Many high street UK banks are planning to utilize spaces of their branches into office space as part of their efforts to avoid staffing bigger offices amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

The lenders are using unutilized parts of their branches as an alternative to bring staff back to large buildings and headquarters.

Banks intend to adapt to the impact of Covid-19 in the long term through this move.

Executives are worried about providing facilities to employees who are struggling to work from home.

Challenger bank Virgin Money and retail lender Metro Bank already have plans for the same, while Lloyds Bank will begin testing a similar approach in October, the report added.

Virgin Money said that it has already added hot-desks and meeting rooms above a few of its branches.

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The bank said it was “working through the details” of doing the same in other branches.

Metro Bank CEO Dan Frumkin said that the bank will have to spend “a little bit of money redesigning some of the space so it’s fit for purpose” over the next few months.

Frumkin added that placing employees across its branches will help the bank cut operating costs in the long run.

On the other hand, Lloyds Bank director of people and property Matt Sinnott added that the bank will test if “surplus space in branches” could be an effective replacement for staff.

Trade unions welcome the move

Trade unions are encouraging other banks to adopt a similar approach.

According to them, utilizing unused space as offices will mitigate the pressure for banks to shutter branches permanently.

Simultaneously, office space providers also hope this becomes a trend.

IWG CEO Mark Dixon told the publication that “the pandemic was forcing all large businesses to reconsider the logic of leasing expensive city-center offices.”

The number of bank branches in the UK has reduced significantly since the pandemic began.