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"There needs to be a coming together in a different way."

Bank of America associate's work from home suggestion

As the return to the office drum continues to beat in banking, distinctions are emerging between banks that are happy for people to work from home all or some of the time and banks that are not.

French bank, BNP Paribas has for example given 132,000 employees the option to work from home for up to 50% of the time, with some European staff only needing to be in the office one day a week. UBS is offering some of its U.S. employees the option to work 100% remotely. Citi is allowing London juniors to work from home two days a week. However, Jamie Dimon says that only 50% of the bank's employees will have the option to work from home some of the time. And Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have indicated a preference for staff to be in the office where possible, even though developers at Goldman say they're working from home and Goldman insiders say they're only expected to be in the office three days a week (something that's seemingly monitored by the bank). 

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The other case used by executives,

At Bank of America, a memo reportedly went out this week asking people to return to the office on June 1st, with a preference for collaboration in person alongside some flexibility on working from home.

One associate in Bank of America's New York investment banking team said the bank is going to have a problem if it expects people to be in the office a lot. "It's ultimately a losing battle, shoehorning everyone back into the office," he says. "We've been working remotely two or three days a week." 

Instead of commanding everyone to come back to the building, he says all banks should be a bit more relaxed. "Culture is difficult to maintain when everyone works remotely," he admits, "But banks need to be adaptive and think outside the box."

Instead of heaving people back into the office, the associate says banks need to get creative about maintaining culture when everyone works from home. "You need to think differently on maintaining culture," he says. "It's hard to have random chats when you work remotely, so there needs to be a coming together in a different way."

He points to tech firms, which have begun running monthly outings for employees who are working from home. "We need weekends away and meals out!," he suggests. "Banks just need to think about how to adapt."  

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • JD
    J D
    6 April 2022

    I'm getting really sick of this debate. Let's make a final decision/overview here:

    New Graduates
    1) New graduates without work experience, along with their direct managers, should probably be going into the office at least 4-5x a week (assuming it is a local hire) to ensure they are learning how the (insert business/industry) works and are building a personal relationship with their direct manager
    a. An option would be to start 4-5x a week for a month and slowly reduce that to 2-3x as the
    new hire gets an understanding of how things work (can be scaled accordingly depending
    on location, time to get up to speed, etc). Once they can manage their own work and it is
    mutually agreed upon, they should be able to reduce the amount of in-person time to what
    they and their manager feel is needed (need objective, not subjective input... is the work
    being completed, do they understand the work, etc)
    3) The manager in turn must develop a playbook of sorts (IN ADVANCE of hiring someone) to provide the new hire an overview of the company, the processes, what good looks like, who the appropriate contacts are, what access is needed, and what is expected on the day to day (on average)
    4) They must ensure the new hire is included on ALL relevant meetings and is provided insight into the meeting in advance
    5) On remote days, the manager must make themselves available to the new hire at any time for them to ask questions and get input on their work (via video/message collaboration tools). Establishing a cadence to ask questions and review work is critical and should not be required (to avoid Zoom fatigue) if there are no updates/questions/concerns

    Experienced Hires
    1) Per #3 above, managers at all levels should have a playbook to provide the new hire (internal or external hire) so they can get an understanding of the real work (not the job description from the requisition)
    2) Experienced hires should meet with their manager in person at one of the main office locations (assuming there is an office) for the first week to help get them acclimated/access/build an initial relationship. The company should sponsor this travel for the employee(s) in question
    3) Experienced hires should not be required to come into the office unless they are physically performing a task at the job site (running/participating in in-person client meetings, accessing proprietary systems, managing data centers, etc)
    4) Per #5 above, managers but be willing to make themselves available whenever their team has a question whether it's via messaging or video communication tool. A weekly check-in should be established to go over the work for the current week and what is to come. If nothing new comes up, then it can be used as a relationship building meeting (something that most businesses fail to do), where the team can get to know each other on a more personal level (e.g., chat about the weekend, upcoming travel plans, virtual happy hour, etc)
    5) Team off-sites should be held at least 2x year for the group to come together to focus on two areas, how we can improve team processes (everything from tools used to how often meetings are held) and build personal relationships. This should be sponsored by the company as well (within reason based on budget for T&E)

    Anyone who says that we need people in-office to build and maintain culture is full of it. In most cases, the office culture likely sucks and the average employee doesn't want to be there to waste away their lives when they can do their work in the same capacity from a more desirable location. Executives should focus on ensuring the company doesn't go under and that employees/investors are happy rather than trying to run it like a monarchy. The age of leading with a whip are over and talent will leave as fast as they join. Building a long term, sustainable workforce is about listening to what employees want and if they can prove they can manage the workload outside the confines of the office, then no one should demand that they do otherwise.

    The other case used by executives, "we are paying for the office space", is also a non-starter because real-estate is a sunk cost. They already committed to a lease for X number of years and should have done a better job at planning for a more distributed work environment (technology has been moving us to this model for years now and any executive who didn't see it coming should be removed from their position). Instead of demanding employees come to the office for X number of days, they should encourage them to come for value-add reasons, not to sit on Zoom calls all day. Provide a really enticing environment for people to come and they will (or at least some will). Consolidate office space and have more centralized HQs and less satellite offices, its data centers that need redundancy and not useless cubicles.

    With this new setup, the firms should be able to weed out the waste in middle management, thus providing more capital to pay employees fairly (beyond bankers and execs), acquire new technologies to support growth, and limit liabilities. Plus the firm can acquire new talent in areas they'd never be able to reach before the move to a distributed workforce. Its a win-win for everybody involved and will demonstrate that leadership actually values employees and the future of the company.

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