The trickle of workers returning to Deutsche Bank AG’s Frankfurt headquarters are finding a new reality of takeout lunches and coffee as the lender restricts social contact.
About 600 staff are working at the office tower in the city’s downtown, up from about 450 in March and April and compared with usual staffing levels of about 2,500. The lender says its offices will remain largely empty for the forseeable future even as some countries begin to ease restrictions.
The few Deutsche Bank staffers who do return are finding a vastly changed work environment to what they knew before. Seating is no longer available at the canteen at the Frankfurt head office and lunch menu options reduced. Coffee machines on each floor of its twin high-rise buildings have been switched off so people don’t touch the buttons, though the ground floor snack shop has reopened.
“Key measures including seating arrangements and building access points are being very carefully planned as we phase people carefully and gradually back into the office,” London-based spokeswoman Alison Moody said. Employees working from home “have been asked to continue to do so for the time being,” she said.
Like all other lenders, Deutsche Bank in March told most employees to work from home in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The bank has repeatedly said that the new arrangements have proven more resilient than initially expected despite the hurried nature of putting them in place.
The difficulty of getting people to work safely is another reason why Deutsche Bank is in no rush to see employees return to the office and wants to keep staff off public transportation as much as possible. In London, the lender is considering offering bicycles to staff at train stations so they don’t need to use the London Underground, one person familiar with the matter said.
In Hong Kong, where cycling is uncommon, the lender is encouraging staff to take public transport during off hours when there are fewer passengers, another person said. That office has seen a significant increase in staff over the past weeks, though the lender there too gives employees the choice of continuing to work from home.
At least some of the work-from-home arrangements will stay in place permanently as Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing has said he will use the crisis lessons to cut costs by reducing office space. Staff should drop the expectation that they will still have a regular desk in the future as shared desks will become the new normal, one person said.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.