Goldman Sachs asks UK, US employees to return to office in June

Bank says it is ‘now in a position to activate next steps in our return to office strategy’

Goldman began a gradual return to the office last summer, with temperature checks and other new safety protocols. File photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Goldman began a gradual return to the office last summer, with temperature checks and other new safety protocols. File photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

 

Goldman Sachs became one of the first big banks to put an end to remote work, when the firm on Tuesday asked a majority of its workers in the United States and Britain to return to the office in June.

In a memo to employees, Goldman executives asked that workers “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” by June 14th in the United States and June 21st in Britain. “We are focused on progressing on our journey to gradually bring our people back together again, where it is safe to do so,” said the memo, which was signed by David Solomon, the firm’s CEO, as well as his two top lieutenants, John Waldron and Stephen Scherr. The executives said the bank was “now in a position to activate the next steps in our return to office strategy.”

Exceptions would be made where warranted, according to the memo, which noted that in India and Latin America, where Goldman also employs workers, substantial health challenges remain. But in New York, where the bank has its headquarters, pandemic restrictions are being lifted May 19th as coronavirus cases fall and vaccination rates increase. The city is expecting fuller offices, restaurants and subways over the summer.

Banks, which are among the largest employers in New York, have been eager to bring workers back into the office, concerned that an extended period of working from home would hurt the training, camaraderie and work culture that develop when people are together. Many of these firms have allowed at least some, if not most, employees to work from the office during most of the pandemic.

Gradual return

Goldman began a gradual return to the office last summer, with temperature checks and other new safety protocols. In recent months, it has been operating with 20 per cent or more of its usual staff in the office in the United States and 25 per cent or more in Britain, a spokesperson said. But as more and more people are vaccinated in New York and in London, and as the firm adds thousands of new hires who will report to work this summer, it was time to move forward, according to the memo and a person familiar with Goldman executives’ thinking, who said the new notification had been in the works for about a month.

At least one other major financial firm has signaled its desire to return to the office in fuller force this summer. JPMorgan Chase, the United States’s biggest bank, plans to open all its US offices May 17th for employees who wish to return voluntarily. That will be followed by a compulsory return in July, when workers will rotate in and out of the office in accordance with safety measures that will limit capacity at each office.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, who has previously spoken about the advantages of working from the office, reiterated his comments at a Wall Street Journal CEO conference Tuesday morning.

Pushback

“We want people back to work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before,” Dimon said. “And yes, the commute, you know, yes, people don’t like commuting, but so what.” Dimon, who said he was “about to cancel all my Zoom meetings,” acknowledged some pushback to the return-to-office news. “The wife of a husband sent me a nasty note about, ‘How can you make him go back?’” he said. Other banks have not yet mandated a return.

Citigroup has said that while it will invite additional workers back to the office in July, it expects to have only about 30 per cent of its North America-based employees back by the end of the summer. Bank of America plans to issue 30-day notices to employees it wants to invite back, a spokesperson said. The firm has not announced a schedule for doing so, although Brian Moynihan, its CEO, said recently that the transition would not occur until after Labor Day.

The Goldman Sachs memo Tuesday targeted the roughly 20,000 employees who are based in the firm’s New York headquarters as well as other US cities, including San Francisco and Dallas, a person familiar with the figures said. Goldman employs another 6,000 or so in Britain, where it operates in London and another, smaller office, the person added. – New York Times