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By Carolina Mandl
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian lender Banco Bradesco SA <BBDC4.SA> plans to have employees work from home an average of one week per month permanently in order to save on rent and sell some real estate, Chief Executive Octavio de Lazari Junior said in an interview.
Bradesco's remote work plans for its nearly 97,000 workers are the latest example of how the coronavirus pandemic has major companies rethinking real estate and redefining the workplace.
"Remote work full time is not productive, as people must exchange ideas and understand the bank's culture," Lazari said, explaining the balance between working from home and the office. "We also had to take into account that Brazilians have different realities. Not everyone will be able to do a full workday from home."
Bradesco estimates the new home office rotation will allow it to raise 600-800 million reais ($115-155 million) from the sale of real estate assets, while yielding annual savings of 100 million reais on rent.
Currently, 94% of Bradesco's administrative staff and half its branch employees are working from home. Lazari himself said he is working just Mondays from the bank's headquarters.
He said he expects most of the workforce will start gradually returning to their offices by September or October, depending on the evolution of Brazil's outbreak, the world's second-worst after the United States.
The bank has bought half a million coronavirus tests for its employees. The end of assigned desks will allow flexible use of the remaining office space during the month.
The amount of time an employee eventually spends in the office will depend on their role. Those in telemarketing, for instance, will spend more than a week per month at home, while IT staff working on projects may spend more time in the office.
The home office rotation is part of wider cost saving plans aimed at reducing Bradesco's total operating costs by between 5% and 7% next year, Lazari said, including cost controls on branch security, money transportation and other expenditures.
Bradesco will revamp roughly 700 of its more than 4,100 bank branches this year, focusing on business services rather than simple transactions such as bill payments and money transfers. Next year and in 2022, more branches will be revamped.
Lazari said reforms will cut costs per branch, as they will require less space, guards and armored cars to transport paper money. In discussing earnings on Thursday, Bradesco announced it will close more than 400 branches this year.
(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; Editing by Brad Haynes and Grant McCool)