Last June, we wrote about Capital One’s plan to become a “hybrid work company,” impacting all 5,000-plus DFW associates and 52,000 employees overall. Its new, flexible hybrid model would allow a “significant majority” of the company’s associates to spend some of their time working in the office and some of their time working virtually.
Now, nearly a year later—after waves of the pandemic kept pushing back full workplace openings—Capital One CEO Rich Fairbank finally sees an office light at the end of the tunnel.
“On September 6, we expect access to our buildings and campuses to be open to all associates,” Fairbank writes in a statement that serves as a letter to Capital One employees.
Capital One will reopen all its U.S. offices, including its Plano office, in a hybrid model.
Full office openings were first envisioned for last fall
The full reopening has been a long time coming, since Capital One workers first left their office desks back in March 2020. Last June, Fairbank had expressed hope that his employees could fully return to U.S. offices by that fall under the new hybrid WFH and office policy.
“Since then we have had to delay the start of our hybrid future as the virus continued to evolve and we prioritized the health and safety of associates,” Fairbank says in his new statement. “I am pleased to announce that we are planning on a full reopening of our U.S. offices in a hybrid model on September 6, 2022. As we get closer to September, we will closely monitor the health environment and the state of COVID-19 in our communities. If health conditions do not support a safe reopening, we will be ready to delay our planned reopening.”
Seeing the upsides in two-plus challenging years
Fairbank began his message by celebrating the upsides his teams have discovered in the last two years.
Acknowledging all the difficulties and challenges since 2020, he writes that “we have also found ways to adapt and to thrive. Powered by our culture and our technology, we have discovered new ways of working together that are both effective and empowering. We have seen what we can achieve together, whether in-person around a conference room table or on a checkerboard screen at a kitchen table. We’ve rallied to support our customers when they’ve needed us most. And our company is growing and thriving.”
Time to plan and prepare: early birds welcome
The CEO says September 6 was chosen to give associates “ample time” to prepare for their transition to the hybrid model. But offices are already open on a “voluntary basis” for employees who are ready to return to in-person work before the official date.
The next few months will also give the company time to ensure it has “the workspaces, technology, and norms around where and how associates work to make hybrid effective and empowering,” Fairbank writes.
Addressing COVID concerns
While many in North Texas and across the U.S. have tried to move on from the pandemic, many others are still concerned by the continued spread of COVID-19 variants. Fairbank addresses the issue in his statement.
“We plan on requiring regular testing for associates who do not provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19,” he writes. “We will share more details on our testing policy later this summer. Until our full reopening, voluntary attendance in our U.S. offices will continue to require proof of vaccination, and we continue to encourage all associates to be vaccinated.”
A refreshed vision of hybrid for Capital One
In the new message, Fairbank says associates had “a number of questions” about his vision of hybrid as he laid it out last year. Listing the pros and cons of office work, he acknowledges that “life’s demands don’t always fit around a 9-to-5 work schedule,” and that virtual work has allowed employees “to better balance the competing demands of our work and our personal lives.”
But he also speaks of the “opportunities for planned collaboration, innovation, and mentorship” that work in an office can provide.
“We continue to be compelled by both perspectives,” he writes.
That’s why Capital One is committed to a flexible hybrid model, which will initially play out this way, in Fairbank’s words:
- Mondays and Fridays will be enterprise-wide virtual work days, where associates will work individually from home, or from wherever they work best. Capital One offices will be open with limited services for associates who seek to come in for independent and heads-down work. All meetings should be virtual
- On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays Capital One offices will be fully open
- We strongly encourage associates to come into the office and spend meaningful time there in collaboration with colleagues
- We also want to respect individual flexibility and preferences, as we always have. In-office attendance will not be mandatory on specific days or over specific periods
- We will continue to support fully-remote exceptions with senior executive approval
“This initial approach provides associates with meaningful time working from home and scales virtual work across the company in an efficient way,” Fairbank writes, noting that the company will adapt the policies as needed moving forward. “It also concentrates the time when we are in the office in order to maximize the collaboration and human connections that we know are an important part of Capital One’s culture.”
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