Global Banks Reverse Back-to-Office Push in Hong Kong

Global banks in Hong Kong, fromGoldman Sachs Group Inc. toStandard Chartered Plc, have reversed a back-to-office push as virus cases surge in the Asian finance hub.

Goldman Sachs will go back to a full work-from-home approach in Hong Kong starting Wednesday except for staff that have to be in the office to perform their roles, according to a staff memo that was confirmed by a bank spokesman.

Standard Chartered has applied a hard split-team arrangement for functions that require work in the office, and shortened branch hours last Friday, according to a spokeswoman. “In view of covid wave 4, we strongly encourage our staff to work from home where possible,” she said.

Hong Kongintroduced the city’s toughest public-gathering restrictions in months on Monday and decided to send civil servants back home as the government steps up efforts to contain the latest wave of coronavirus infections. The city reported 76 new cases on Monday, most of them local transmissions.

UBS Group AG is back to having about 30% of staff working from the office, down from about 60%-70% two weeks ago, according to a spokesman.Barclays Plc reduced office staff capacity to 50%, from about 70% a few weeks ago.

Citigroup Inc. resumed its 50% return-to-office arrangement on Nov. 23, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg News. That was down from having 75% on site previously, according to a spokesman for the bank.

“We continue to watch the data closely and will make further adjustments as necessary in response,” said the Citigroup spokesman.

The rise in global cases to more than 63 million is prompting companies to scale back their office use. Workers whowent to the office in 10 of the largest U.S. business districts fell to 22.6% of pre-Covid-19 levels in the week ended Nov. 25, according to data from Kastle Systems, down from 26.3% the previous week.

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