Citigroup launches Zoom-free Fridays to ease pandemic 'fatigue'

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image captionVideo calls have become commonplace for many while working remotely during the pandemic

American investment bank Citigroup has urged its staff to limit video calls on Fridays in an effort to promote a better work-life balance.

Chief executive Jane Fraser told staff to observe "Zoom-free Fridays", in a memo on Monday.

She also said 28 May would be designated as a company-wide holiday, known as a "reset day".

Ms Fraser used the memo to address how working practices would change when the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

The coronavirus crisis prompted a sudden shift to remote work for many businesses globally, ushering in the widespread use of video-call software such as Zoom.

media captionZoomOut allows you to pull a cord to end the call

As vaccinations against Covid-19 are rolled out, many businesses are in the process of sorting out their future working arrangements.

Ms Fraser, who was appointed to lead the bank last month, said it was clear changes needed to be made in response to feedback from staff.

"The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our wellbeing," Ms Fraser said in the memo, which was shared with BBC partner CBS News. "It's simply not sustainable."

"After listening to colleagues around the world, it became apparent we need to combat the 'Zoom fatigue' that many of us feel," she added, explaining the policy to limit video calls on Fridays.

A debate about working conditions within the financial sector was spurred by complaints by junior bankers at Goldman Sachs last week.

In a survey, which surfaced on social media, staff said they were facing "inhumane" conditions and 100-hour work weeks at the American investment bank.

In response, the bank vowed to better enforce a rule designed to give junior bankers more time off over weekends.

The 'new normal'

In countries where coronavirus infections have dropped off, some companies have gradually started to bring staff back into the office.

Meanwhile, other businesses have said they expect some of the increased flexibility introduced during the pandemic to remain.

In her memo, Ms Fraser said she expected most Citi staff to return to the office at least part-time in a post-pandemic world.

But, she said, "a return to any kind of new normal is still a few months away for many of us".

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image captionMany companies are rethinking working practices in the wake of the pandemic

Ms Fraser said there were benefits to physically working from offices, including easier collaboration, better feedback and a sense of "belonging".

Other large companies have started laying out their plans for work beyond the coronavirus crisis.

Microsoft has told its staff that they will have the option of working from home permanently with manager approval. US carmaker Ford announced similar plans for 30,000 employees.

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