The Moneyist: Jamie Dimon insists that his employees return to the workplace – in order that's a bit wealthy

It's time to hire a dog walker and change your lululemon
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This is the message JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon sent to his employees. In a memo signed by Dimon and sent to employees this week, the company announced that all employees must disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status by June 30 and that employees should return to the office by July 6.

Those who are not vaccinated or who do not answer the vaccination question must wear a mask, adhere to social distancing guidelines, and get tested for COVID-19 weekly.

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JPMorgan wants employees to prepare to return to their desks this summer. In the meantime, employees may feel like they have been given a proverbial remote work puppy – and maybe even a real one during the pandemic – only to be suddenly taken away.

Dimon didn't mince his words. Working from home “doesn't work for people who want to be hectic, doesn't work for culture, doesn't work for generating ideas. It will look the same by September, "Dimon said last month at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal CEO Council. "We get a setback because we come back internally, but that's life."

The company requires, depending on the department and role, a utilization of at least 50% and in some cases 100%.

"Remote working raises questions about public health and work-life balance, but finances determine where people can live and work."

JPMorgan plays a zero-sum game with its employees: they're either all-in or they're all out. When asked – yes, it doesn't hurt to ask – most employees realize how important it is to be present in order to brainstorm with colleagues and form creative teams, but they also prefer a hybrid format for the most part.

Millions of people thank their lucky stars that they still have a job, and they don't care whether they do it in person or remotely, in pajamas or chinos and blue shirts. But the radical change of scenery over the past 16 months has also led people to reassess the cost of childcare, their work-life balance, and their career aspirations.

There is more understanding and nuance in JPMorgan's back-to-the-office memo that was missing from Dimon's more provocative proclamations. Some employees will work on site five days a week; others will spend at least 50% of their time in the office due to occupancy restrictions.

“We recognize that some teams take a hybrid approach that varies by job, such as E.g. three days in the office or 50% rotation, but we would like each of you to come back regularly so that we can test the effectiveness of these models as quickly as possible, ”says the memo.

This conversation is so much bigger than JPMorgan. But the largest US bank provides an entry point as useful as any company. Not everyone can afford to live in places like New York City, where JPMorgan
or Seattle or Los Angeles or many of the big US corporate centers.

After all, Dimon received a $ 31.66 million compensation package last year, up from $ 31.61 million in 2019. He is well paid and in a privileged position, even more so than most of those who do have the opportunity to work from home. When the stationery cabinet is empty, no one will ask him if he can borrow his stapler.

The office style, a place for learning, networking and brainstorming.

Getty Images

Racial wealth gap

Dimon has emphasized the importance of dealing with the racial wealth inequalities in the US and is committed to addressing working conditions and burnout within the ranks of the bank. But insisting that people return to the office – so bluntly and so quickly, since the US adult vaccination rate didn't exceed the 50% threshold until late May – only threatens to exacerbate that loophole.

About this racial wealth gap. Teleworking raises public health and work-life balance issues, but finances determine where people can live and work. The millions of job losses at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic hit black and Hispanic Americans more than white Americans, research shows.

Her work was also less often virtual or mobile. In addition, those who had to travel to work reported a greater deterioration in working conditions. Opening more locations to employees also opens up more diverse applicants for companies.

"If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come to the office."

– James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley

"If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office," said Dimons Bank boss James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, who received $ 33 million last year, at a corporate conference this month.

Aside from that headline-grabbing quote, Gorman also said that more junior employees are learning in the office. Last week he told CNBC that he himself started with two to three days a week on site and gradually increased that to three or four. But he also said that New York jobs come with New York salaries.

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Employees, in one major difference from their colleagues at JPMorgan, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can return to their New York offices. All employees must confirm their vaccination status by July 1st.

A Goldman Sachs memo released last month and co-signed by CEO David Solomon said, "We are focused on moving forward on our journey to gradually bring our people back together where it is safe to do so."

Not all nine-to-five employees enjoy the same luxury and carefree home lifestyle as CEOs. It's juggling and wrestling every day. Escape to the suburbs can save families hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetime. The average cost of a house in New York City is $ 675,545, according to Zillow

America's greatest cities will never be easy or cheap. After a pandemic-induced heavy exodus from urban centers, the average retail price of residential homes in cities rose 16% year-on-year in February, outperforming price increases in the suburbs for the first time since the beginning of the year, Redfin said in March.

Jamie Dimon, President and CEO of JPMorgan Chase Co., earned $ 31.66 million last year.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Workplace revolution

Do we have the next revolution in the workplace within reach that may compete with the industrial revolution and the digital revolution? Is this the next natural, if not inevitable, step?

