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HSBC, SCB, DBS, OCBC and other banks won't rush Singapore staff back to office from Monday

Monday is unlikely to be decidedly busier than today in Raffles Place, Marina Bay and Changi Business Park as banks look set to prioritise their employees’ health and safety and take a cautious approach to returning them to the office. From Monday, the Singapore government is allowing more employees who can work from home to opt to return to the office under certain conditions, including a requirement that they still work remotely at least half of the time. Covid-19 precautionary measures are being relaxed amid continued low community case numbers in the Republic.

“Employees who can work effectively from home will continue to do so in line with the Ministry of Manpower’s guidance,” says Olfert de Wit, COO of HSBC in Singapore. “However, we are reviewing our plans to increase office occupancy for those who would benefit from being in the office. Our offices have the capacity and safe management measures in place to allow this,” says de Wit, adding that the bank has approved 35% of its employees to be in the office at any one moment, but that typical occupancy, which is monitored daily, is between 25% and 30%.

Standard Chartered’s work-from-office (WFO) population is about 25%, which gives it the flexibility to allow up to 50% of employees to WFO, in line with government guidelines, says a spokesperson. “Teams across the bank are progressively starting to stagger work hours, roster to WFO/WFH or try a hybrid approach,” she adds.

About 50% of UOB’s staff have already returned to work in office premises and branches, says Dean Tong, head of group human resources. “For our people who are in the office, we continue to maintain flexible work hours such as through staggered work hours and rosters to minimise the need for our people to travel during the peak hour commute and to limit the number of employees in a single location at any one time,” he adds.

DBS staff will “gradually” return to the office over the next few weeks and months as the bank prioritises their health and safety, says a spokesperson. During the circuit breaker, which ran from April 7 to June 1, 80% of DBS’s Singapore headcount worked from home. Since the start of phase 1 of Singapore’s economic reopening in June, DBS has been moving “small pockets of employees in critical banking functions back to the office” and the firm’s remote workers now make up 70% of its Singapore headcount.

OCBC doesn’t have a “targeted percentage ratio” of how many staff should work in the office following the relaxation of Singapore’s Covid rules. “We will continue to take a phased approach to have more onsite staff to support the increase in economic activities safely,” says Francisco John Celio, head of group corporate security, adding that OCBC takes a bank-wide approach to working arrangements, instead of making particular business units return to the office.

Deutsche Bank is “enabling staff to progressively return to the office in a controlled way, using safeguards to ensure people feel safe returning and that reflect Singapore government guidelines”, says a spokesperson for the German firm.

Societe Generale in Singapore is “assessing the suitability and timing of increasing the staff numbers in the office, given that working from home remains the government’s default advisory and staff safety is our utmost importance”, says a SocGen spokesperson.

Photo by Ben Thai on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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