JPMorgan Chase, the biggest US bank by assets, has told all of its US bankers they should be back in the office on a rotational basis by early July, the first major Wall Street firm to schedule a return-to-the-office date.
As the US surpasses its goal of more than 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered and more cities and states lift restrictions, “we will open our US offices to all employees on Monday, May 17 subject to our current 50 percent occupancy cap”, an internal memo said.
“We are welcoming more of you back next month so that you can get comfortable with being back in an office environment,” the memo said, adding that, “with this timeframe in mind you should start making any needed arrangements to help with your successful return”.
“We know that many of you are excited to come back, but we also know that for some, the idea of coming back on a regular basis is a change you’ll need to manage,” the staff was told in the memo signed by the company’s leadership, including CEO Jamie Dimon.
“It was either going to be a big bang, or people easing in,” Sandy Warner, JPMorgan’s former chairman, told Bloomberg of the bank’s plans. “This is the big bang.”
While COVID-19 vaccinations won’t be mandatory for people returning to the office, JPMorgan said it strongly recommends that its staff get inoculated and will provide them with relevant information and resources.
Dimon and other Wall Street executives have expressed displeasure with work-from-home arrangements and have said they don’t believe they are sustainable.
Dimon told analysts in September that work-from-home had caused productivity to fall, particularly on Mondays and Fridays, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this month, he said in his annual letter to shareholders that a reliance on Zoom meetings slows decision-making and that remote working makes it “impossible” for junior bankers to learn under the typical bank apprenticeship model.
David Solomon, Dimon’s counterpart at Goldman Sachs, said at a conference in February: “This is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible.”
Citigroup’s head of human resources said last month that up to 30 percent of workers would be back in North American offices starting in July and more colleagues would join in September. Wells Fargo has tentatively said it plans to call bankers back in September. All summer interns at JPMorgan, Goldman and Deutsche Bank AG will also work from the banks’ offices.
Dimon said in the memo that the bank plans to implement broad open-seating arrangements in many locations, which will allow it to cut back on real estate. “For every 100 employees, we may need seats for only 60 on average,” Dimon wrote. The bank has 255,000 US employees.
JPMorgan started marketing 700,000 square feet of office space in lower Manhattan for sublease earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported. That is the largest block of space available for sublease in Manhattan, according to real estate services firm Savills Inc.
A return to offices for JPMorgan employees will be a boost for New York City landlords and the thousands of small-business owners who rely on the workers to shop at their stores and dine in their restaurants.
“This is fantastic News, and the fact that it’s JPMorgan and Jamie Dimon. This will send a very positive message to other CEOs, not just in New York but around the country, to start making plans to on-board their employees,” Bill Rudin, CEO of Manhattan office landlord Rudin Management Co, told Bloomberg.
“The commitment to encourage employees to return to the office will do much to help the local shopping districts to reopen and rehire,” said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit that advocates for the city’s business community.
In another sign that the city is reopening, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced that New York’s restaurant service curfew will end next month for both indoor and outdoor dining areas, and that bar seating can return beginning May 3.
Cuomo had already extended the food and beverage service curfew , to midnight. That will be lifted for outdoor dining areas beginning May 17 and for indoor dining May 31.
In New York, the percentage of workers returning to the office has slowly ticked up, though only 15.8 percent of 1 million office workers were back as of April 21, according to data compiled by Kastle Systems.
The financial industry is among the biggest holders of office space in Manhattan. The city government is the largest employer in the city, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has set May 3 as the target date to begin bringing back 80,000 government workers to city buildings.
Agencies contributed to this story.