The chairman of NatWest, one of Britain’s biggest banks, has said office life in London will likely never return to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic.
Howard Davies said he expects lasting cultural changes even after the danger of the virus subsides. “The days when 2,500 people walked in through our office door in Bishopsgate at 8:30 am and then left at 6:00 am, I think that is over. I suspect there won’t be many people who will be spending five long days in the office.
In a Bloomberg TV interviewDavies said many NatWest office workers would likely continue to work from home part-time after pandemic restrictions were eased, in the latest sign of the reassessment of work practices by large companies.
“The center of London will not find as much attendance as before. I don’t think there is much appetite for this, because people are concerned about the risks of traveling and they have also discovered that they can do things differently, and that wasting this whole line on the line of travel. North is not necessarily the best way to spend your life.
The Westminster government on Monday lifted all restrictions on public mixing in England, including guidelines that people should work from home whenever possible. Many companies are reluctant to allow all workers to return due to rising infection rates.
Davies said companies in the UK and elsewhere would likely be “cautious” before trying to revert to pre-pandemic practices, in part because of the continued threat of infection from the coronavirus.
His comments put him at odds with Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon, who called working from home an “aberration,” but in line with HSBC bank bosses and JP Morgan who expect more. home work for office workers.
Some business leaders have criticized the government for its advice on handling growing absences, as workers are asked to self-isolate after contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus. Davies said the government’s messages around the issue had been “a bit complicated.”
NatWest is having some difficulty keeping branches open with worker absences due to self-isolation guidelines, although central operations have coped so far.
Davies said there were “areas of concern” in the UK economy, especially among the sectors worst hit by the pandemic where companies had taken on relatively high debt to help them weather the crisis. However, he said he was generally not worried about the UK economy, in part because consumers increased their savings after staying at home for long periods of time in the past 18 months.