KPMG UK staff to work in office just two days a week after pandemic


Accounting and consultancy group KPMG has told its 16,000 UK staff that they will have to work only an average of two days in the office each week from next month, as the firm revealed its plans for a post-pandemic hybrid working model.

Under the new initiative, which the company has called the “four-day fortnight”, staff will spend the remaining days working either from home or at client sites.

In addition, over the summer, staff will also be given an extra 2.5 hours off each week “to give people time away from work and to re-energise”.

All staff will be given an extra day off on 21 June, the date the government plans to end all social distancing restrictions – which many see as marking the end of the pandemic.

The new KPMG working arrangements were unveiled as Google said it expected 20% of its staff to work from home permanently in the future. The search engine group said it anticipated 60% of workers being office-based, 20% working in new office locations and 20% staying at home.

Those proposals are in stark contrast to the approach taken by investment bank Goldman Sachs. On Tuesday, Goldman moved in the opposite direction, telling its US and UK bankers to prepare to return to offices next month.

Jon Holt, chief executive at KPMG UK, said: “We trust our people. Our new way of working will empower them and enable them to design their own working week. The pandemic has proven it’s not about where you work, but how you work.”

The company, from which UK chairman Bill Michael resigned in February after it emerged he told staff to “stop moaning” about the pandemic, is also investing £44m this year to transform its offices into “collaborative spaces and invest in new home-working technology for staff”.

David Solomon, the Goldman Sachs chief executive, who has described home working as an “aberration”, told UK workers to plan to return from 21 June. US staff will begin a return to office working from 14 June.

In other parts of the world where the pandemic is under control, such as Asia Pacific, most Goldman Sachs staff are already back at their desks.

“We know from experience that our culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together,” said Solomon, in a staff memo also signed off by president John Waldron and chief financial officer Stephen Scherr.

“We look forward to having more of our colleagues back in the office so that they can experience that once again on a regular basis.”

While the memo added that staff who wish to continue to work from home should discuss this with their manager, any such requests from the bank’s 6,000 workers in London are unlikely to be well received.

In February, Solomon said the bank needed to “correct” the practice of home working “as soon as possible”, promising it would not become “a new normal”.

Goldman’s working conditions came under scrutiny during the pandemic after junior US analysts compiled a report in which they claimed they were subjected to 100-hour working weeks.

Last week, rival JPMorgan Chase told all its US bankers they should prepare to return to work on a “consistent rotational schedule” by early July, in line with the lifting of pandemic restrictions in many US cities such as the key financial centre of New York.

The memo from Jamie Dimon, chief executive, rather patronisingly added that staff who had forgotten how an office works can begin re-acclimatising themselves to a workplace environment from 17 May.

However, Dimon also said that the US’s largest bank was planning to “significantly” reduce its office space. “For every 100 employees, we may need seats for only 60 on average,” he said.

Financial services firms are taking a variety of approaches to office working in a post-pandemic world.

HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, is moving to a hybrid model and plans to cut its property footprint by as much as 40% in the long term, and Lloyds Banking Group, the bank with the biggest UK high street presence, has said it will bring in working from home as a permanent lifestyle change, allowing it to cut 20% of its office space.

In March, Nationwide, the UK’s biggest building society, said that its 13,000 staff who do not work in branches would be allowed to work from wherever they wanted.

Jes Staley, the boss of Barclays, which expects to keep a significant number of traders at Canary Wharf in the future, has previously said home working is “not sustainable” for large financial institutions.

Staff in its corporate and investment banking operations in London and New York are expected to return to work from mid-June.