Can Wall Street Sustain Remote Work? JPMorgan Introduces Flexible Remote Work Policy


In a rotational model, JPMorgan Chase will have employees working from home for designated portions of a week or a month with the rest of the time in office, the Wall Street giant told CNBC.

Silicon Valley has already made remote work permanent. One tech company after another has announced that its employees will work from home entirely or for part of the time, even after the pandemic ends. Facebook and Google have extended their work from home optionsOpens a new window until late 2021. Even Twitter and Square have announced that their employees can work from home “forever.” These companies are even revisiting aspects like pay to make it suitable for the new situation. Traditional Japanese firms like Fujitsu have also embraced the new business approach through its “Work Life Shift” campaign. But tech companies have been open to remote work even before it was necessary.

JPMorgan Chase Goes Home

The one sector where remote work wasn’t considered possible – despite the significant number of people it employs – was the banking and financial services industry. Flexibility in work schedules was not a regular option for employees. The pandemic didn’t spare this sector either, however, and forced companies to go home and be productive, and a lot of them succeeded.

JPMorgan Chase was among these companies, which has maintained its top standing despite all the disruption the pandemic has caused. So, the global financial institution will increase flexibility at the company permanently, reports CNBCOpens a new window . The company will implement this undertaking for two reasons – the success of its work-at-home policies during the lockdown and because providing this option can help it attract the best talent from a diverse pool.

The company has almost 61,000 employees who will divide their time between home and office in a rotational model. This move by JPMorgan, the world’s largest Wall Street bank by revenue, is possibly the first of its kind in the banking sector. It is likely to be a game-changer that pushes other financial firms to offer similar arrangements to keep up with the competition for talent and the employee benefits they provide.

To make this transition seamless, the bank’s tech workers are busy creating new tools to manage remote workers and track productivity, along with support for the hot-desking trend, where employees use temporary workstations. The rotational model is believed to have many benefits for the company and is already being experimented with in some locations.

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Why Has the Banking Sector Taken So Long to Adapt to Flexible Work?

This announcement comes at a time when most other investment banks are planning to bring back workers in September after remote work. For example, Goldman Sachs said earlier this yearOpens a new window that it would get traders back to offices in New York and London. Their primary worry has been that its culture, which is centered on in-person collaboration and mentorship of junior personnel, will weaken due to remote interactions.

There are some significant reasons why the investment banking sector has taken time to adapt to this change.

Drastic change in culture

Goldman Sachs’ concern about the loss of collaboration and culture is valid. The banking profession is strongly linked to personal connections and being visible and present for clients. The work involves several teams and customer interactions, and investment bankers are not used to working alone in a remote setup.

The disruptions to in-person meetings and conferences are being made up for by group chats and video calls. Travel bans have also impacted the way this sector operates since more of its employees were frequent flyers who traveled daily and have now not traveled for months.

Another cultural change is how those few who are traveling to work are being treated. Only “staff needed for essential financial services provision” are allowed to go to work, and these are usually the trading teams who need access to particular IT systems. For this staff, companies are providing Uber rides to stop them from taking public transport and wider desk space to ensure separation and social distancing.

All these changes may make a permanent shift to remote work a little more challenging for the sector, even though they have been successful so far.

Lesser communication and recognition

Investment banking is a highly competitive industry for employees. There is a high degree of emphasis on individual performance and achievement. The lack of face-to-face contact is a cause of concernOpens a new window for senior bankers as well as their junior associates, who may find it more and more challenging to learn on the job and progress. This situation has also made it more challenging for junior associates to receive recognition for their work.

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The only way to adapt to the changing nature of work – regardless of industry – is to provide efficient retraining and help them develop resilience to survive such radical changes. The question is, though, will Wall Street thrive as Silicon Valley has by making remote work permanent?