Stock Saudi Aramco oil
They are making a return... Aramco's headquarters and its many oil fields will again see employees making their presence felt. Image Credit: Reuters

Riyadh: Tens of thousands of Saudi Aramco employees are going back to their offices and oil fields after weathering the coronavirus - and one of the energy industry's most turbulent periods - at home.

While other corporate giants envisage staff working remotely for the rest of the year, about 75 per cent of Aramco employees are starting to return this week, the state-owned firm said in its weekly newsletter. Only those with critical roles at the world's biggest oil exporter have remained at their posts since March.

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Oil major BP plc will allow a mix of working at home and from the office and could sell its London headquarters as a result. Apple is unlikely to fully re-open its offices in the Americas until 2021. Alphabet Inc.'s Google is letting staff work from home until next July.

Need to be there

Unlike technology firms, the oil industry needs people on site to operate drilling rigs and processing plants, and load tankers. "Aramcons," as the Saudi company's 80,000-odd workers call themselves, are coming back to socially distanced desks, conference calls instead of in-person meetings and hand-sanitizer stations.

At Aramco's campus-like headquarters in Dhahran and at wellheads and refineries across the country, they're returning to a changed business. Oil lost almost three quarters of its value when the coronavirus went global and is still still down about 30 per cent this year.

The company has reacted by reorganizing its top management, restructuring business units, and suspending some drilling and projects. It also took the rare step of laying off hundreds of mostly foreign workers.