Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is looking at staggered shifts, daytime cleaning and even changes to its office kitchens as ways of keeping employees safe as the North American economy starts reopening following pandemic-spurred lockdowns.

The Toronto-based bank, which also has significant U.S. operations, is drafting plans for a post-coronavirus workplace that may change how staffers get to the office, enter buildings, work at desks and congregate in common areas, said Sandy Sharman, the senior executive vice president overseeing human resources.

“It goes down to touching buttons on the elevator, it goes down to do we give assigned seating so that you’re not moving around the space, do we close off the fridge and the microwave right now?” Sharman said in an interview Friday. “All of those things are to be taken into consideration.”

About a third of CIBC’s 45,000 employees are still at offices or branches, while the rest have been working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. The bank is planning a “measured and staged” approach to bringing everyone back, Sharman said. “We’ve proven to ourselves that we can run our business model with two-thirds of our workforce at home, so I don’t think that there has to be a rush,” she said.

The bank has already enhanced cleaning protocols at call centers, adding day cleaners whose presence gives added reassurances to workers, Sharman said.

Social Distancing

CIBC is factoring in social distancing at locations including its new headquarters under construction in Toronto, an office complex known as CIBC Square. The bank has been revisiting floor designs and making adjustments to seating, meeting rooms and workstations at the skyscraper, which is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of the year.

Canada’s fifth-largest lender by assets also has a U.S. presence, bolstered with its 2017 acquisition of Chicago-based PrivateBancorp.

CIBC told employees Friday in an internal message that it won’t be business as usual for some time and that, for many, working from home will continue to be the norm. The bank identified things it’s doing that may affect how the workplace of the future looks:

  • Using social distancing as an “effective safeguard,” with possibilities including reconfiguring common areas such as kitchens, spreading teams out across locations and scheduling groups to be on-site at different times.
  • Considering how employees commute to the office and enter workspaces, including elevators and entryways, and what enhanced cleaning or other protocols need to be in place.