Chris Herd, the founder and CEO of Firstbase, which is helping the company transition to remote work, said so in his opinion. Or would like to have it that way. He said he preferred the term "workgroups" to "corporate culture," a concept often used to drive the army of watch guards back to the mothership.

When I asked Herd in an interview at Barron’s Live last week about the possibility of expanding the hiring network and recruiting a more diverse workforce, he said, “We're talking about giving everyone access to opportunity. How can we create companies that are good jobs for single parents or people who look after other family members, or for people with health problems or impairments? "

"How can we create companies that are great places to work for single parents or people who care for other family members?"

– Chris Herd, the founder and CEO of Firstbase

"The question I always get is, 'What happens to these jobs?' The obvious answer is that teleworkers still buy coffee, we still go to restaurants – if anything, we actually do that more," Herd said . “We only do it locally. Instead of doing it downstairs in a faceless skyscraper in New York, we buy it from the local people. "

Often times, the only reason employers are reluctant to allow their employees to work from home for even part of the week is because of trust. It has to be tested to prove false. Hasn't the pandemic – for better or for worse – already achieved that?

How many lightbulb moments happen during long meetings in the conference room or chance encounters while rummaging around for the packed lunch in the office refrigerator is open to the jury – provided that the tofu curry from last night has not already been sunk by an anonymous colleague.

In fact, researchers in the Harvard Business Review reported that in-person interactions decreased by as much as 70% when companies moved to open plan offices – presumably without increased demand for noise-canceling headphones.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Herd persists in the argument that companies will pay a price for all those lost brainstorming moments through the office water cooler. He calls offices "distraction factories for instant gratification," where working in sync is impractical and, in fact, often makes it impossible to get things done.

James Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, received compensation of $ 33 million in 2020.

Almond Ngan / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Postprandial Dip

And then there is the notorious postprandial bath, which can be easily solved at home by taking a 20-minute nap on the sofa and then doing a quick constitution in the local park. An article in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine says so about this afternoon productivity black hole.

"The dip after lunch is a real phenomenon that can occur even if the person hasn't had lunch and doesn't know the time of day," the researchers concluded. “This dip has its roots in human biology and could be related to the size of the 12 hour harmonic in the circadian system. It is certainly made worse by a high-carb lunch and is more likely to occur in those with extreme morning types. "

So who is advancing in American corporate culture? Who are all these open plan offices and transparent glass walls for conference rooms built for? "It is the louder, more sociable people who have benefited disproportionately from the office," said Herd.

“Real-time work occupies a fertile and critical place in our working life. But Dimon did not help the matter with his inflammatory comments. "

"They would go to meetings and express their views more openly than other people," he added. “The office has been great for some people. Working remotely can be great for a lot of people. "

There are many questions that need to be answered about remote or virtual work. But we should also keep in mind that it is a privilege that most frontline workers in hospitals, services, retail, and yes, bank branches are not entitled to. They should be both appreciated and applauded.

But it gives impetus to a different approach to work that can be done remotely. As Joseph Davis, Vanguard's global chief economist, asked last December, "If tech workers can just as easily do their jobs from home in Toledo or Tulsa or Topeka, will Silicon Valley companies need huge California locations?"

There is a lot to be said for real-time work and interaction. As the JPMorgan memo points out, virtual working is easier when people have established relationships, but remote working makes it harder to train new employees and develop new relationships.

"A heavy reliance on Zoom meetings actually slows decision-making as there is little immediate follow-up," added the company's memo.

Real-time work occupies a fertile and critical place in our working life. But Dimon didn't help with his inflammatory comments last month: "And yeah, the commuting, you know, yeah, people don't like commuting, but what's the point?" After all, he doesn't sit for an hour or two on the Long Island Railroad or Amtrak.

To be clear, people were forced to work from home and do other chores like childcare and homeschooling during the pandemic. But imagine a real virtual working life in which you have time to stroke a feather duster over the house, be at home for the cable man and use the valuable commuting time to start the work day early.

This flexibility would give people room to breathe and potentially become more productive by using their time more efficiently. Maybe then we would come closer to a healthier office style of learning, networking and brainstorming. People would show up because they wanted to, not because they were heavily armed.

No more staring at an office computer screen wishing you were home with your dog and wondering if the air conditioning will really turn on after 3 a.m. No more chore with ordering stationery. And no more politicizing, world-weary colleagues who wish you had bought these discounted noise-canceling headphones on Amazon Prime Day
when you got the chance

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