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Capital One Declares Future as a Hybrid Work Company

Hybrid model balances work-from-home flexibility with in-person connection.

A message from Rich Fairbank.

This pandemic has had a devastating impact on humanity. Communities and families are just now beginning to heal from the trauma of this crisis as they begin a return to normal that felt so out of reach even a few months ago. It has now been over a year since tens of thousands of associates at Capital One transformed their homes and apartments into offices. Despite all that has happened, Capital One has persevered. In fact, we have thrived.  We have taken care of customers, welcomed thousands of new colleagues, and remained financially resilient under stress. We have adapted strikingly well, and we have found that we can be highly effective in a virtual work environment. This way of working felt new and strange a year ago. Today, it feels almost normal.

Earlier this year, we announced that work-from-home will be how the majority of our contact center and operations associates will do their jobs in the future. Today, I am outlining how we expect to work together across the 30,000 Capital One associates not covered by these previous announcements. 

Capital One will be a hybrid work company going forward. That means that a significant majority of associates will spend some of their time working in the office and some of their time working virtually. We will also support fully-remote exceptions. 

This message outlines the initial approach Capital One is taking to hybrid work, beginning this Fall. Before I outline the details of our approach, I want to share with you what we have learned and what we are trying to achieve with our decision. 

Why Hybrid for Capital One

While remote or virtual work is something people have done in some jobs for decades, we collectively discovered something remarkable during this pandemic. Remote work is not a niche opportunity—it works at scale in the mainstream. Two things propelled the success of virtual work during this pandemic: advances in technology and the fact that the whole world went remote at the same time. 

At Capital One, we have found that remote work can be both effective and empowering. Our commutes are a lot shorter. Our daily schedules are more efficient. Life’s demands don’t always fit around a 9-to-5 work schedule. Virtual work has allowed us to better balance the competing demands of our work and our personal lives. While a lack of barriers between work and life can be difficult to manage, most of our associates feel productive, effective, and engaged in a virtual work setting. In a recent survey, 96% of Capital One associates want to incorporate virtual work into their regular schedules. 

On the other hand, we also know that the office environment provides many benefits. Our offices and campuses provide unique opportunities for planned collaboration, innovation, connection, and mentorship. We also benefit from unplanned interactions with people on and outside of our teams—the hallway conversation or lunch at the cafeteria. And for newer Capital One associates, being in-person allows them to be surrounded by colleagues, participate in team events, find mentors, build networks, and accelerate learning.

We are compelled by both perspectives, and that is why we are declaring our future as a hybrid work company.

Capital One’s hybrid future means that the significant majority of associates will spend meaningful time working both in-person and virtually. A hybrid solution sounds easy. Who could be against it? But we should understand that our previous experiences have primarily been at two ends of the spectrum—all at the office, and all remote. On either of the two poles, everyone is operating in the same way, and a seamless, inclusive experience is relatively easy to create. The middle of the continuum—some people in the office and some remote—presents some unique challenges and has been the subject of much conversation and debate in how we architect the future of work at Capital One. 

An office environment needs to have an appropriate threshold scale to be effective. That is, enough of your colleagues need to be in the office when you are in the office in order to make the overall experience enjoyable and in-person collaboration effective. Any hybrid solution needs to work backward from that objective. We can help achieve this by concentrating the days where office work happens, and by ensuring that a lot of associates come into the office on those days. Similarly, we can also coordinate all-virtual days where we have a shared, efficient experience and an environment of inclusion. 

I have also heard from you—directly and through surveys and other formal feedback channels—that you want more individual flexibility and personal choice about where, when, and how you work. Flexibility is a hallmark of Capital One, and we know that flexibility can help unleash the potential of our associates. A flexible hybrid model can allow associates to match the work they do to the environment that best supports that work. And we want our associates to use our offices in ways that are most effective for who they are and how they work best.

