UniCredit to Allow Work-From-Home Up to Two Days Per Week

UniCredit SpA plans to permanently allow its non-branch employees to work from home 40% of the time, once post-pandemic work arrangements are put in place.

“We will start a gradual return to the office from September and in the fourth quarter we will carry out a pilot project to allow sustainable hybrid work starting from next year,” Group Operating Officer Ranieri de Marchis said in an interview.

The bank is working on a plan that will give the option to administrative and headquarters staff to work from home approximately 2 days a week on voluntary basis, while employees at branches may opt for 1 day a week from home, the executive said. The final arrangements will depend on how the pandemic evolves and the specific conditions in each country.

UniCredit to Allow Work-From-Home Up to Two Days Per Week

UniCredit now joins the growing ranks of international lenders acknowledging that employees want a new level of flexibility in working arrangements. Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc. have recently rolled out return-to-office arrangements that build-in home presence, though some investment banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc are pushing for a more complete return of staff to corporate premises.

New Chief Executive Officer Andrea Orcel, who took the helm April 15, is set to outline his vision for the bank in the second half of the year.

More Space

The UniCredit project is led by the human resources team, IT and real-estate departments. The intention is to ensure that spaces are redesigned to fit with the new model -- with a likely lower number of assigned desks, but more space for each person and additional common areas, said de Marchis.

“The project is not aimed at savings or at scaling down our properties,” said de Marchis. “Our aim is creating a new sustainable way of working. If in the end we see that there is more space than needed, we will re-evaluate.”

While a work-from-home arrangement is set to be voluntary, implementation will be decided with managers based on the bank’s needs. The flexibility target is for as much as 40% of time from home, though each case will be decided individually, de Marchis said.

The move has been praised by unions representing bank employees.

“This is an important step that goes in the right direction,” said Lando Maria Sileoni, general secretary of the Fabi union. Separately, Fulvio Furlan, general secretary of union Uilca said that it is key that UniCredit is proposing to increase flexibility and not to cut jobs. “We like the move, but will be vigilant on its proper application,” he said.

UBS Group AG will permanently allow as many as two-thirds of its employees to mix working at home and the office and Deutsche Bank has said it’s working on plans to allow staff to work from home up to three days a week. Citigroup said Wednesday that it believes offering flexible policies will help it attract new recruits -- to the detriment of rivals Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Changed Habits

UniCredit’s policy is motivated also by a desire to appeal to potential recruits, de Marchis said.

“This is a reflection of our will to be an employer of choice,” he said. “Flexibility in the way that work gets done is something we want to continue exploring to see what works best for our customers, our people and our organization.”

UniCredit is based in Milan, at the heart of the province that last year became the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. Its 4,000 staff in the Porta Nuova district are housed in three glass-and-steel skyscrapers, including Cesar Pelli’s 31-story tower. On average, about 25% of the workforce is currently going to offices, with a maximum capacity set at 50%. The group has units in Germany, Austria and across eastern Europe.

“The pandemic has changed our habits and our way of working,” said de Marchis. “Generally speaking, while flexibility in the past had a sort of stigma, it will likely be the new normal in the future.”

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