Coronavirus: Canary Wharf creates plan for workforce return

The Canary Wharf skyline. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images
The Canary Wharf skyline. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

Canary Wharf has drawn up plans to bring back more than 12,000 financial workers as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions ease.

The London complex, which houses HSBC (HSBC), Barclays (BCS) and Citigroup (C), expects to see between 10% and 20% of the 120,000 employees return in the next few weeks.

Social distancing rules will be implemented by restricting lift capacity, removing soft furnishings to make more space and creating one-way routes around the towers.

Staggered working will also be put in place, as bankers, accountants and lawyers return to their offices, following an extended period working from home.

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Howard Dawber managing director of strategy at the 16.5 million sq. ft. office space, told the BBC the complex is designing "a new way of working" based on the assumption that government restrictions would be "kept in place for some time".

The number of employees to return will depend on public transport availability and the re-opening of schools. Workers may also be reluctant to return to the office, with a survey from the Chartered Management Institute suggesting 60% of members want to split their working week between home and office after the pandemic.

Despite the ongoing debate over the future of office working versus remote working, Dawber said big companies would still require large spaces to meet in person.

"Maybe home working during lockdown will accelerate trends, but big companies will still need a central hub."

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"It's possible our next generation of interior design may be different, may involve more collaborative space like tech hubs," he added.

Canary Wharf has remained open throughout the pandemic with an estimated 3,000 workers looking after back end operations. And some banks have reportedly kept trading floors open for those who cannot work from home.

Prior to lockdown the estate received 40,000 daily visitors on top of the 120,000 workforce.