The bank’s memo does not stipulate a full-time return to the office, noting that teams and regions may have different expectations, that rotational schedules may be needed because of local requirements, and that it is committed to flexibility, saying people should discuss plans with their managers if they’re unable to return to the office.
But unlike a growing number of major employers such as Ford, Google and Target, Goldman also isn’t telling workers that some kind of hybrid schedule will be its new routine. Nor is it defining the sort of three-days-in, two-days-remote setup many workplace experts predicted would become commonplace post-pandemic. In March, for instance, Citigroup said the majority of its workers would work in the office at least three days and at home up to two days each week as it looks “forward to the new normal.”
“We know from experience that our culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together, and we look forward to having more of our colleagues back in the office so that they can experience that once again on a regular basis,” Goldman CEO David Solomon and executives John Waldron and Stephen Scherr wrote in the memo.
Goldman’s memo comes as Wall Street prepares to welcome its large crop of interns to the workplace again after last year’s class spent the summer working remotely. In March, the bank said it would host this year’s internship in person, and Solomon has previously said he didn’t want another summer of interns missing out on the apprenticeship and mentorship that an in-person workplace affords.
Yet unlike companies embracing a more remote future, Solomon has been clear that he does not want Goldman to remain virtual long-term. Speaking at a virtual Credit Suisse forum in February, he said that while some employees had been working in offices, having a significant portion of workers virtual is “not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.”
Financial services firms have been more cautious about a work-from-home future, said Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at Gartner. In informal surveys of his clients, he said, more than 90 percent of employers are planning some kind of hybrid schedule post-pandemic, but just 50 to 60 percent of clients in the financial services field are saying the same.
“The industry that’s been most hesitant to adopt a hybrid approach is financial services, no question,” said Kropp, citing information security and compliance concerns, as well as problems building firm culture. “It doesn’t surprise me that they’re pursuing an approach to get people in the office as much as possible.”
JPMorgan Chase said in a memo to U.S. workers last week that it will open its offices to employees starting May 17 and that by early July, it will “fully expect” all U.S.-based employees will be working in the office on a “consistent rotational schedule,” with a 50 percent occupancy cap “at least until the CDC revises its social distancing guidelines.” The memo does not directly suggest any kind of permanent hybrid schedule, though in CEO Jamie Dimon’s annual letter to shareholders, he does indicate that some employees will work under a hybrid model and a “small percentage of employees, maybe 10%, will possibly” work from home full time “for very specific roles.”
Meanwhile, Citigroup said in March that while there are “material advantages to being physically together,” it foresees most employees able to work a hybrid schedule. “This is not just a scheduling exercise; we will be thoughtful about when we ask colleagues to be in the office together,” CEO Jane Fraser wrote in an employee memo. The investment firm TIAA has also planned a hybrid approach, as has Vanguard Group, according to Bloomberg News.
It’s unclear what a return to the office will mean for an industry that has traditionally been known for long hours. While returning to the office may mean less flexibility, it can also help to set boundaries, as remote setups have blurred work and personal time.
“The natural reality is when the laptop is around you all day long, you can just work at any point in time,” Kropp said. “You don’t have those separation moments of when work stops and life begins.”
Earlier this year, a small group of frustrated young Goldman employees put together a mock presentation that drew attention, saying that they worked an average of 100 hours per week, felt their hours had negatively impacted their relationships with family and friends, and that they considered themselves victims of workplace abuse.
A Goldman spokesperson declined to comment about the complaints but provided a transcript of a separate voice memo shared with employees, in which Solomon said that the concerns about work-life balance are “something that our leadership team and I take very seriously” and that the bank would strengthen its enforcement of a no-work-on-Saturday rule, push to hire more new junior investment bankers and transfer more employees to teams doing the most work.
“In this world of remote work, it feels like we have to be connected 24/7,” he said. “All of us — your colleagues, your managers, our divisional leaders — we see that. We’re here to provide support and guidance. This is not easy, and we’re working hard to make it better.”