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Citi offers a glimpse into our flexible working future

Citigroup is offering its vision for the future of flexible work with the release of new plans to transform its London headquarters.

The Wall Street bank is to overhaul its iconic Canary Wharf Citi Tower — home to its U.K., Europe and Middle East operations — in a major bet on the continued relevance of in-office work in a post-pandemic world.

The plans, released this week alongside a video preview, will see the 42-story tower redesigned with flexible working, team collaboration and technology at its core.

“Our aim is to create an environmentally sustainable, innovative and exciting place to work, incorporating modern design, state-of-the-art technology, and best practices in employee and client spaces,” said David Livingstone, Citi’s EMEA chief executive.

The sustainability-oriented designs will aim to lower energy consumption and incorporate a series of green spaces, as well as a ground floor meeting point accessible to the general public.

“Well-being has been put at the heart of the project by introducing innovative collaboration spaces, enhanced connection, state-of-the-art amenities and impactful access to greenery, promoting biophilia,” said Yasmin Al-Ani Spence, director at WilkinsonEyre, lead designer of the project.

Conceptual image of common workspace in Citi’s new Citi Tower London headquarters.

Citigroup

The project is expected to be completed in 2025 and will reportedly cost around £100 million ($133 million).

The 20-year-old building was originally purchased by Citi in 2019 in a signal of its continued commitment to London as a financial hub even as the capital faced warnings of a post-Brexit exodus.

“Citi Tower is a significant investment in our people and our growing business in the UK and the broader EMEA region,” Livingstone added.

To return to the office or not to return?

The plans come as many businesses weigh the benefits of returning to the office against ongoing public health concerns, rising real estate rents and shifting employee preferences toward remote work.

Yet Citi has not shied away from its ambitions to bring employees back into the workplace.

Last week, the bank urged its New York City staff to return to the office for two days a week from Feb 7. Meanwhile, earlier this month, it reiterated plans to end the employment of all unvaccinated U.S. staff by the end of Jan to comply with President Joe Biden’s executive order on vaccines. As of Jan. 13, it reported a 99% compliance rate.

It is one of a number of Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan to accelerate the return to office, even as omicron cases continue to swell.

But whether such investments in office overhauls will prove compelling enough to bring a newly-empowered remote workforce back to the office on mass is not yet clear.

Before the pandemic, 60% of employees surveyed by Cisco said they would prefer to work in an office for three days or more. Post-outbreak, that figure dropped to just 19%.

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