Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce expects most of its employees who are working from home to continue doing so at least until September, and plans to blend on-site and remote work once they’re able to return.

CIBC said in March that it expected most remote workers to remain at home until at least the end of June. But in recent weeks Canada has seen rising cases as winter lockdowns ended and new COVID-19 variants spread through the country. Ontario, the country’s most populous province, imposed a new stay-at-home order on Wednesday.

When CIBC’s workers do return to the office, the bank will “blend the best of both on-site and remote work,” Sandy Sharman, the lender’s group head of people, culture and brand, said in a memo to staff Wednesday. The company is currently gathering input from its senior leaders about how their teams work to ensure that return-to-office plans keep employees engaged and connected, she said.

“The amount of time spent at the office will depend on your role, taking into consideration things like the nature of your work and where you’ll be most productive,” Sharman said in the memo. “It won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach -- each team will have a model based on how they can achieve success using the right spaces at the right time.”

The bank has created a matrix for the different kinds of work employees do -- such as focusing on an individual task, learning new information or collaborating with colleagues -- that will help guide managers in determining the balance of on-site and remote time for the roles, Sharman said in an interview. While some jobs will be entirely remote and others will be completely on-site, most will blend the two, Sharman said in an interview.

Bell Curve

“It’s going to be like a bell curve,” Sharman said. “There are going to be a whole bunch of people in the middle, where folks are a little bit of everything.”

The bank also will take into account workers’ individual situations, for example allowing people who live in smaller downtown Toronto residences that aren’t as suited for remote work to come into the office regularly, even if their role doesn’t require it, Sharman said.

CIBC had been studying changes to make its workplace more agile and flexible since about 2016, and the pandemic accelerated those plans, Sharman said. The new arrangement doesn’t change CIBC’s real estate needs, and the bank is continuing with plans to construct the second tower at CIBC Square, Sharman said.

The new office complex will reflect the firm’s new approach, with the 50-floor towers divided into three-floor “ecosystems” that feature different types of work environments and are connected by a central staircase to allow employees to feel like part of a larger community, she said.

As for determining when to bring workers back, the bank considers factors including government directives, health and safety protocols as well as the situation with local schools, Sharman said.

“It’s not a playbook any of us have ever done,” Sharman said. “All we can do is really listen and try to change course if we feel that we need to go down a different path.”