Goldman Sachs pushed staff to return to the office. Now the Wall Street bank is giving executives unlimited time off

May 16, 2022, 6:37 AM UTC

Goldman Sachs emerged as one of the strongest advocates of a post-pandemic return to the office this year, but the fight for talent could be forcing the investment bank to reverse course and offer employees more time away from their desks instead.

In an internal memo seen by the Financial Times, the investment bank said it would offer junior staff a minimum of two extra days off each year. But senior staff will get an even bigger perk—one more commonly associated with Silicon Valley than Wall Street.

Starting May 1 partners and managing directors at Goldman Sachs can “take time off when needed without a fixed vacation day entitlement,” the memo said, as the investment bank gingerly follows tech firms like Netflix and Salesforce in offering staff unlimited time off.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment for this article. But forcing staff to take time away from the office is quite a U-turn for the bank, which desperately tried to get its staff back in the office as pandemic restrictions eased in the U.S.

In February last year, Goldman CEO David Solomon called remote work an “aberration.” A month later, Solomon told Fortune that “part of [Goldman Sachs’] secret sauce is that [younger staff] come together and collaborate and work with people that are much more experienced than they are” adding that “for Goldman Sachs to retain that cultural foundation, we have to bring people together.”

Yet the bank has struggled to get its workers to comply with its “cultural foundation.” Only half of employees showed up on the first day Goldman reopened its New York headquarters on Feb. 1, after closing the office for a month due to an Omicron-driven surge of COVID cases. And there are signs that Goldman’s return-to-office mandate may be affecting the bank’s ability to retain talent.

Junior bankers have reportedly complained about the bank’s drive to get people back at their desks, and some have started interviewing for roles at tech companies that offer more flexibility, including Netflix, Google and Facebook. According to a Harris poll conducted for Fortune in February, about 50% of U.S. workers would accept a lower salary in exchange for an unlimited leave policy.

Other Wall Street banks are also struggling to get their workers back in the office. In April, JPMorgan said that it would allow half its workforce to work in hybrid or fully remote settings, despite CEO Jamie Dimon’s earlier criticism of work-from-home arrangements.

However, experts warn that an unlimited paid time off policy could backfire if an office culture discourages taking a vacation, as workers do not have clear expectations of how much breaktime they actually get.

Goldman Sachs appears to have accounted for that. According to the memo, the bank will mandate that all staff take a minimum of three weeks off per year by 2023, including at least one vacation of a minimum five consecutive days.

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