Returning to Work in the Post COVID Era

Morgan Stanley, a large bank, has recently announced that its New York employees and visitors will require two doses of COVID-19 vaccine before being able to enter their offices beginning July 12th, as the firm looks to bring its whole workforce back to the office by early September. This is the latest in the trend of companies that are looking to return their workers to the office. Nowhere is this push more forceful than in the banking and financial services industry especially in the offices of the world’s most prestigious investment banks.

This is not solely a Morgan Stanley push either, the heads of both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan David Solomon and Jamie Dimon have referred to remote working as an “aberration” and “poor practice” (The Guardian) respectively. But why exactly is the push so apparent in specifically investment banking firms for their employees to return to the office, many other firms especially those in the technology space such as Google have transitioned to more remote working. With the aforementioned Google announcing a transition to have 20% of full-time employees work remotely permanently into the future (allwork).

The reason put forth by most companies looking to bring their workers back is a want to keep employees more productive as well as to maintain the sense of community and oversight over the workspace. However, more specifically for these investment banks is the want to “develop people” (The Guardian) in the words of Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman meaning their younger employees such as interns, this wording seems to be an allusion to the intensive training and workload thrust upon these junior employees in the nascent stage of their careers.

This seems to make quite a lot of sense when considering the objectives of a young investment banker, many of the interns will leave the field to branch to other areas of finance or into other industries entirely, the work experience gained early on at these banks in such high-stress jobs is often seen as some of the best job experience in the world, many take these stressful roles to gain valuable experience and learn everything about finance.

Given the brand value of a Goldman or JP Morgan trained Investment banking intern, the hyper-competitive stressful environment which they have developed to mold their recruits may now make sense as the reason for which these companies especially want to bring their workers back to the office.

This begs the question, have the young employees at these firms been robbed of their valuable training, and is the timing right to bring them back to continue their intensive workloads in a more supervised environment. From the rhetoric used by the banks, it seems that they believe that the employees need the oversight and are not gaining the experience that they require, this is made evident by the push to bring all of their employees back as well as the strong words used by the chief executives of these firms.

On the flip side in a recent human resources internal leak from Goldman Sachs it was reported that on average the first-year interns worked over 100 hours a week (NYPost), something that could hardly be considered a light load or an environment with not enough exposure.

Finally, the timing of the return to offices does coincide with higher vaccination rates however the changing conditions of COVID are always fluid and new strains of the virus mutating and infections happening each day, we will not really know the end of this pandemic until far in the future.

Let us know your opinions on bringing workers back to the office, what do you think of forced returns to the office?

Written by Ethan Ramage

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