HSBC lets Hong Kong staff work up to four days a week from home

The lender joins other global and regional banks adapting to a 'new normal' spawned by the pandemic

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Fog shrouds the Canary Wharf business district including global financial institutions Citigroup Inc., State Street Corp., Barclays Plc, HSBC Holdings Plc and the commercial office block No. 1 Canada Square, on the Isle of Dogs on November 05, 2020 in London, England. England today began a second national lockdown to curb a surge in covid-19 cases, closing pubs, restaurants and an array of shops deemed non-essential. The new rules, which will expire on 2 December, also ban most indoor and outdoor household mixing and grass-roots sports. Unlike the first lockdown earlier this year, schools in England will remain open. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

HSBC is offering its Hong Kong staff greater flexibility to work from home, in the latest sign of the pandemic transforming the role of the office in business life.

The London-based lender, which counts Hong Kong as its biggest market, is now allowing eligible staff to work as many as four days a week from home, according to an internal memo and guidelines.

An HSBC spokeswoman confirmed the plan, which offers varying degrees of flexibility for employees.

“We are constantly looking to develop overall flexibility in how we work,” the memo, sent to staff on November 4, said.

“In recent employee exchanges and surveys, some of you have expressed an interest in a blend of in-office and home working.”

Chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson said in October that more remote working for some of its staff may reduce office costs. HSBC joins other global and regional lenders adapting to a new normal spawned by the pandemic, with some banks in Europe predicting that staff will be working about half their time from home, even after the pandemic passes.

HSBC’s Hong Kong rival, Standard Chartered, plans to offer flexible working options to more than 90 per cent of its 85,000 staff over three years, while Singapore’s DBS Group will grant all employees the flexibility to work remotely up to 40 per cent of the time.

Deutsche Bank chief executive Christian Sewing said in September that the German lender was examining how employees could split their time between the office and home.

The offer comes as life has largely returned to normal in Hong Kong, where the bank employs about 30,000 people.

HSBC has provided three options, including a “flexible home worker” role that’s primarily home-based, with a fixed work-from-home schedule of as many as four days a week, according to the guidelines.

Other options include being a “flexible office worker,” who may work from home up to two days a week, and a permanently office-based role, the guidelines said.

The bank is introducing a one-off allowance of HK$2,500 ($322) - to purchase items to set up an ergonomic home office - for employees who commit to work from home at least two days a week for a minimum of 12 months, the memo added.