London’s Canary Wharf has drawn up detailed plans to bring back tens of thousands of bankers, lawyers and accountants to the financial district as the coronavirus pandemic eases.
Rules on lift capacity, one-way routes around the Manhattan-style towers, and staggered working will be put in place.
The Docklands complex, the European home of HSBC, Barclays and Citigroup, has a working population of 120,000.
Canary Wharf expects a tenth of that to return over the next couple of weeks.
Like vast swathes of the population, many employees at Canary Wharf have been working from home. With signs that the national lockdown is starting to ease, Canary Wharf has been talking to firms about measures to improve safety and social distancing.
But the return to work comes amid debate about the future of office working and if the rise in video-conferencing during the lockdown will continue.
Last month, the chief executive of Barclays, Jes Staley, said that having thousands of bank workers in big, expensive city offices “may be a thing of the past”.
This had led to a rethink of the bank’s long term “location strategy”, Mr Staley said.
According to the Financial Times, which first reported the Canary Wharf preparations, the company has calculated that with four people in each lift, its office tower at One Canada Square – the second highest building in the UK – can move 56 people every five minutes per lift bank. This equates to almost 2,700 per hour over the four lift banks
George Iacobescu, chairman of Canary Wharf, told the FT: “We have prepared 16m sq ft of offices and public spaces ready for tens of thousands of people to come back safely when they are ready and still to maintain social distancing,”
In addition to the workforce, Canary Wharf was getting 40,000 daily visitors before the lockdown.