Hong Kong — Global banks in Hong Kong, from Goldman Sachs to Standard Chartered, are urging more staff to work from home again as virus cases surge in the Asian finance hub.

Goldman Sachs will go back to a full work-from-home approach in Hong Kong starting on Wednesday except for staff that have to be in the office to perform their roles, according to a staff memo that was confirmed by a bank spokesperson.

Standard Chartered has applied a hard split-team arrangement for functions that require work in the office, and shortened branch hours last Friday, according to a spokesperson. “In view of Covid wave 4, we strongly encourage our staff to work from home where possible,” she said.

Hong Kong introduced the city’s toughest public-gathering restrictions in months on Monday and decided to send civil servants back home as the government steps up efforts to contain the latest wave of coronavirus infections. The city, which had 76 new cases on Monday, has even set up a hotline for residents to report parties on private yachts.

“We need to further tighten the social-distancing measures, targeting those closed, crowded, closely-contacted and mask-off leisure and entertainment group activities,” the government said on Tuesday.

UBS Group is back to having about 30% of staff working from the office, down from about 60%-70% two weeks ago, according to a spokesperson. Barclays reduced office staff capacity to 50%, from about 70% a few weeks ago.

Citigroup resumed its 50% return-to-office arrangement on November 23. That was down from 75% on site previously, according to a spokesperson for the bank. “We continue to watch the data closely and will make further adjustments as necessary in response.” 

The rise in global cases to more than 63-million is prompting companies to scale back their office use. Workers who went to the office in 10 of the largest US business districts fell to 22.6% of pre-Covid-19 levels in the week ended November 25, according to data from Kastle Systems, down from 26.3% the previous week.


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