Even as it begins to gradually bring employees back to offices, Westpac says that the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to a long-term shift to working from home.
Like banks around the world, Westpac was forced to respond to the coronavirus lockdown by moving huge chunks of its employees out of offices. Within days, 22,000 Australian corporate site-based employees - which includes many operations and call centre people - began working from home.
As Australia begins to open back up, Westpac has started a pilot programme involving 500 employees returning to offices.
However, Su Duffey from the bank's HR team says the 'WFH hub' is here to stay. In a blog, she says that Westpac has traditionally had two main work environments: branches and corporate sites.
Covid-19 has shown that another option - the home - "can be a viable third and important part of our workplace strategy.
"The ability to work from home gives people more flexibility to choose where they work; and for many has proven to be more convenient, help productivity, save money or provide a place of greater focus."
While acknowledging that the move to a distributed workforce has not been completely seamless, Duffey says the switch has been a "remarkable success".
This is in part because of technology. In March the bank racked up 300,000 hours of audio and video conferences, up from around 42,000 hours in the same month a year earlier. Likewise, in April there were 24 million minutes of audio and video conferencing compared to around 48 million over a full year in prior years.
Duffey does not predict the demise of the office tower but says remote working gives the bank and its staffers more options. Staff could split their time between the office and working from home, and the bank could have smaller sites more spread out across the country rather than focusing on giant buildings in the big cities.
"It’s the balance that’s key, and Covid-19’s shot in the arm to the WFH movement has clearly sped the considerations around this up - which is an opportunity well worth taking," concludes Duffey.