Goldman Sachs scraps free food and social distancing in UK office return push

Goldman Sachs is scrapping social distancing — and free food — for its London bankers as the Wall Street firm looks to bolster employee numbers in its UK headquarters.

With large investment banks pushing for a widespread return to the office in September after more than 18 months of working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, Goldman told staff in a 9 September memo that “seating will return to full occupancy, meaning we will be able to welcome all of our people in the UK back into the office”.

The change will take place from 13 September, the memo from Goldman Sachs International chief executive, Richard Gnodde, seen by Financial News said.

Goldman has been offering free food from its Plumtree Court canteen to employees returning to the office throughout the pandemic, and more recently rolled out free ice creams for staff as a welcome back incentive. However, from 20 September it will revert to a “paid-for meal service”, it said.

READ City investment banks push for September office return as Wall Street falters on Delta spike

Around 50% of Goldman’s 6,000 UK-based employees have been returning to the office this week, higher than the 30-35% of in-office staff throughout the summer. It will maintain testing of employees as they return, and staff will still be required to wear masks when not at their desks.

JPMorgan reconfigured its UK headquarters in July, removing social distancing requirements and over 33,000 stickers with Covid-19 guidelines it installed at the height of the pandemic, as it looks to bolster staff numbers.

“I want to thank you all for your flexibility and resilience to date,” Gnodde wrote in the memo. “It’s been encouraging that we’ve recently seen around half of our London population coming in each day, and even more looking back over a two week period. I thoroughly look forward to welcoming everyone back over the coming weeks.”

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September has been the tipping point for many investment banks hoping for a return to normality in their City offices, with most pushing for a broader return even as the Delta variant has forced many to push back plans on Wall Street.

Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Goldman are among the investment banks asking more staff to return in London over the coming weeks.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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