Messages leaked to bank staff complaining about an internal Commonwealth Bank email requesting them to record their attendance before a mandatory return to the office.
But the bank explained that the internal role system is a voluntary app designed to help identify colleagues in the workplace, as it responds to employee feedback.
An email was sent to the Commonwealth Bank’s 49,000 employees requiring employees to return to the office for at least 50 percent of their working hours each month from July 17.
This led to hundreds of complaints from workers being lodged with the Finance Sector Union (FSU), with some threatening to quit.
In an email back in May, CommBank’s group human resources executive, Sian Lewis, broke down why the bank asked staff to return to the office, saying the move created ‘stronger face-to-face connections’.
Commonwealth Bank staff have complained about an internal email asking them to record their presence at work before a mandatory return to the office – but the bank explained there was a backlash over a voluntary app designed for office workers.
He then announced the launch of a ‘Connect Me tool’ within the Workday HR system that ‘gives you a view of who’s coming into the office each day and lets you plan for personal collaboration that maximizes time with colleagues’.
The app works by recording the days of employees in the office.
But some took issue with the measure, with one worker, who chose to remain anonymous, describing it as ‘ridiculous and disturbing’.
The employee told News.com.au that staff ‘became kindergarten kids again, forced to tick school attendance’.
‘They (staff) are fed up with being treated like children,’ they said.
‘They are good back in the office but they don’t treat us like children, keeping up appearances.
‘If we go back to office we will do it because we want to, not being forced like this. They need to know the way work is changing now.’
But the Commonwealth Bank explained to Daily Mail Australia that the app was voluntary to use, was actually developed in response to staff feedback and was designed to help locate staff present only in the office.
‘Our Connect Me app was developed for our employees, in response to their feedback on helping them connect with their colleagues during their days in the office,’ said a CBA spokesperson.
‘The app is completely voluntary and we have thousands of people using it to share their office days and see where colleagues they work plan to work.’
The bank revealed in an internal email the launch of the ‘Connect Me Tool’ inside the Workday HR system
The app allows workers to ‘connect with their colleagues during their days at the office’ and is completely voluntary
Screenshots of Commonwealth Bank employees criticizing the request to return to office were also leaked.
One said: ‘When I accepted the offer at CBA 1.5 years ago, I was told that I could work entirely from home for this role.’
‘At that time the consideration was ‘work from home’, ‘pay’ and ‘environment’ the combined benefits your company provides. When the CBA suddenly declares compulsory office, it takes away benefits without reconsideration.
‘It attempts to achieve ‘care’ CBA in violation of core values. When our bank claims we ‘care’, do we make one-way announcements or try to talk/listen to employees?’
Another said: ‘I fully endorse the insights and observations expressed in the email, and I certainly feel these when meeting with my leaders and team based in Sydney.’
‘Unfortunately I don’t get these experiences sitting in the Melbourne office. WFH’s flexibility was one of the benefits advertised for the role I took on 12 months ago.’
A third instead suggested the bank work on ‘improving ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) scores and keeping institutional investors happy’.
‘I’m all for transparency and would like to see the data on this, it would certainly be an opportunity to dispel all assumptions in the comments if supported by the data,’ they wrote.
The bank’s employees’ response has been condemned by other Aussie workers who have said workers should simply quit if they can’t cope with working half a week in the office – or their employers should fire them.
‘Workers should be sacked if they are not prepared to work in an office five days a week,’ commented one.
‘Ask for their resignation, see if they show up in office,’ said another.
‘Go back to the office and work you lazy bunch of noise. He is your boss. He hires you and pays you as he says. Entitled and rotten,’ read a third comment.
‘I don’t understand why people are complaining… I’m happy to go to office for three to four days it’s not affecting my family or our budget… If you don’t like your employer’s policy, get a job somewhere else,’ another said. Posted by one.
The complaint was lodged with the FSU after CommBank Group human resources executive Sian Lewis sent an internal email requesting staff return to the office for at least 50 per cent of their working time each month.
A screenshot shows leaked messages from Commonwealth Bank staff criticizing the request to return to office
The Finance Sector Union claimed that the order to work in the office was made without consultation with staff or the union and that Ms Lewis did not attend a meeting with some bank staff and the FSU to overturn the order.
‘It is completely unacceptable that the CBA orders its workers to change work from home arrangements without any consultation,’ FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said last month.
‘Our members have expressed serious concerns about the significant impact these changes will have on them, including their work/life balance, mental health and wellbeing and caring responsibilities.
‘They complain about the financial impact of increased travel costs and childcare costs.
‘Some say they will now look for jobs elsewhere.
‘For some CBA staff, their teams are not local so they are forced to engage in video meetings with other staff interstate or overseas or travel to the office to work from home that day.’
The union added that it wanted the bank to “suspend the director and engage in appropriate consultation” to develop a “working from home policy”.
The Commonwealth Bank told Daily Mail Australia in May that it was providing a ‘framework’ for staff to return to the office.
‘Our approach to hybrid working has always been about finding the right balance between our longstanding commitment to flexible working and ensuring we deliver the best results for our customers,’ the spokesperson said.
CBA states that office workers connect with an additional 11 colleagues per day and spend more than 20 to 30 minutes collaborating with each other.