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5 listed companies seeking a return to the office post-COVID

Some companies desperately want their employees back in the office.

Allie Nawrat

Unleash Your Curiosity Despite embracing working from home in the context of the pandemic, some companies are seeking a return to the office.

  • COVID-19 forced companies to embrace remote working.  
  • Although some companies are starting to embrace long-term working from home for their employees, other businesses are not so sure – examples include Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and Netflix.  
  • Why do they want their employees back in the office?  

The COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed national lockdowns forced companies across the world to embrace remote working overnight. 

As a result, some companies — including big names like Microsoft, Salesforce and Twitter — have announced flexible working arrangements; allowing employees to choose to work remotely permanently. 

There is no evidence to suggest that offices will disappear in the near future but some organizations such as Dropbox have stated that individuals are only to go into the office for meetings, not for solo work.  

[Read more: 11 listed companies embracing the future of work]

However, not everyone is fully sold on home working. Let’s explore their perspectives around working from home post-COVID-19.  

Goldman Sachs  

Number of employees: 40,500 

Stock exchange listing: NYSE 

At a Credit Suisse conference in February, Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon rejected moves to make remote working the new normal.  

He noted that working from home didn’t suit the culture at Goldman Sachs, saying: 

“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us. And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible.”  

Solomon was particularly against the idea of onboarding the next cohort of young employees remotely. This is because, in his view, this prevents them from getting the necessary “direct mentorship” and “direct contact”, according to reporting by the BBC.  

“I don’t think as we get out of the pandemic the overall operating mode of the way a business like ours operates will be vastly different,” Solomon said.  

He continued: “We know from experience our people do their best when they forge close bonds with their colleagues.  There are many ways to do that, but we found the best way is to work together in person on a regular basis,” he added.

Solomon is hopeful that he can get employees back in the office by the summer, depending on the pace of the global vaccination roll-out, according to Financial News.  

JP Morgan  

Number of employees: more than 200,000 

Stock exchange listing: NYSE  

Goldman Sachs is not the only investment bank worried about long-term working from home. 

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon discussed with analysts in September how employee productivity seemed to be slipping while working from home.  

According to Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Klienhanzl, who was on the call, Dimon noted remote working had had a detrimental impact on younger workers and that so-called “creative combustion” had been affected.  

A JP Morgan spokesperson also suggested in an emailed statement to Fortune that there were concerns that younger employees were missing out on learning opportunities from not being in the office.  

“Overall, Jamie thinks a shift back to the office will be good for the young employees and to foster creative ideas,” Kleinhanzl said.  

Barclays  

Number of employees: 83,500 

Stock exchange listing: LON 

At a January World Economic Forum virtual conference, Barclays CEO James Staley noted how “remarkable” it was that remote working had worked as well as it has, but “I don’t think it is sustainable.”

Bloomberg reported that Staley had also stated that he wanted staff back in the office to “ensure the evolution of our culture and controls, and I think that will happen over time.” 

UBS  

Number of employees: almost 69,000 

Stock exchange listing: SWX  

Concerns about cultivating a good working culture while remote working were echoed by UBS now-former CEO Sergio Ermotti, according to Detroit News. Ermotti left UBS in October for Swiss Re, Switzerland’s largest reinsurance company.   

At a Bank of America conference in September, Ermotti said that it was difficult for banks to create and sustain a culture when its employees are working from home.  

He added that although currently 85% of the bank’s staff are working from home, this is unsustainable, and the sweet spot would be more like 20 to 30%.  

Netflix  

Number of employees: almost 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: NASDAQ 

Concerns about remote working post-pandemic are not limited to the banking industry. Netflix founder and co-chief executive Reed Hastings declared that he did not see any positives from working from home in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.  

Hastings added: “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative.”  

This is not particularly surprising given Netflix’s fast-paced corporate culture is centered around performance and sharing ideas; something which is believed to be more challenging in a remote working environment.  

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