Major banks and financial institutions in Hong Kong have reportedly reverted back to work-from-home arrangements following the recent spike in new coronavirus cases in the city. The reported "third wave" of new cases has forced most of the financial companies to encourage their employees to avoid traveling to and from work to help mitigate the spread of the disease.
In a memo to its employees, HSBC said it was strongly encouraging everyone to work remotely starting this week. One of the city's three note-issuing banks stated that if possible, those that can bring their work home should do so, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions and those with compromised immune systems.
The bank added that employees that have to work within its premises should properly plan their working schedules with their managers. Employees are being encouraged to have a separate break, sign-in, and log off times and to avoid congregating. HSBC confirmed the contents of the memo sent out to its employees when asked by reporters on Wednesday.
Aside from HSBC, other major banks such as Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank also released similar memos to their employees. Standard Chartered reportedly told employees to work from home if possible. Workers that had to go to the office were asked to be split into different teams to reduce contact with other employees. Deutsche Bank mentioned in its memo to employees that non-critical staff should bring their work home.
During the height of the pandemic in May, Hong Kong became the world's largest work-from-home experiment. Dozens of local and multinational companies headquartered in the Asian financial hub had ordered their workers to bring their work home as the city went under hard lockdown. As the city gradually reopened, workers gradually went back to their offices.
To ensure the safety of returning workers, most companies had implemented unique measures to reduce personal contact. The International Commerce Centre (ICC) in West Kowloon, for example, reprogrammed their elevators to only carry a certain number of passengers. Offices across the city have also installed barriers and privacy screens on desks and teller locations to prevent the virus from spreading. Almost all types of meetings and conferences in the city went virtual as companies banned face-to-face corporate gatherings.
This week, the city imposed some of its strictest social-distancing measures after a surge in new cases. Establishments such as bars, gyms, restaurants, and karaoke rooms were ordered to close once again. Some restaurants were permitted to remain open, but dine-in customers are strictly prohibited.