July 14, 2024

Deutsche Bank is facing a wave of backlash from staff after introducing new return-to-office mandates, joining a host of companies that are walking back their flexible working policies. 

A significant number of staff based in Germany criticized the new policies in an internal messaging board, according to a memo sent on Thursday by CEO Christian Sewing and COO Rebecca Short, as reported by Bloomberg.

The German financial giant recently told staff globally that it would require them to return to the office at least three days a week from June, and one of those days has to be Monday or Friday.

Staff will be allowed to work remotely for a maximum of 40% of their time — effectively two days in a five-day working week — a bank spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.

Meanwhile, those at managing director level will be expected in the office four days a week, the spokesperson said. 

Sewing and Short were behind the initial policy change but said in the memo that they would be renewing discussions with labor representatives about the move, per Bloomberg. 

“There’s enormous resistance among staff,” Stephan Szukalski, the head of the labor union DBV, which represents Deutsche Bank staff, told Bloomberg via email.

Szukalski, who is also part of the bank’s supervisory board, said there isn’t enough office space and that staff are already complaining about bottlenecks. 

Szukalski told German business newspaper Handelsblatt that some employees were coming into the office at 7 a.m. so they could find somewhere to work next to their team due to overcrowding. 

“This is an unnecessary battlefront for Deutsche Bank that destroys reputation and trust,” Szukalski told Bloomberg. 

The spokesperson told BI: “The bank remains committed to our hybrid working model, which has been received extremely positively by staff. Its new guidelines will ensure consistency across the bank and strengthen senior leadership presence in the office, which remains the primary place of work.”

Deutsche Bank was one of the first companies to introduce hybrid working policies after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, allowing staff to work from home for up to three days a week. 

Many major companies have u-turned on their flexible working policies and now require workers to return to the office most, or some, of the time.

Google, Meta, and Salesforce are among the firms who previously embraced remote worked before changing tack. Most recently, General Motors, SAP, and EY amped up their return-to-office mandates. 

Future of work expert Dan Schawbel previously told BI that RTO mandates are creating a “huge disruption” in workers’ lives because many of them made major decisions based on the premise that they can work remotely. This could include buying a house, moving further away from the office, and having children. 

“I think RTO mandates will reduce employee morale unless it is handled very carefully,” Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor, also told BI previously.

“You are forcing employees back to the office, which is unlikely to be popular as otherwise they would have come of their own volition.”

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