I vividly remember March 6 last year. It was a Friday. I left the office and walked down to the grocery store to stock up and there was not one vegetable—fresh or frozen—left on any of the shelves. That was when it really hit me that life had changed. Over the course of this past year writing my notes to everyone, I often wondered when it would make sense to write this particular note, laying out how we are thinking about the future of work at Citi when we head back into the office post-vaccines. While we’re not at the end of the road yet, I think the time is now right to begin planning for what that looks like.
First, however, I want to address a more immediate issue—the need for a reset now. I know from your feedback and my own experience, the blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our well-being. It’s simply not sustainable. Since a return to any kind of new normal is still a few months away for many of us, we need to reset some of our working practices if we are to stay true to one of the principles we set to manage through the pandemic: “Make the most of now.”
So around the world we are going to take three actions:
First, we are launching Zoom-Free Fridays and are designating Fridays as a day free of video calls—at least internally. After listening to colleagues around the world, it became apparent we need to combat the “Zoom fatigue” that many of us feel, so I overcame my initial resistance to this idea. There still will be client and regulator meetings that need to happen via Zoom, but any internal meetings occurring on Fridays (or an equivalent day in the Middle East) should happen as audio-only calls.
Second, is setting healthy work boundaries. We are busier than ever, but please try to limit scheduling calls outside of what had been traditional working hours pre-pandemic and on weekends (remember those?) We are of course a global company that operates across time zones, but when our work regularly spills over into nights, very early mornings and weekends, it can prevent us from recharging fully, and that isn’t good for you nor, ultimately, for Citi.
Third, take your vacations. I’m taking a few days off at the end of the month, knowing I will come back with a fresher brain. In that spirit, we are announcing a Citi Reset Day, a firm-wide holiday on Friday, May 28. This is something we did last year, and this year we are giving plenty of notice so you can plan a day where we are all off and your emails and phones are quiet. If you need to work on May 28, or if Friday is part of the weekend in your country, please work with your manager to find another day in the two weeks after May 28.
I believe it greatly benefits our firm if we make these adjustments. We welcome ideas on what else we can do to help us manage the strain. If you feel you need additional support, you can receive help through our Be Well program, even if you are not enrolled in a Citi medical program. And please…speak up and talk to your manager if you need more time for a reset. It’s not a sign of weakness; we are all feeling the weariness.
We Succeed Together—Better Together
“One size does not fit all” was another principle we set at the beginning of the pandemic in recognition that the varying impacts of the disease around the world would require a flexible response. The same is true for the timing of our return to the office. Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What will working at Citi look like once the pandemic eases and we have been vaccinated?” Let me share how we are thinking about this…
While the pandemic has shown us how versatile our colleagues can be, for many of our roles, we strongly believe there are several material advantages to being physically together:
- Belonging: We want our people to feel an attachment to our firm, a sense of pride about serving our clients and a duty to protect the financial system. That only happens when we are together—and as we have all experienced, loneliness is not a great feeling.
- Collaboration: Working together creates a shared purpose and energy. Collaboration is much more dynamic when you can pop over to the next desk or brainstorm in a room together, bouncing ideas and feeding off each other.
- Apprenticeship and Learning: Banking is an apprenticeship business and this can happen over Zoom, but only up to a point. Feedback from an impromptu conversation after a meeting or coaching from your manager walking by your desk after watching you in action—we all miss out on this learning as part of the daily rhythms of being together.
- Competitiveness and Performance: Being together drives collaboration, coordination and helps break down silos. These are attributes we need to embrace to improve our competitiveness and performance. And we can see from the data that many roles are more productive over the long run if we are in the office together.
So as we look forward to the new normal, these attributes are a big driver of why you will be expected in the office or on site. That said, we also recognize that our people have benefitted from aspects of working remotely, and we intend to create additional flexibility going forward. While some roles require the sharing of information in real time, many others have proven to be equally and, in some cases, more productive from home. Therefore, we will have three new models of working once it becomes safe for us to be together again: Hybrid, Resident and Remote.
- The majority of roles globally will be designated as Hybrid. These colleagues will work in the office at least three days per week and from home up to two days per week. This is not just a scheduling exercise; we will be thoughtful about when we ask colleagues to be in the office together, using the four principles above.
- Resident applies to roles that cannot be performed offsite. These could include branch-based colleagues or those who work at data centers.
- Remote roles will allow colleagues to perform their functions from outside a Citi location. Apart from roles that were remote before the pandemic, such as those supporting our contact centers, new Remote roles will be somewhat rare.
The Executive Management Team is working with Human Resources to assess which job functions fall into which category. But regardless of the role, we will expect everyone to be onsite at certain times as part of our ongoing efforts to increase connectivity and collaboration. As more of us return, we will continually check in with managers so we can evolve our approach as needed.
I am also mindful there will be a raft of new challenges when more of us return. For instance, how do we make sure that those who continue to be fully remote have equal opportunities to develop their careers? How do we balance conversations in which some participants are in person and others are on Zoom? How do we ensure that the 35,000 colleagues who have joined us since the start of the pandemic feel they belong to the team and to the firm and that we invest the time and provide the experiences for them to feel like Citibankers?
These are questions we need to answer, and I have no doubt we will. The pandemic has stretched our capacity for innovative thinking, for solving problems. It has opened doors to new ways of working and shown that we are able to adapt to and even flourish amid adversity. Nothing should stop us from building a bank that wins, a bank that champions excellence and a bank with a soul.