Wall Street banks are going back to working from home to start 2022 with Omicron’s spread worsening

December 31, 2021, 8:30 PM UTC

A growing list of Wall Street institutions are pushing employees back to working from spare bedrooms and kitchen tables to start the new year with COVID-19 cases sharply on the rise—the latest reminder that, during the pandemic, time is a flat circle.

In a memo obtained by Fortune, JPMorgan, the nation’s largest lender, told employees Thursday that it’s allowing more flexibility during the first two weeks of January for employees to work from home, should their managers allow it. The bank made clear in its memo that the latest shift is only temporary, telling employees that they are expected to return to the office no later than Feb. 1 and that it is not changing its long-term plans of working in office.

That same day, Citigroup sent out a similar memo to U.S. employees working in offices that had returned to the office already, asking them to work from home for the first few weeks of 2022. The bank had previously told its staffers in the New York City area that they can work from home through the holidays, if possible.

On Friday, Bank of America joined its peers in encouraging employees to work remotely during the week of Jan. 3, according to a person familiar with the matter. Starting in the new year, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank is also planning to launch on-site booster clinics for its employees in several of its offices across the country, the person said.

The shift back to work from home comes right as Omicron—the highly transmissable mutation of the COVID-19 virus that upended normal life nearly two years ago—pushes counts of new cases and hospitalizations across the country to new record highs.

And that’s not even calculating in the full fallout of the holiday season. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has projected that the Omicron variant is likely to peak by the end of January.

For Wall Street banks, the return to working from home is a tense one, however temporary it may be.

COVID-19 has forced a dramatic rethinking of how work can be done in many corners of corporate America over the last two years, and Wall Street has proven to be no different.

Traders, investment bankers, and analysts all found themselves—surprisingly—well equipped to do much of their jobs from home during the heights of the vaccine-less portion of the pandemic. And while some chief executives including Citi’s Jane Fraser have since leaned into hybrid work schedules, others like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon have stuck by their beliefs that in-office work is paramount to their companies’ and employees’ successes.

Wall Street, as a result, was one of the first parts of the business world to storm back into the office, once COVID-19 vaccines were widely available in the spring. (That is, the parts of the financial industry that did actually move to remote work.)

A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request for comment from Fortune on the bank’s latest return-to-office plans. On Monday, Bloomberg News reported that Goldman is mandating that its employees get a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot by Feb. 1, if eligible by then. Starting Jan. 10, the bank is also reportedly requiring mandatory tests twice a week.

“This is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal,” Solomon said of remote work in February. “It’s an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible.”

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