JP Morgan Chase has announced plans for a softer working environment, with the launch of its new 'pencils down' initiative. The financial services firm has banned coming into the office at weekends and is encouraging its employees to take lunch, leave on time and find a better work-life balance.

A spokesperson for JP Morgan told IBTimes: "The pencils down idea is something that affects bankers globally. More than 2,000 people worldwide will be affected by the change and it is about saying to staff 'weekends are yours', and also encouraging them to manage their time better so that they do have their own free time at the weekend."

However, the new regime comes with a caveat – that brokers working on deals set to close on right after the weekend are not banned from working late or seeing out the weekend in a work cubicle.

JP Morgan did say that most people wouldn't have live deals to work on, meaning the majority of staff would be banned from working over the weekend.

The spokesperson added: "Deals announced on Monday do happen but it might be one team doing that one week, and a different team the next, so most won't be working at the weekend."

Although the new initiative came out of the US office, it is to be adopted by the UK and other JP Morgan offices worldwide. It comes as part of a four-point plan including accelerated promotions – in which star performers will be able to shave a year and a half off the time they must spend at each level before progressing up, meaning they could attain a managing director title within eight years.

The company is also bringing in mentoring scheme, increasing the amount of 'face time' time junior bankers have with senior colleagues, and a new app that gets rid of the need for as much form filling in.