Does anyone remember Richard Dawson as the host of Family Feud from 1976-1995? Even if you don’t, we decided to survey our readers on the current state of remote work. Read on for the results and my 2022 predictions on the topic.
Everyone has an opinion about remote work. Some people love the shorter commute, flexibility, and sweats while others are clawing at the walls of their home offices, tearing their hair out trying to balance household duties and childcare.
Many workplaces are putting the kibosh on the debate by requiring their employees to return to the office. This is a new landscape for job seekers, and a whole new set of considerations for workplace culture and negotiations.
Since my work as a financial services career coach requires me to stay on top of trends, I took a poll of my readers to learn more about what is really going on.
I ran a LinkedIn poll and asked, “How many days per week are you in office?” The choices were (0, 2-3, 5 days/week). My poll was seen by 8,500 people and 254 responded. That’s a 3% response rate. Not bad! If you responded, you get a free resume review. Just email me at email@example.com.
I ran a second, smaller survey of my 2,000-person email list and received 30+ responses (lower than I thought-kind of disappointed). My research methods are imperfect since I set up this poll differently from the LinkedIn one: Here, I asked whether respondents were being required to return to work, where they work, and when they were (or will be) required to return to work. The results are interesting…
Banks Are Demanding In-Person
Big banks are demanding a return to in-person work. UBS is already at 1-2 days per week, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs mandated a minimum of 1 day per week starting the beginning of February, and Wells Fargo is instating a hybrid/flex model starting next week. Citi’s CEO wants maximum flexibility (good luck enforcing that one on the bankers; give me a break with the good press stunt). Forget the published headlines, my JP Morgan and Goldman clients are back 3-4 days.
Smaller brokerage and asset managers are split, with some requiring a return to in-person work and some allowing their workforce to remain fully remote.
Of the companies that are requiring a return to the office, hybrid is the majority, but about 30% of those working in-person are showing up in the office 5 days/week. Personally, I would get back 5 days a week just to see other human beings.
With the notable exception of Microsoft, most of our respondents who work in BigTech do not have to return to the office, at least for now. While we didn’t ask specifically, I assume they can work in the office if they choose and there is space, but they are not required. That said, we do know that Google is making its workers go back to the office starting April 4 (1).
Life Is One Big Caveat
The broader trends are clear: overall, there is a move back to office-based work, and that momentum is much stronger in banking than in BigTech and FinTech. However, the particulars are all over the map. Even people within different departments at the same company are having different experiences. We had two Citibank employees respond to our survey, and one said, “I’m already back 1-2 days/week and that’s not changing for the foreseeable future,” and the other said “I have to go back March 21.”
According to John Casey, Google’s vice president of global benefits, Google has approved about 14,000 worker requests (of about 150,000 employees) for location transfers or entirely remote work. That represents about 85% of the requests they received (1). For some people the difference may come down to speaking up for their needs and desires; in other cases, companies have hardline policies with few exceptions.
The Vaccination Question
When you take vaccine requirements, exemptions, and masking policies into consideration, the waters become muddier. Every company’s policy is different, though most are requiring everyone who returns to the office to be vaccinated. At Google, “Unvaccinated workers without an exemption will be given an option to seek one or apply for permanent remote work” (1). Wells Fargo is encouraging vaccines, but not requiring them (2).
Ripple Effects of the “New Normal”
The uneven movement of workers back into the office is creating change and uncertainty in the environment that surrounds those offices. The commercial real estate market is shifting as companies “right size” their office space for a reality in which only 60-75% of their workers are in the space on a given day. Service establishments in business districts have new realities to navigate.
For example, Peter Quartaroli, owner of Sam’s Tavern and Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant, both in downtown San Francisco, was the subject of a Marketplace interview. “Fridays have fallen off the map,” he said. “So now Tuesday seems to be our big day. Mondays are a little slow to get started for the week” (3).
My Humble Opinion
Over the past 2 years or so, Banking has lost much talent to FinTech and BigTech. Our proprietary research of professionals moving from the top 10 investment banks to the top 40 FinTechs shows that the flow is 70 professionals per week! Wage inflation is up, and Wall Street has had to make major concessions to attract and retain talent including remote work.
However, Wall Street CEOs know that 5 days a week is crucial to a well-greased machine. They may not publicly mandate it, but business managers will insist on at least 4 if not 5 days a week in office. Moreover, if funding becomes more difficult for the rest of 2022 as it has already in January/February, then strong banks will regain the upper hand in hiring and force the issue. 5 days a week will become the norm by end of year.
Bottom line: if you don’t want to be in the office 5 days a week, go to the buy-side, sell-side, or FinTech. Better yet, become a financial services career coach since I work from home. Yes, I’m in sweats as of this writing!
1: Dave, Paresh. “Google mandates workers back to Silicon Valley, other offices from April 4” Reuters, March 3 2022 https://www.reuters.com/technology/google-mandates-workers-back-silicon-valley-other-offices-april-4-2022-03-02/
2: “Wells Fargo asks employees to return to office in mid-March – memo” Reuters, February 9 2022 https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/wells-fargo-asks-employees-return-office-mid-march-memo-2022-02-09/
3: Levin, Matt “Move to “right-sizing” changes commercial real estate landscape in San Francisco” Marketplace, March 2, 2022