Our Initial Hybrid Approach

In order to balance individual flexibility and team collaboration, our initial hybrid approach will have the following principles:

  • 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 fully open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
  • We strongly encourage associates to come into the office and spend meaningful time there in collaboration with their colleagues
  • Teams will likely try to coordinate time in the office to best harness the benefits of co-location
  • We want Capital One associates and leaders to balance in-person collaboration and team needs with individual choice and flexibility. As a result, we will not require associates to be in the office a certain number of days, as some other companies have announced 
  • As this pandemic fully plays out, and at least through the end of this year, we recognize that some associates will have circumstances or concerns that may make it difficult to come into the office. The choice to come into the office during this period will be strongly encouraged but not mandatory
  • We will continue to support fully-remote exceptions with senior executive approval

This initial approach provides associates meaningful time working from home and scales virtual work across the company in an efficient way. It also concentrates the time when we are in the office in order to maximize the opportunity for in-person collaboration that we know is an important and impactful part of Capital One’s culture. We also know that hybrid teams and hybrid meetings were, and will continue to be, an important part of how we work together at Capital One. 

Certain types of work may especially benefit from being in person: team collaboration, agile activities, interactive problem solving, innovation, onboarding, networking, and social events. For other activities—like individual heads-down work, private meetings, or multi-site meetings or collaboration—virtual may be preferred. 

There is a natural tension between coordination and individual flexibility. We have a wide diversity of roles, teams, locations, and associate preferences across Capital One. Over the summer, leadership teams and people managers will be engaging with associates about how best to coordinate in-person collaboration and bring hybrid work to life across Capital One. We expect a broad range of hybrid norms to develop over time. And we will listen and adapt as we learn more about how this initial approach works for our associates, businesses, and customers.

Fully-Remote Work at Capital One

We also know there is keen interest from some of our associates to work fully-remote on a full-time basis. As we have done in the past, we will continue to allow for some fully-remote exceptions to our hybrid approach, subject to senior executive approval. While the number of associates working fully-remotely will certainly grow from what it was, we still expect the significant majority of associates to work in a hybrid model. More information will be available later this year about our approach to long-term fully-remote work. 

Reopening Our Buildings and Campuses

We are excited to welcome associates back to the workplace where teams can collaborate, engage, and socialize in ways that we have missed over the last sixteen months. We are planning for a reopening on September 7, and we will be sharing more information about these plans throughout the summer. 

I know that some associates may still have health concerns about COVID-19. Others are still juggling uncertainty at home with child and family care as the world slowly gets back to normal. Some associates may need time to move to, or back to, our office footprint. I understand that these transitions take time, and I look forward to when you can be in our offices in the near future.

There is a great deal of interest, passion, and debate about vaccination requirements in our society and in the workplace. 80% of Capital One’s exempt associates have responded to our vaccine surveys. As of last week, 86% of exempt associates who have responded to the surveys said they have been fully-vaccinated against COVID-19. This rate of vaccinations is significantly higher than the broader population and can help ensure that we have a safe and healthy workplace when we reopen. 

We strongly encourage every Capital One associate to get vaccinated. Our own data in this country shows that unvaccinated Americans are 700 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who have been fully vaccinated. As we reopen our offices, we are committed to the health and safety of all Capital One associates. Capital One offices will be open to all associates. We ask that unvaccinated associates wear a mask when they are in the office in order to protect their colleagues. We realize, of course, that some vaccinated associates will also choose to wear a mask. 

We are closely monitoring the status of the virus, vaccine rollouts, and government guidelines regarding COVID-19 in the workplace. There is significant uncertainty in our communities as this pandemic plays out. Variants of the virus continue to evolve. I want to be clear—we will make adjustments to our vaccination and on-site policies and protocols if the circumstances warrant.

Moving Forward

This pandemic created a year-long forced experiment that has changed the nature of work for millions of people across the world. Virtual work is an important part of the future. And it is an important part of our future.

Personally, I am excited to move into the hybrid work model. I am looking forward to using Mondays and Fridays for virtual work and to harness the convenience and flexibility of working at home, closer to my family. And I am also looking forward to coming into the office to engage with Capital One associates in person. 

We are embarking on a new and important chapter in our history. And it comes at a time when our company has engineered an extraordinary transformation of our technology. We feel a sense of possibility all around us. That sense of possibility is embodied in our 52,000 associates and our culture of collaboration. On the shoulders of our tech transformation, we will continue to transform how we work. As always, our quest is to enable our great people to be great in the most fulfilling of ways. I am inspired to join each of you on this journey.

Rich Fairbank