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Nomura joins growing list of companies re-thinking offices post-COVID

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Japanese bank Nomura is changing the way people work in light of the coronavirus pandemic. (Yuriko Nakao/Reuters)

Japanese banking giant Nomura (9716.T) is the latest company to join a growing number of businesses re-thinking offices in the post-COVID world.

The chief executive of Nomura, Japan’s biggest investment bank, said on Wednesday that the company may permanently reduce the number of staff who work out of its headquarters in Tokyo’s financial district, Otemachi.

“Do we need such a lot of staff in Otemachi? Do we need that much workspace here? I would like to discuss those issues," Kentaro Okuda told Reuters.

Read more: Canary Wharf draws up return-to-work plans for offices

The sentiments have been echoed by executives around the world, many of whom are reassessing how they think about offices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays (BARC.L), told journalists in April. “We will find ways to operate with more distancing over a much longer period of time.”

The rapid shift to working from home sparked by global lockdowns has shifted opinions about working remotely. Executives who were once reluctant to let staff spend too long `away from the office are now changing their minds.

Read more: Packed Canary Wharf offices 'may be a thing of the past'

Meanwhile, the lingering nature of the novel coronavirus means offices won’t be able to return to full capacity even if executives would like them to.

New health and safety measures being introduced across the world include strict limits on the numbers of people in lifts, more spaced out desks, and an end to hot desking — where multiple workers use a single work station or surface during different time periods. In-person meetings are also being discouraged in some places.

Canary Wharf, London’s financial district, saw a daily influx of tens of thousands of workers in pre-pandemic times. The Canary Wharf Group estimates that just half of workers will now be able to return under new safety protocols.

Read more: Twitter employees can work from home 'forever'

While the likes of Barclays and Nomura are planning to scale down the number of people in their offices, some companies are going even further. Twitter (TWTR) told staff last month they could continue working from home “forever” if they chose to.