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Omicron: CIBC, National Bank ask employees to work remotely

Royal Commercial Bank of Canada and National Bank of Canada said Wednesday they have asked staff in Canada to work remotely, along with Bank of Nova Scotia halting plans to return to the office amid the day more and more concerns about the Omicron variation.

Canada’s top health official Theresa Tam warned on Monday that COVID-19 cases in the country could rise rapidly in the coming days, prompting banks and financial firms to rethink their plans. back to the office.

“We’ve decided to pause our plans” to return to locality, said Sandy Sharman, head of people, culture and brand teams at CIBC, the country’s fifth-largest lender. working point in January.

Sharman cited an increase in COVID-19 cases and uncertainty due to the new variant. Employees who have recently returned to on-site work are also required to work remotely. “Our aim is to return as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Earlier, on Wednesday, National Bank, the country’s sixth-largest lender, confirmed a similar message to employees.

“A notice has just been sent to our employees asking them to work remotely if they can,” a spokesperson told Reuters in an email. “Longer term, we will continue our journey with a plan to reopen gradually, on a voluntary basis, with no set date.”

The rapid spread of the Omicron strain has devastated companies’ efforts to return to normalcy.

Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s third-largest lender, said on Monday that it would pause its plan for teleworkers to return to its Toronto headquarters starting January 17.

In the United States, JPMorgan on Wednesday said it was turning its annual healthcare conference in San Francisco into a “virtual” event. The decision comes after major biotech companies like Moderna and Amgen said they would not be attending in person.

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York and New Jersey are experiencing the fastest spread of Omicron in the United States.

A source at a major US bank with headquarters in Manhattan said there was “extreme diligence” as a result of the Omicron variant. The source said some employees have chosen to work from home cautiously ahead of the holiday.

Insurer Prudential has pushed back its plans to return to its US offices to January on a voluntary basis, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. However, that decision was made before Thanksgiving, the source said.

On Tuesday, Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial said it had paused a pilot to reopen offices to more employees until the end of January.

Last week, Jefferies asked employees to work from home for the rest of the year, due to a spate of COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, JPMorgan told unvaccinated Manhattan employees to work from home.

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said on Monday he expects COVID-19 to be an issue next year.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Manya Saini in Bengaluru, and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Writing by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Mark Heinrich and Richard Pullin)

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