With the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the US rising over 1 million per day, the banks of the country are going remote again. Citing the rapidness of the Omicron contamination, four big players in the banking and financial sector of the country have asked their employees to get back to remote work again.
The banks that changed their plans were Citigroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies. However, the banks have stated that their stance about working from the office remains firm in the long run and this move is simply to support employee safety protocols amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
A memo issued to JP Morgan’s employees states that WFH is just a temporary measure and that all employees are expected to return to the office by February 1. While the notice issued by Citigroup reads, "We will continue to monitor the data and provide an update in January on when we expect to be back in the office in a similar manner as we have been.”
Following the announcements by these two banks, Goldman Sachs also asked its employees to pack up their desks again and work remotely. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has spoken out strongly in favour of on-site work, and last year called remote work an “aberration”. Nevertheless, the bank sent the following notice to employees: “Across the U.S, we are seeing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases related to the Omicron variant. With the increase in holiday travel and gatherings, we are allowing for more flexibility during the first two weeks of January...We expect everyone to return to their in-office schedule."
The banking industry has some justification for clinging to the workplace. Banks are an essential service and some employees are required at their physical facilities, albeit with all the COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Thus, not all bank personnel will return home. For Goldman Sachs, about 43,000 employees will remain on-site, and the banking giant will require employees around the globe to get their vaccination and booster shots. Bi-weekly testing will also be made mandatory along with masks.
On the other hand, Jefferies Financial Group is considering calling employees back to the office by mid-January. In the memo issued to employees, CEO Rich Handler and President Brian Friedman wrote, “At this point, we are tentatively shooting for January 17 as the day when we might resume working from the office... All of our decisions will be based on what we see, learn and anticipate to the best of our abilities.” The company also announced that abiding by the announcement by President Biden, employees who are eligible for the COVID booster should get inoculated by January 31 to access offices.
Other than banks, some other US-based global players including Apple, Lyft, and CNN have pushed down their work from office schedules, citing the current pandemic scenario. According to a survey conducted by Gartner, 44% of US companies have altered their previously announced timelines for reopening of the offices, while 30% of the respondents said that they are shutting down offices. In fact, 20% of the companies are planning proportionate attendance for onsite work.