Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Madrid/Milan/Amsterdam — Banks in European regions worst hit by the Covid-19 outbreak are getting ready to welcome more staff back to the office, but the workplace will look a bit different.

With infections subsiding but not completely eliminated, lenders in the Netherlands, Italy and Spain are upgrading the air conditioning, installing sanitisers, limiting access to common areas, and marking floors, desks and elevators with arrows and stickers to keep staff conscious of the need for social distancing. Things touched by many people — fingerprint scanners, coffee machines — have been shut down to reduce the risk of transmission.

Northern Italy

At UniCredit, about 10% of 4,000 employees based at three skyscrapers in Milan, one of Europe’s hardest-hit cities, have returned. The bank set out what it calls “Golden Rules”: screening for temperature, wearing masks, washing hands frequently and keeping distance from one another. Any breach can result in a formal sanction.

Elevators can only be used by four people at a time, and workers cannot move between floors. All common areas are closed, including the on-site babysitting centre, gym and dining halls. Employees cannot bring in food from outside. The bank will allow many essential work trips from June 15, though travel to and from the US, Brazil and Russia will remain mostly off-limits.

Intesa Sanpaolo plans to have 50% of workers back by September. Intesa’s 39-floor Turin tower, with no windows and 16 elevators, required special efforts to meet sanitary requirements. Air-conditioning filters were upgraded, and like UniCredit, a maximum of four people are allowed in an elevator — with crosses marked on the floor where they should stand.

Madrid

Banco Santander’s suburban campus eliminates some of the headaches faced by companies operating in transit-dependent city centres. Still, it is only allowing 25% of its workforce to return. The bank will monitor body temperatures and is providing an app for staff to report symptoms. No more socialising in the canteen: only one person will dine at a table at a time.

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria is also monitoring temperatures — and no more pressing your fingerprint on security scanners. External visitors will not be allowed to the head office.

Frankfurt

Deutsche Bank is allowing a trickle of employees to return, with about 600 now working from its downtown Frankfurt tower. Again, the canteen is a focus. Access is limited, the seating is gone and the menu has been reduced. The coffee machines have buttons, so they’ve been switched off.

Amsterdam

ABN Amro Bank has put arrows on the floor of its headquarters that guide people into designated walking lanes. Sanitisers have been placed at every group of desks. To keep 1.5m social distancing, two-thirds of the desks are off-limits, adorned by a red sticker. With the canteen shut down, employees can order their lunch to their desks. To meet clients, special rooms with extra ventilation have been designated.

A pilot group of about 60 employees from its markets and treasury department and security operations in Amsterdam are trialing this set-up before more people return from July 1.

Bloomberg