Top Banks In HK Back To Split Teams Amidst Omicron Threat
HONG KONG – Multinational financial firms like Standard Chartered and UBS Group are again tightening workplace rules and re-implementing split teams, as the Omicron variant threatens to trigger a 5th COVID wave in Hong Kong, reported Bloomberg on Thursday morning (6 January, SGT).
In a memo, UBS Group has ordered all staff in the Asian financial hub to revert to 2 split teams who will alternately work in the office week by week. All physical meetings are also limited to up to 12 people at the office.
The Swiss bank has also instructed its workers to avoid entering other floors to prevent cross-contamination, as well as not to socialize with members of the alternate team outside of the office.
The policy, which took effect immediately, aims to make sure UBS Group can continue its business operations in case members of one team gets exposed to COVID-19 or its Omicron variant.
Similarly, Standard Chartered asked its local employees to work in split teams. It also urged workers to take their laptops home every day and asked them to avoid attending unnecessary social gatherings and large-scale events.
In a memo, the bank said: “We’ve managed through multiple Covid-19 waves before, so we know we can overcome this.”
Last week, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority reminded banks to permit their staff to work from home (WFH) and split them into different teams. Nonetheless, over 80 percent of the workforce of financial firms in the city have been inoculated against COVID-19.
The re-imposition of stringent workplace policies by banks comes around 7 months after business life largely returned to normal as Hong Kong’s 4th COVID wave subsided. However, the emergence of Omicron is now putting the Chinese territory’s zero-COVID strategy to the test after it detected the first local transmission in nearly 7 months.
On Wednesday, the government ordered gyms, bars, nightclubs, and swimming pools to stop operations from Friday for two weeks, while restaurants were ordered to halt dine-in services at 6pm.