Bus passenger at Vauxhall bus station
Carlyle will require staff who use public transport at weekends to stay away from the office for 14 days © Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

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Carlyle has told its employees to avoid public transport on their commute to work because of concerns about coronavirus, as the $221bn private equity manager prepares to reopen its London office next month.

The policy also requires staff who use public transport at weekends to stay away from the office for 14 days. It applies to Carlyle’s 31 offices around the world, although many of those remain closed.

Asset managers, banks and accountancy firms based in global finance centres are rewriting their office policies amid growing fears of a second Covid-19 rise.

Some companies, such as Schroders, the UK’s largest listed fund manager, and PwC, the accountancy group, are making permanent some of the changes they introduced in response to the lockdown.

Schroders told its staff last week they could work from home for an unlimited time, although they would still be required to come into the office occasionally. Staff are also able to split their working day to help them cope with childcare demands.

PwC said it expected a permanent shift to staff combining working from home and commuting to the office. The accountancy firm, which opened its UK offices on July 6, said it expected a return to 50 per cent capacity by September, as more of its 22,000 staff work in the office for some of the week.

Such plans among large City of London companies to make working from home a more permanent feature are at odds with the government’s drive to encourage more staff to return to work.

A recent PwC survey of UK chief executives showed 86 per cent expected to see a permanent shift to remote working.

Carlyle said in a statement that its public transport policy was designed to prioritise staff safety: “Returning to the office is entirely voluntary and our global policy, which includes encouraging workers not to use public transportation, is designed to protect the health and wellbeing of every colleague.

“As the situation continues to evolve, we are asking everyone to take an approach that works for their personal situation.”

The company, which is reopening its London headquarters in St James’s on September 1, said it expected staff to walk or cycle to the office where they could.

Schroders’ two-year-old headquarters in London Wall has been open throughout the lockdown, although at most just 100 staff were using the offices out of the 2,500 people who work there.

Peter Harrison, Schroders chief executive, said: “In the space of a few months, we have made 20 years’ progress in attitudes towards flexible working and we are going to continue with this momentum.”

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC UK, said: “There’s no question that lockdown has done away with presenteeism — it’s shown many business leaders that their people can be productive, engaged and happy working from home.

“But it’s also important to acknowledge that every employee faces their own set of personal circumstances, meaning working from home for long periods of time is not beneficial for everyone.”

NatWest, the UK bank, last month informed its 50,000 staff that they would continue to work from home until at least next year.

Letter in response to this article:

Carlyle quarantine should cover pubgoers too / From Peter Conway, London N20, UK

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