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Credit Suisse CEO calls a complete return to office ‘unrealistic,’ joining other European banks in embracing remote work

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Chris J. Ratcliffe—Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Credit Suisse CEO Thomas Gottstein believes that full-time office work is “not what employees want," highlighting a growing divide between U.S. and European banks on the need to get workers back at their desks.

“It’s unrealistic”, Gottstein said, when asked about the prospect of expecting staff to return to the office full time, in an interview with Bloomberg on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Monday.

European banks like Credit Suisse are embracing greater employee flexibility, even as COVID starts to stabilize. Last year, Credit Suisse announced that it would give its Swiss employees "maximum flexibility," giving them the flexibility to determine what days to be in the office, and for how long. Fellow Swiss bank UBS will allow some of its U.S.-based employees to start working remotely full-time, while French bank BNP Paribas is letting European employees spend half the week working-from-home.

U.S. banks, in contrast, are more aggressive in their return-to-office plans. Bank of America is planning to bring people, regardless of vaccination status, back to the office by June 1. JPMorgan is reportedly tracking ID swipes to see how employees are aligning with the bank’s office work policies.

But Wall Street has had limited success in getting get bankers back at their desks.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, despite previously calling work-from-home a poor fit for "people who want to hustle," admitted in April that half of the bank’s employees would still work remote or in hybrid settings. Only 50% of Goldman Sachs' employees returned to the office after the bank reopened its New York headquarters to employees.

Both JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs bankers have reportedly complained about aggressive return-to-office mandates. Goldman recently announced an expanded leave policy, including unlimited time off for senior managers, to help retain talent.

Gottstein noted similar struggles at Credit Suisse, saying that the bank hoped to have 60% of employees working full-time at the office. Only 37% are coming into work every day now and there was little the bank could do to increase that number, he admitted. Instead, Gottstein said that the bank will lean-in to the new employee-led schedule and embrace a hybrid work model, with employees working from home some days and go to the office on others.

“If you look at the weekly statistics, Mondays and Fridays [employee attendance is] pretty low, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday they are in the office. And I think that’s here to stay,” he said.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com