ needs.”

While Unite’s national officer Dominic Hook welcomed the push, he warned other banks against forcing staff members to keep working from home unless they wanted to.

“HSBC are at the forefront of this,” Hook said. “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.”

The bank’s decision is the latest indication that remote working is here to stay, which is something market experts and analysts increasingly expect to become the norm in the years to come.

“Physical spaces will be transformed and remote working, supported by technology, will become the norm for millions of employees,” analysts wrote in a recent research report from GlobalData. “The nature of employment will change, with more hybrid work between offices and remote working. Individual properties will be better positioned to facilitate this trend as smart homes incorporate IoT and fibre broadband to ensure seamless workflows.”

Several businesses from a range of different industries have said that they will make working from home a permanent fixture for some of its employees. For instance, Facebook and Twitter have both announced initiatives similar to that of HSBC’s.

However, not all businesses are embracing remote working. For instance, last week Google went against market analysts’ expectations by telling employees that they’ll need special permission to work away from the office for more than 14 days per year.