Mark, a vice president of a world bank, had an unforgettable look at his bucolic backyard from his home office in suburban New Jersey in the United States. In the middle of the virtual meetings, he quickly took a break to connect with his two elementary school children and discuss the logistics of his wife’s dinner.
“Overall, working from home is great for our family,” Mark, who asked not to use his last name due to work concerns, told Al Jazeera. “I feel like I’m more productive because I don’t travel, and can raise meaningful ways at home.”
The newly achieved work-life balance ends this summer, however, as Mark expects to be called back into office like much of the U.S. financial industry. The executives of large Wall Street companies have made it clear that remote work is not for them, and employees are forced to follow it.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon states that working from home “won’t work for those who want to hurry” earlier this month and predicted that “sometimes in September, October, it will be the same as before.”
For its part, Goldman Sachs told its employees to “make plans to be in a position to return to office” on June 14 in the U.S. and June 21 in the United Kingdom.
Mark has not worked for Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan, but believes the banks ’two principal policies will provide a pattern for the industry. And Mark worries that he and his family will lose the gains they made last year when he finished his suit and tie and repeated nearly two hours back in New York City.
“Because of [the commute], I know I’m not going to attend like I used to, ”Mark said.
And Mark isn’t just worried about his own health sitting in traffic or on the train-he’s also worried about how his wife is also carrying the burden of the responsibility of caring for the child, due to the much faster schedule. working part-time.
“I work all the time, but here I am,” she said last year with her children. “I know the names of their teachers; I can have lunch. I felt like we were a partner. And I feel like we’re going to lose that. ”
‘Something is changing’
The remote employment debate is playing out in the financial world as companies create back-to-office pathways that could well leave some workers, such as those with aging and retirement responsibilities. child care. Some fear that the cultural corporation that favors whoever stays in office the longest may also creep in as well.
Last week, WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani said “those who work less are more comfortable working from home” to an audience for The Wall Street Journal’s Future of All Festival.
His comment led to swift resistance – but he also feared that he might be expressing an unspoken attitude that is common among managers.
It will get to a point where the payoff can’t be significantly faster. If one company offers $ 1.2m, and another offers $ 1m but the opportunity to work from home, the win could be won in recruiting the highest talent.
However, experts say “the new normal” around remote work continues to shift and exceptions become the rule. For example, the back-to-work plans of JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have left some employees to work more remotely dependent on their roles, and living caps have the meaning that workers can rotate around the office. on a hybrid schedule for the foreseeable future.
“A lot of banks are turning people back, but you also see them lowering their footprint, so something is changing,” said Roy Cohen, an executive coach and author of The Wall Street Professional. Survival Guide, told Al Jazeera.
Nonetheless, Cohen noted that places where people work themselves can have a lot more competition than those that offer the perfect range of options.
“It’s almost impossible to understand the corporate culture of an organization if you’re not inside the organization,” Cohen said. “And you have to make sure you have older people for leadership and mentorship. I think there are some stumbling blocks like what companies do well, and what their employees accept.”
‘Flexibility can win ”
The flip side of the coin is that companies can also prove to workers why they need to be in an office after doing their jobs for far more than a year. Cohen also sees dynamic play in his conversations with coaching clients.
“I have a client who is confident that his company will support a hybrid schedule,” he said. “He knows he’s valuable and he knows his bank will work to keep him going.”
Aleksandar Tomic, associate dean for strategy, innovation, and technology at Boston College’s Woods College of Advancing Studies, believes friendly options will continue to be a flashpoint for talent retention, especially talent recruitment. at the management level.
“I think firms have no problem recruiting level employees [to work onsite], but I think if you’re looking for talent things can get complicated, ”Tomic told Al Jazeera.
“It will get to a point where the pay can’t be significantly stronger. If one company offers $ 1.2m, and another offers $ 1m but the opportunity to work from home, ease can win recruitment. of the highest talent. ”
The pandemic has brought about a paradigm shift in terms of what people expect in their workplace, and it’s the workplaces that truly have the sympathy of their workers that seem to come out of the way.
Tomic’s prediction is echoed by statistics. According to a survey of more than 5,000 U.S. workers nationwide led by management consulting firm McKinsey, nearly one-third of workers prefer to work remotely full-time, and more in a money said they would consider relocating employers if their organization returned to full employment in the area.
But of course, many workers don’t have the luxury of evaluating a multimillion-dollar job offer.
Tomic believes the strict “return to duty” mandate may not equally affect women, parents, and minorities who may not have been valued at work in the past and may be passed on for roles that people favor. to be able to full-time, on-site employment.
And if the ideas of maintaining presence continue, workers may also lose opportunities for growth or promotion, he said.
“I think the question is not, can you work at home, but can you thrive at home,” Tomic said.
‘It’s a big unknown’
In this way, people may have the option of continuing to work remotely or return to the office facing the most security.
“I feel like it’s not much known,” Laura, who works at a tech company in New York City and doesn’t want to use her last name because of employer sensitivity, told Al Jazeera. “I felt one hand, we were told we could choose. And on top, that sounds good. Although I thought: Is this an option really? Either way, a ‘back-to-work’ command makes it even easier because you know what is expected of you. ”
Laura is already facing pressure. His manager told his team he expects them to return to the office in early June.
Laura has two children ages five and nine who are on a hybrid school schedule in Jersey City, New Jersey, and she says finding a child care option for them in last two weeks of school an “impossible”.
Her manager told her they could “find” a shaky room, she said, which made Laura feel anxious and unsure if the “special dispensation” that would continue to work remotely could result in those left. that moment.
Women are particularly vulnerable to the burden of distance learning and employment.
Research from Catalyst, a global organization that we don’t focus on building equity and inclusion for women in the workplace, found that while all parents have a creativity put in of them during the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers were the most affected.
A Catalina-poll on CNBC found that 41 percent of mothers (and 36 percent of fathers) felt they had to hide their struggles of care from their master and that parents, in particular, feared that they were the first release if their company needs to downsize.
“Women, parents, and people of color are not affected during a pandemic,” Lauren Pasquarella Daley, senior director of Women and the Future of Work at Catalyst, told Al Jazeera.
“I think we’re looking at two things as companies think about their return-to-work plans: First, that unions don’t do two levels of work, with some people who have an advantage in the office.and the second is to improve and build the flexibility of workers who do not have access to remote job options, ”he said.
This, Daley explains, means using technology as a way to allow shift workers to control their time and schedule.
Daley also believes that some companies with strong “back-to-work” timelines may be out of step with the culture.
“The pandemic has brought about a paradigm shift in terms of what people expect in their workplace,” he said, “and it’s the workplaces that really have the sympathy of their workers that seem to come. that’s ahead. “