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Why offices need to be exciting places to work

April 21, 2022, 9:43 AM UTC

Good morning.

I’ve spent the last two days in New York City and can report that it’s beginning to feel more like it did pre-pandemic. “Business meetings” are back in force, restaurants and bars have lively crowds, and the nightly rate at my go-to hotel has doubled from two months ago.

But offices? Well, there are some people in them, but it’s still sparse. If you are looking for a nice stretch of carpet to play indoor bocce ball, there are plenty to be found. And most of the people I talk with think the five-day in-office work week—or even the four-day in-office work week (which, to be honest was pretty common in pre-pandemic New York) are gone for good. Even JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who famously said last year that work from home “doesn’t work for people who want to hustle,” seemed to back off in his annual letter, conceding that only half his employees—many of them in bank branches—will be in office full-time, while 40% will adopt a “hybrid” approach and 10% will work from home full-time.

One of my in-office visits yesterday was from Charlie Lowrey, CEO of Prudential, which is based in nearby Newark. He’s cut back his company’s office space and reconfigured it to encourage collaboration. The company has adopted a hybrid plan, encouraging people to use the office only when there is a good reason. And he reports they have fielded calls from employees looking to leave other New York financial firms that offer less flexibility. All of which reinforces the notion that if there is a Battle for Talent underway, it’s talent that’s winning.

By the way, Prudential is one of the companies that made the decision in 2020 to publicly disclose more of its diversity data, so it could be held accountable for progress on that front. As a result, he says, “we are looking at all sorts of ways to bring in diverse talent.”

Separately, Centric Brands group president Suzy Biszantz told me yesterday that she actually upgraded her company’s office space on the West Coast, outfitting a new 30,000 square foot building in the LA Arts District that she says “features indoor and outdoor lounge areas, co-working environments, tech labs and countless meeting options as well as things like soundproof pods for private calls.” Lesson: if you want people to get back to the office, you had better make it an exciting place to be.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Chinese stocks

Chinese markets fell this morning after a speech by President Xi Jinping gave no indication of the country easing its COVID lockdowns anytime soon. Bloomberg

Russian debts

Russia can't make its dollar-denominated interest payments in rubles, the Credit Derivative Determination Committee said yesterday. That brings Russia closer to a "failure to pay" event, a.k.a. a default. Fortune

Tesla shares

Tesla jumped 5% after beating analyst expectations with its Q1 results. Its factories may be running below capacity due to the supply-chain crunch, but profits were significantly above what Wall Street thought it would see—$3.22 per share, versus an average estimate of $2.27. Fortune

Ackman and Netflix

Bill Ackman's Pershing Square has offloaded its Netflix shares, taking a loss of over $400 million, in the wake of the streamer's disappointing results and subscriber losses. (Bonus read: Fortune's Shawn Tully on why Netflix suddenly looks like a no-growth stock.) Fortune


Amazon injuries

Amazon is expanding a scheme in which injured warehouse workers get sent to do good deeds at homeless shelters and charity shops, which sounds positive, but critics are pointing out that the program allows Amazon to massage its politically sensitive serious injury rates. Financial Times

Emoji rethink

The crypto exchange Binance released a new Twitter emoji-logo thingy (apparently they're called hashflags?) that looked rather like a swastika. It wasn't meant to be that, of course—the design has for a very long time had positive connotations for Buddhists and adherents to other Asian religions, but to a global audience, not so attractive. Binance now has another new hashflag. Fortune

Zillennial woes

Zillennials—the "microgeneration" that includes the youngest millennials and the oldest Gen Zers—are particularly unhappy at work right now. Fortune

4/20 investments

Yesterday was the annual cannabis celebration day, but, as this Journal piece explains, weed stocks remain in the doldrums due to a lack of progress on federal liberalization in the U.S. Anyhoo, Roundhill Investments hopes people will buy into the sector now, having launched a new cannabis-themed ETF on the auspicious day. Wall Street Journal

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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