- Goldman Sachs opened its massive new European headquarters in London months before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the city and countries around the world.
- Now, as firms like Goldman Sachs and other banks think about how they’ll get employees back to the office after months of remote work, the solution isn’t always straightforward.
- The London office was built with public transportation in mind and has limited parking, posing a potentially tricky situation for workers who can’t walk or bike to work.
- Meanwhile, some of Goldman’s European teams has initiated a one-hour period each day for people to stay off Zoom meetings and phone calls.
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Last summer, Goldman Sachs opened its glitzy new European headquarters in London at Plumtree Court with fixtures like “resting rooms” for exhausted workers and a 7,000 square-foot nursery and play area for employees’ children.
It’s more than one million square feet of office space with the largest trading trading floor in London, a café and dining spaces, all-gender changing and showering facilities, and barista-style coffee bars dotted throughout the floors.
One thing it doesn’t have, though, is ample parking.
The mammoth building was completed months before the coronavirus pandemic hit the city and countries around the world, including New York, where the firm’s global headquarters is located in lower Manhattan.
Goldman Sachs now has 50% of people back to work in offices in China and Hong Kong. It’s just beginning the process of returning people to the office in New York and in London.
But as firms like Goldman Sachs and other banks try to figure out the logistics of getting employees back to the office after months of remote work, the solution isn’t always straightforward.
“It has basically no car park because we wanted to discourage driving; it’s the city. Boris said, people should drive into the city. What are they supposed to do with their car when they get there?” Sheila Patel, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. (Boris is a reference to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.)
Many employees don’t live in central London and can’t easily walk or bike to work, Patel said, which Johnson has also advised as a means of commuting to avoid crowding on public transport.
“Most people take trains. Some people take trains that take an hour and a half. You’re not going to walk from Surrey to Blackfriars, that’s just not practical,” Patel said.
And it wouldn’t be wise to soon start carpooling, she said, for obvious social-distancing purposes.
“So there are all sorts of pragmatic stuff like that, where you get pronouncements and then you have to interpret what actually is valuable as opposed to what you’re directed to do,” she said.
Goldman’s switch to remote work — which, as Business Insider reported, involved assembly lines and an Amazon-like tech hub on a Manhattan trading floor— allowed 98% of employees to be working from home by early April.
But while the transition to stay at home was easy to for workers to understand, returning to the office will likely be a much more nuanced process.
And for banks like Goldman, many factors may be out of their control.
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Meanwhile, throughout the months of social distancing, some protocols have been put in place for certain Goldman teams to try and avoid a cycle of non-stop work.
For instance, one of the firm’s European teams initiated a one-hour period of “no call, no Zoom, no nothing,” Patel said. That time can be used for things like personal errands or to care for family members.
Patel is a partner of the firm who joined in 2003. She also oversees GSAM’s environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and impact initiatives.
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