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With summer in sight, Goldman Sachs starts return-to-office push

NEW YORK, March 11 (Reuters) - On a global town hall meeting held on Zoom, Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s CEO on Thursday told the bank’s thousands of employees who have been mostly working from home since the start of the pandemic that he hopes to have them working in offices again by this summer.

The New York-based investment bank has nearly 40,000 employees around the world and its push to return to offices has been gaining steam internationally. In India, many of the bank’s roughly 10,000 employees are returning to offices in Bengaluru and Mumbai from hometowns where they had spent the pandemic. In London, traders, investment bankers and others can get tested for COVID-19 in booths scattered around the building.

In New York, Chief Executive Officer David Solomon said the bank owes it to its incoming class of analysts and interns to have them come to work in offices, even if only for part of the summer period, alongside other bank staff.

“Getting them in to the office is best way to get them connected to Goldman Sachs,” Solomon said during the meeting, which was transcribed and shared with Reuters.

“We understand that until more of us are vaccinated that is going to be a challenge. But based on the current pace of vaccinations, and where we hope to be by the summer, we believe that we are well-positioned and there is a good chance that we can meet that goal.”

Bringing people back, however, presents a range of challenges, even as countries lift many of last year’s coronavirus restrictions.

Less than 20% of people in the United States have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving many fearful of getting infected at work or on their way to the office.

Solomon has continued to work from Goldman’s Manhattan headquarters throughout most of the pandemic, a move that some employees say has created pressure to also come to the office.

Some say that pressure is reverberating to other regions.

More than a dozen employees from the company’s Bengaluru-based technology and data center told Reuters that many of those who had left the city for hometowns across India last year were now being told they should return.

“They are asking people to come back but still not forcing people,” said one employee.

“By mid-April, I think the pressure would be too intense to resist. They are like, ‘You should try and come back and see if you like the office vibe and then decide for yourself.’”

“We continue to work on plans to return our people to office safely, and those plans will vary division by division, country by country, city by city,” said Goldman spokeswoman Leslie Shribman. “The safety of our people is our most important priority and we will remain flexible as we monitor evolving government guidelines and the uneven global vaccine rollout.”

CEO Solomon has been clear he thinks working in the office is better for the bank, employees and its customers.

“Our people do their best when they forge close bonds with their colleagues,” Solomon said. “We found the best way is to work together in person on a regular basis.” (Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall in New York and Arathy S. Nair and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Tushar Goenka, Shilpa TM, Shaina Ahluwalia and Bharat Govind Gautam in Bengaluru Writing by Patrick Graham Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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