The other reason you don’t want to go back into the office

As banks slowly nudge staff back into their offices, it turns out that it’s not just toilet plumes that are causing stress: having people in COVID-proofed buildings is also very expensive. 

Deloitte Consulting puts the ‘seat’ cost of a banker in an office with all the necessary virus precautions at 50% higher than the seat cost of a banker in an office without. Plexiglass screens might seem cheap, but not when you need thousands of them. There’s also the need for ‘lids’ for toilet cubicles to limit plume-spread, for hand towels instead of hand dryers, for new receptacles to dispose of masks, and for ventilation upgrades so that virus-heavy air isn’t circulated around buildings. Jobs could be created in the virus-proofing process, albeit not ones that most people in finance would rush to fill:  Bloomberg foresees a new breed of compliance/security person tasked with patrolling floors and ensuring employees comply with new rules by not sitting too close together/walking without masks/crowding into meeting rooms. 

When these additional measures are implemented, Deloitte suggests the ‘seat cost’ per bank employee could rise by 50%, to between $10.5k and $18k (on trading floors this is far higher when the cost of technology is added in). For banks with the largest offices in London and New York this means a cost of tens of millions at a time when – even before the virus – most banks were cutting costs.

The danger, then, is that COVID-precautions themselves could precipitate a new and deeper round of cost cutting, and the automation-away of jobs that can be done by machines. Will staying at home make any difference though? The new costs look suspiciously fixed: most banks are investing in the expectaiton that up to 50% of staff will return in the near term, irrespective of whether everyone stays at home or not.

Sarah Butcher –


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *