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JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon concedes partial defeat on return-to-office mandate

April 18, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC

Jamie Dimon, like his fellow bank CEO David Solomon, has been a staunch proponent of a full return to office, stressing its role in fostering innovation and lamenting remote work’s purported erosion of company culture. 

Working from home “doesn’t work for people who want to hustle, doesn’t work for culture, doesn’t work for idea generation,” JPMorgan’s CEO said at a Wall Street Journal event last year. “We are getting blowback about coming back internally. But that’s life.”

Evidently not. The bank boss seemed to reverse course earlier this month, writing in an annual shareholder letter that at least 50% of employees will work at a physical location full-time. About 40% will work under a hybrid model, and 10% may continue to work from home full-time. 

Full-time on-site workers will include employees in its retail bank branches, as well as those jobs in check processing, vaults, sales and trading, security, and operations. Employees working under the hybrid arrangement will vary by job type.

In June, the bank sent a companywide return-to-office memo, acknowledging that the pandemic has permanently altered work structures at JPMorgan, with some teams piloting a hybrid approach. “But we want each of you back regularly so that we can test the effectiveness of these models as quickly as possible,” Dimon wrote at the time.  

In his shareholder report, Dimon stated that all decisions on work arrangements will depend on what is most optimal for the firm and its clients.

While remote work and videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Cisco have allowed banks to maintain productivity during the pandemic, Dimon has long expressed dissatisfaction with remote work, arguing that it’s no substitute for in-person collaboration, which often sparks “spontaneous idea generation.”

The bank’s acceptance of hybrid work, however, is bleeding into its approach to real estate. It’s continuing with the construction of new headquarters in New York City. Housed at 270 Park Avenue, the building will accommodate anywhere between 12,000 to 14,000 people and feature an open seating arrangement.

 The bank will provide 60 to 76 seats on average for every 100 employees and increase the number of conference rooms, private offices, and public spaces. Like many New York–based companies, JPMorgan has shed space, downsizing its commercial footprint in the city by 700,000 square feet since 2020. It plans to significantly cut down its global office footprint in the coming years.

Though Dimon has softened his stance on working from home, he still believes virtual work presents serious weaknesses, hurting the career aspirations of young employees and impeding their professional growth.

“Most individuals learn the best when they are taught through an apprenticeship mode, which is almost impossible to replicate in the Zoom world,” the CEO wrote. JPMorgan has hired more than 80,000 people since March 2020 and provided virtual training and onboarding. However, Dimon warns this could prove to be a setback to the company’s culture and character over time, adding that Zoom slows down decision-making processes and hampers leadership abilities.

Leaders need to “be visible, they need to teach and educate, and they need to be able to conduct impromptu meetings,” Dimon wrote. “They cannot lead from behind a desk or in front of a screen.”

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