Standard Life tells staff to work from home for rest of 2020

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(Bloomberg) -- Standard Life Aberdeen Plc told most of its U.K. staff to work from home for the rest of the year as other asset managers mull how the pandemic has reshaped the future use of their offices.

The firm told its 4,900 U.K. employees that the majority shouldn’t expect to come into the office in 2020, according to a June 2 internal memo seen by Bloomberg. Janus Henderson Group Plc workers and BNP Paribas Asset Management’s London staff will also continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, while Baillie Gifford is planning a phased return of employees in coming months, according to representatives of the firms.

“One of the consistent messages across the U.K. is that, where possible, people should work from home if they can and this very much applies to financial services,” Mike Tumilty, chief operating officer at Standard Life, said in the note. “It has become evident that while we may see some easing of working restrictions, we do not expect this principle to change materially for the foreseeable future.”

While there are some signs of business slowly returning to normal as lockdown measures are eased, many financial firms are still keeping employees away from their offices. Deutsche Bank AG’s asset management arm DWS Group, HSBC Holdings Plc and UBS Group AG are among those planning for the majority of their staff to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Barclays Plc’s Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley has gone further, saying in April that “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”

For the past 12 weeks, financial firms have been staffed with skeleton crews. As government-imposed measures start to ease, with schools beginning a phased opening, senior managers are grappling with difficult decisions about who should return to their offices and when.

The first wave of returnees will likely be professionals subject to stiff legal compliance and confidentiality rules.

Standard Life, which has offices in Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh and London, is planning for just a small number of employees to return to the office in the next few months, according to the memo.

Janus Henderson staff, most of whom have been working from home, will be able to do so for the next few months, according to a spokesperson. In a recent global survey of employees, some 64% said they weren’t comfortable about returning to the office soon, the spokesperson said. Their main concerns included childcare, traveling on public transport and social distancing.

Most of the staff at Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford have been working from home since March and there will be a phased return to the office in coming months, a spokesperson said in a telephone call on Wednesday. Out of the firm’s 1,300 employees globally, the majority work in Edinburgh, the spokesperson said.

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