IMF Weighs Partial Work-From-Home Move That May Pare Offices

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As the International Monetary Fund plans for the return of staff to its headquarters buildings in Washington, the world’s financial firefighter is mapping a strategy to allow employees to work part of the week from home beyond the pandemic -- an idea that may reduce its physical-space needs.

IMF staff, who have been working from home since last year due to Covid-19, would be permitted to continue doing so starting in September as part of a proposed trial plan even though the health emergency in Washington looks to have eased, according to people familiar with the plan, who asked not to be identified because it’s private.

IMF Weighs Partial Work-From-Home Move That May Pare Offices

Most employees who choose to work from home would be expected to do so two or three days a week under the plan discussed with the IMF’s executive board last month, the people said. More than 90% of the fund’s 2,700 employees are based in Washington.

While the IMF plans to keep both of its headquarters buildings in the immediate future, participants in the meeting also discussed the idea that if the fund needs less physical space, it may eventually be able to sell the glass-clad, 12-story building known as HQ2, according to the people. The plan also calls for employees to share their desks and workspace when out of the office with staff who are on the premises, the people said.

Staff, who come from 150 countries, also will be allowed to work as much as one month out of the year by choice from anywhere in the world, the people said.

No decisions have been made yet about work-from-home plans, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in an email in response to a request for comment.

“We are still at a preliminary stage considering various options regarding work arrangements for staff going forward,” Rice said. “The overriding objective as always will be to ensure that, whatever the working arrangements, we continue to ensure the health and safety of our staff and continue to provide the best possible service to our membership.”

The IMF is the latest example of institutions looking for ways to accommodate employees after a year of working from home due to social-distancing needs due to Covid-19. Companies from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, but many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

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