Jamie Dimon is sending a message to his fellow Wall Street chiefs: It’s time to bring employees back to the office.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. became the first major U.S. bank to mandate a return to offices for its entire U.S. workforce, with staffers being told they’ll need to come back in about two months. The lender’s top decision-making body, led by Chief Executive Officer Dimon, said in a memo to staff Tuesday that it “would fully expect that by early July, all U.S.-based employees will be in the office on a consistent rotational schedule.”
Industry leaders have been preparing for an end to remote work since the earliest months of the pandemic last year. Dimon, who’s been going into the bank’s headquarters since June, said as far back as September that he expects economic and social damage to result from a longer stretch of working from home. David Solomon, Dimon’s counterpart at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., called the remote-working arrangement an “aberration” that needs to be corrected as quickly as possible.
“This is fantastic news and the fact that it’s JPMorgan and Jamie Dimon — this will send a very positive message to other CEOs, not just in New York but around the country, to start making plans to on-board their employees,” Bill Rudin, chief executive officer of Manhattan office landlord Rudin Management Co., said in a phone interview.
Employee rotations at JPMorgan will be subject to a 50% occupancy cap until U.S. authorities revise their social-distancing guidelines, according to Tuesday’s memo. The bank advised workers that “with this time frame in mind you should start making any needed arrangements to help with your successful return.”
While JPMorgan would “strongly encourage” staff to get vaccinated, Covid-19 shots aren’t currently required to return to the office, the operating committee said.
Prospects for returning to offices have gotten clearer in recent weeks as the vaccines have proliferated across the U.S., with enough shots given to cover about 36% of the population. Citigroup Inc. has said it will start inviting more workers into the office beginning in July, while Wells Fargo & Co. said it hopes for a “more normal operating model” in September. Summer interns at JPMorgan, Goldman and Deutsche Bank AG will also be able to work from the banks’ offices.
“JPMorgan’s announcement is helpful in demonstrating a positive standard for returning to the office, which makes it easier for other financial institutions to make a similar move,” said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit that advocates for the metropolis’s business community. “The commitment to encourage employees to return to the office will do much to help the local shopping districts to reopen and rehire,” she said, and “for schools to be reopened on a reliable basis.”
In New York, the percentage of workers returning to the office has slowly ticked up, though only 15.8% of employees were back as of April 21, according to data compiled by Kastle Systems.
“We firmly believe that working together in person is important for our culture, clients, businesses and teams, and we know that you’ll do your part to make it a positive experience that reflects our company at its best,” JPMorgan’s leaders wrote in the memo.
The lender said it will open its U.S. offices to all employees on Monday, May 17, also subject to the occupancy limit. Branches and offices outside of the U.S. will continue to follow established processes.
“It was either going to be a big bang, or people easing in,” Sandy Warner, JPMorgan’s former chairman, said of the bank’s return-to-office plans. “This is the big bang.”
Even with JPMorgan bringing employees back, its CEO is nevertheless preparing for a business environment in which remote-working long outlasts the pandemic. Earlier this month, Dimon said he expects the bank’s need for real estate to drop significantly, requiring some 60 seats for every 100 employees as some staff work under a hybrid model.