StanChart Considers Holographic Watercoolers for Hybrid Working Ovehaul

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Standard Chartered Plc will formalize a hybrid working model for most of its U.K. staff this week as it moves forward with a sweeping overhaul of its working practices in the wake of the pandemic.

The lender is rolling out the program to its 85,000 staff globally after 84% of the first wave of workers asked to keep the flexible arrangements pioneered during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced millions of people across the world to abandon offices and fit working hours alongside other commitments. The bank’s new set-up, first unveiled in November, takes effect from the start of April.

Standard Chartered is also exploring ways to help employees stay in touch under the new arrangement, with an internal competition among staff coming up with ideas including a holographic watercooler to help spark virtual conversations.

Tanuj Kapilashrami, group head of human resources, said in an interview most employees are keen to work from home at least once a week, while others want more say in when they work.

“We really wanted to design the future based on what our employees want,” she said. Most staff said they want to work at home some of the time, according to Kapilashrami, which “was a key part of the insight that shaped our thinking on hybrid.”

Standard Chartered is reviewing its office network in light of the reduced need for space. Speaking to Bloomberg last month, Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford said the company was estimating annual savings of about $100 million from cutting the amount of office space it uses and would review all of its major sites, including its London base.

“We’ve got nine floors or ten floors in a building in London; whether ultimately we could have seven of those, whether actually we could sublet part of that,” Halford said. “Those are the sorts of things we should look at.”

Watercooler Challenge

Standard Chartered’s internal “watercooler challenge” has produced a shortlist of potential projects to keep staff in touch outside the office. The holographic meeting idea proposes matching staff using similar technology to dating services.

Other suggestions include an app called SCBilly that would link employees that live close to one another for social events, and a system called Coffee Meet to connect staff who want to talk to someone.

“People can pitch ideas and the ideas will get some seed funding to develop them,” said Kapilashrami. “We are working with the individuals who have given them to flesh them out.”

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