Amidst pandemic, Greek banks discover home working and like it

During the emergency working conditions, banks managed in a very short time to transfer a large part of their operations online as more than a quarter of the administrative staff worked from home. According to sources, more than 10,000 laptops were handed out to employees from the four systemic banks.

The day after the pandemic may lead to general changes in the way Greek banks and their employees operate. Emergency plans implemented by lenders have created a new reality, dominated by teleworking and more flexible decision-making teams, in an experience that teaches lessons on how to work differently in the future.

As bank officials say, "teleworking has come to stay and will change a lot in the way banks operate." However, this experiment has raised concerns among a large number of workers who fear that teleworking will eventually be linked to a new round of job cuts.

During the emergency working conditions, banks managed in a very short time to transfer a large part of their operations online as more than a quarter of the administrative staff worked from home. According to sources, more than 10,000 laptops were handed out to employees from the four systemic banks, equipped with the appropriate security protocols to block hacking.

Top bank executives admit that lessons learned from this crisis will be used in the future. In the last teleconference held by National Bank, CEO Paul Mylonas, was asked if emergency techniques adopted during the pandemic will lead to any conclusions about future changes to reduce operating costs. Mylonas noted that it is too early for the bank to make any permanent changes in operations, but added that the experience gained from the crisis will be used in the future.

The result of the exercise was particularly interesting as it was found that most of the work carried out by employees at home, through a secure connection to the bank's central networks, was done without problems, essentially as if the employees were in their office. This task was not simple and required a large technological upgrade by banks, which took place very quickly, under the pressure of emergency conditions.

Four days in the office, one at home

For the time being, there are no plans to take advantage of this experience, but there are thoughts on significantly changing the organization of operations, which will have an impact on wage costs. One idea being debated at banks is establishing, not for all staff but for a large percentage of workers, a four-day working week, with the fifth one being completed from home.

Another way to take advantage of telecommuting that is being considered could be the permanent conversion of certain positions into full-time teleworking positions. Several back-office jobs, in theory at least, are perfectly suited to a teleworking model and during the crisis, they were carried out without problems with this method.

Additionally, a work rotation model would help free up workplaces, reducing the cost of rent and fixed costs.

In any case, the broader introduction of teleworking is not a simple matter, as legislation that governs teleworking, based on a European directive, stipulates that teleworking cannot be imposed by an employer and can only be applied with the employee's consent.

Regardless of how teleworking develops in the sector, banks will inevitably be led to new and significant reductions in staff numbers and networks, as experience shows that e-commerce is adopted at a fast-pace. Even though more than 26,000 jobs have been lost in the domestic banking system from 2009 (from a total of 64,600 employees), the number has now dropped to 38,500 (December 2018). In the coming years, employment in the sector is estimated to fall further.

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