Need A Meeting Room? This Bank CEO’s Office Is Open for Bookings

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Standard Chartered Plc Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters has cleared out his London office.

He’s not the latest banking boss to lose his job, but one of hundreds of managers giving up their executive suites as the lender moves to permanent hybrid working in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The emerging markets-focused bank aims to turn all 881 offices currently used by senior staff around the world into meeting rooms by the end of 2021.

“The events of the last year have brought into sharp focus the fact that the concept of dedicated offices is incompatible with the emergent need for flexibility, collaboration and space-efficiency,” Andy Halford, the bank’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “The concept of the dedicated office is fast being consigned to history.”

Winters’ old office is already available for bookings. The latest post-Covid measures come as the bank reassesses its real-estate needs and formalizes flexible working arrangements for most staff. It’s also signed a deal with IWG Plc to provide office spaces closer to where its employees live.

Earlier this week, HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn also announced plans to turn the executive floor in the bank’s London headquarters into meeting rooms, posting a picture on LinkedIn of his desk on a newly-reconfigured open floor.

Quinn said he wanted to “have people around me, to reconnect with colleagues and friends, and to be able to speak to them informally” after the disruption of the pandemic.

“I think it would be a missed opportunity if, having gone through so much change over the last 15 months, we just drift back to our old ways of working,” Quinn wrote on the social network.

To aid the transition, Standard Chartered has asked its employees to suggest technological solutions to the lack of human contact. Shortlisted ideas include a holographic watercooler to allow virtual conversations as well as an app called SCBilly that would link employees living close to one another to enable social events.

“We’re creatures of habit and we’ve formed new ones,” said Tanuj Kapilashrami, group head of human resources. “Enforced absence from offices has highlighted the benefit of face-to-face interaction and the value of physical workspaces as hubs for teamwork.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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