On Wednesday evening, 16 September 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would be moving to level 1 lockdown. Level 1 lockdown is a sign of progress in the right direction economically and will start at midnight on Sunday 20 September 2020.
A quick summary of the level 1 lockdown rules:
- International Arrivals will be permitted
- Curfew Midnight to 04:00 AM
- Venues allowed to operate with only 50% of regular capacity
- Gatherings allowed to operate with only 50% of regular capacity
- Liquor Sales permitted Monday to Friday between 09:00 AM and 17:00 PM
With the relaxation of the rules, the question is, how will the financial services industry go back to working from an office setting after months-long of working from home? Is the financial Services industry ready to go back to the office or should the industry just continue working from home and only start implementing their return to office strategy in January 2021, with the exception of key front office roles that have been working from the office?
Unlike the tech industry which is prolonging its return to the office, financial institutions have had plans for employees to return to the office since the lockdown began, and from a real estate point of view, financial institutions occupy a large number of commercial spaces that have been quite empty.
Below are some strategies to consider for an effective financial services industry to return to the office.
Establishing a COVID19 Compliance and Risk team responsible for a return to work implementation
Every company has a unique set of challenges ahead with regards to employees returning to the office, the team will lead the implementation and see that the company follows proper procedures especially with regards to regulations set by the government.
The team will oversee the below:
- Prevention measures for a possible outbreak in the office
- Workplace control measures for potential office outbreak
- Implementation and overall management of government regulations with regards to COVID19
Ask employees if they are comfortable with the return to office setup
Asking employees if they prefer to come to the office or if they prefer to continue working from home until such time that the pandemic is no longer an imminent threat and is declared over or at least under control. Depending on the number of employees each company has, some companies may have a hard time deciding who should come back to the office and who shouldn’t, so starting with comfortability for employees might be a good start.
The best approach will involve flexibility from both employers and employees alike.
Implement a return to office strategy in phases
Each office and business will have unique challenges and it might not be possible to return everybody to work at the same time, especially for offices that have more than 50 employees working in one office.
Getting employees back in the office in phases will not be easy and might work best for risk control and management of social distancing and other regulations set by the government if it is done in phases.
However, returning to the office is not urgent and the are slightly over three months left in 2020, if the company is functioning and everyone is productive from home, holding the return to work strategy implementation is the best strategy.