Citi to Offer Workers a 12-Week Sabbatical, Extra Vacation Days
The World Trade Center is seen in the Manhattan skyline from the roof terrace at the new Citigroup Inc. headquarters in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Marc McAndrews/Bloomberg)  

Citi to Offer Workers a 12-Week Sabbatical, Extra Vacation Days

Citigroup Inc. will soon offer workers the ability to take a 12-week sabbatical as part of a bevy of new employee perks in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Staffers also will be able to buy as many as five extra vacation days annually starting next year, and the bank is debuting a program that will allow employees to work pro bono with a charitable organization for as much as four weeks while still receiving 100% of their base pay.

The new perks are a byproduct of months of meetings among the firm’s top human resources professionals to discuss what work would look like after the pandemic subsides, said Diane Arber, who leads human resources for the bank’s institutional clients group.

“So here we are now all working from home and being extremely productive -- it really gave us time to pause and think about what should we be doing differently for the employees,” she said. “People just sometimes need a break, and they don’t want to just stop their career.”

Citigroup has seen record increases in employee satisfaction in an internal annual survey, with many staff members preferring to work from home and the flexibility it provides, Arber said. With the new benefits, the bank’s looking to make some of that flexibility permanent.

With the sabbatical, employees at any level who have been with Citigroup for at least five years can take as long as 12 weeks to do whatever they want. Workers are limited to two sabbaticals, and will receive only 25% of their base pay during the time away.

“People may need a break to pursue personal interests, education, they may have a family situation going on, they may just need to take a break to care for their well-being,” Arber said. “It could be any of the above. We’re not going to review the reason. We’re just going to review the coverage of the business.”

Employees choosing to volunteer with a charity also must be with Citigroup for five years, and can use the benefit twice.

Like rival Bank of America Corp., Citigroup also extended childcare benefits it instituted during the pandemic, such as discounts on test-preparation and tutoring services, and help finding an educational caregiver to supervise a child’s online learning.

Many large firms have benefited as staffers logged longer hours while they stayed at home during the Covid-19 outbreak. Now, with vaccine distributions underway, companies are formulating plans for life after the pandemic.

Citigroup, for its part, will start a review of all roles in the first quarter to evaluate which employees might benefit from working from home more often longer term, Arber said.

“What we wanted to do, not just for the pandemic but for the future, is to acknowledge life is hard,” she said. “We’re using the future lens, the post-Covid lens. And having these new programs gives people a lot of excitement. It’s different -- it’s recognizing life and balance as you’re home, and work and life blend together.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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