HSBC to move to permanent flexible working

HSBC is to radically cut back on its office space and switch to having a more permanent agile workforce, according to the company’s chief executive.

The move – a direct response to the rise in home working brough about by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic – will see the bank reduce its long-term office space needs by 40% globally.

The plan was announced by chief executive Noel Quinn, who at a strategy update yesterday (23 February) revealed that the drop in demand for office space had been brought about “by a very different style of working post-Covid than we had before” that was enabling staff to achieve a better work-life balance.

Quinn said: “There’ll be much more of a hybrid model of people working in the offices, but in a different way, but also working from home when they want to.”

No specific details about the scale and speed of the cuts have yet emerged, although the company’s flagship Canary Wharf headquarters is expected to remain while smaller satellite offices look set to close.

He said: “Canary Wharf will be the primary London office, [but] the nature of working in that office will change to have a higher occupancy per square foot because we’ll have a hybrid style of working and we’ll probably release premises elsewhere in London.”

Offices that will be released will be those that naturally come up for renewal, and whose terms will not be extended.

Although the planned slash in office space also comes at a time when HSBC is looking to shed 35,000 jobs globally, the near-half reduction in traditional real estate is seen as a sign that the ‘new-normal’ will not be a return to the office as-was.

Other banks have already announced similar office-reduction measures. Standard Chartered moved to permanent flexible working in November, after signing an agreement with flexible workspace provider IWG.