Wall Street bankers have been returning to the office in recent days as Omicron infections are declining in New York, but this time the return to work comes with a whimper rather than a crash that accompanies reopening in the summer.
At Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest proponents of attracting bankers to the office, the mood was noticeably more subdued than last summer, when the bank welcomed employees back with food trucks and afternoon concerts.
Goldman provided employees with general guidelines they should expect to return to the office on February 1. Individual teams have been given the autonomy to decide how many days a week bankers should enter, creating a greater sense of flexibility for now.
“It was a sensory overload on the first day of summer. It was nothing like that [this week]Said a Goldman banker. “I feel very different this time. It feels very optional. ”
Goldman has about 44,000 employees worldwide. A bank spokeswoman declined to comment.
The question for bankers is whether the calm approach will continue, as the spread of Omicron continues to fade and New York warms up.
Banks are at the forefront of employers’ efforts to bring back office staff after the pandemic, arguing that the culture of apprenticeships and the nature of role-based learning make personal work preferable to distance work.
Heavy regulatory burdens and industry compliance burdens also make on-site employees more desirable.
The calmer stance reflects growing tolerance in banking for a hybrid approach, which gives employees more flexibility to work at least a few days a week from home, amid Wall Street’s competition for talent.
“We began shaping the future of hybrid operations in October so people know what to expect this time around,” said Brian Friedman, president of Jefferies, an investment bank.
The New York Partnership, a local business lobby group, said only 16 percent of employers in January said daily attendance at Manhattan offices exceeded 50 percent. However, this number is expected to double to 38% in the first three months of 2022.
Friedman said Jefferies already had more than 50 percent of his bankers back in office by Tuesday, a stage that took “weeks” to achieve when the bank returned employees to its offices in October after 18 months of remote work. time of the pandemic.
However, some large banks, including Citigroup and the Bank of New York Mellon, have publicly embraced hybrid work, in part on the belief that flexible policies will provide a competitive advantage in the talent war by increasing wage costs in the industry.
BNY Mellon is working on a program that will allow employees to work from anywhere in the world for two weeks a year, according to an internal note.
Citi requires most employees to work from the office only two days a week.
Morgan Stanley told bankers to prepare for a return in February, but did not specify a specific date and policies will vary by team. A banker at the company said the residual threat from Omicron meant it was still a reason some people were reluctant to come to the office.
“Given the environment, no one can make you come in,” he said. “People have won the right to work from home if they want to.”