A return-to-office requirement from the World Bank is producing grumbling among its staff, although the development lender is giving employees more money for commuting and childcare.
(Bloomberg) — A return-to-office requirement from the World Bank is producing grumbling among its staff, although the development lender is giving employees more money for commuting and childcare.
The new president of the Washington-based bank, Ajay Banga, is pushing ahead with plans to have employees work in the office four days a week by Sept. 5. Companies such as Citigroup Inc., where Banga worked for more than a decade, already have rolled back work-from-home arrangements initiated during the coronavirus epidemic.
Acknowledging some unhappiness with the mandate, Banga and his management team sent a memo titled “Return to Office: Flexibility & Support.” The memo, obtained by Bloomberg News, said some of the bank’s roughly 16,000 employees had raised “specific challenges that have to do with the return to office.”
“Many of these are lingering issues that clearly need fixing,” according to the memo. The four-day-a-week goal starts Sept. 5, following the Labor Day holiday weekend in the US and the traditional return to class of school-age children.
Under a new policy, the World Bank will almost quadruple the Metro subsidy it provides to commuters working in its Washington headquarters to as much as $150 a month and cut the cost for using the institution’s childcare facility by 20%, according to the memo emailed to all staff.
Employees in more than 100 other World Bank offices around the world will receive similar commuting support.
“We need greater interaction, collaboration and physical proximity,” Banga and top officials said in the memo. “It will require us to sit around a table, meet new people in the halls, brainstorm ideas over lunch and bond over a coffee.”
The World Bank’s move comes as high-profile companies including Amazon.com Inc. are pushing to get more of their workers back in the office. The shift to remote work during the pandemic is enduringly popular with employees, but corporate chiefs worry it’s making their businesses less productive. Commercial property markets, and downtown businesses like restaurants, have also taken a hit.
In Washington, federal workers have also resisted returning to the office, with the Democratic mayor, Muriel Bowser, using her third-term inaugural address in January to call for “decisive action” from the Biden administration to bring “most federal workers back to the office most of the time.” But federal employee unions, an important Democratic political constituency, have resisted attempts to rein back telework options.
The move at the World Bank comes as Banga, who took the reins of the globe’s oldest and largest development bank in June, pushes ahead with what the organization calls its evolution road map. The plan, championed by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other Group of 20 leaders, calls for the lender to find ways to stretch existing resources to meet challenges such as climate change and pandemics. Banga is also exploring ways to take on more risk for the private sector.
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