It’s a sentiment echoed by many in Europe’s financial centre, even as the likes of Standard Chartered tell staff they can work wherever they want forever. Its closest rival HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, has hinted that it is not far behind from making a similar announcement.
The pandemic has triggered discussions about office life being over, but a growing number of City workers, who are used to gossiping over their desks and sealing lucrative deals in heaving bars and restaurants, have grown tired of working from their living rooms. Even if nobody is forced back, the hope is that the once-buzzing financial district will still return to its former self.
“We’re not able to foster relationships [from home] like we did previously, when you might meet someone for a cup of coffee, then it’s five o’clock and you might go and have a beer with them,” says Paul Lynam, the chief executive of Secure Trust Bank.
“I’m not able to build trust-based relationships with people on a screen. Lots of people have been saying the office is dead, but I’ve been in this game 35 years and most of what I’ve learnt is from being in an office, looking at people and learning from people, and watching them make mistakes. You simply cannot replicate learning by osmosis.
“Being in an office for eight hours is being in a classroom by default. We have 1,000 people working for us and a large number of them, particularly the younger generation, are ringing us asking, ‘Can we come in?’”