JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon blasted working from home and Zoom as “management by Hollywood Squares,” using the dated TV show reference on a call with the bank’s wealthy clients last week to reiterate his long-held preference that workers return to the office, Yahoo Finance reports.
Dimon argued on the Tuesday call that remote work creates a working environment that’s less honest and more prone to procrastination. “A lot of people at home are texting each other, sometimes saying what a jerk that person is,” said Dimon. (His Hollywood Squares comment referred to the decades-old game show—that’s no longer in production—in which celebrities sat in a three-by-three grid to answer questions from contestants.)
Dimon’s remarks come as the tussle between management and employees on a return to the office heats up and a possible economic slowdown threatens to erode employees’ leverage to stay home.
In the past, Dimon has said that work-from-home is a poor fit for JPMorgan’s employees. Last year, he argued that remote work “doesn’t work for people who want to hustle, doesn’t work for culture, doesn’t work for idea generation.”
In a shareholder letter released earlier this year, the bank said that it expected half its employees to return to the office full-time, with an additional 40% working in a hybrid system. JPMorgan is reportedly tracking ID card swipes in order to ensure compliance with the new policy and monitoring the time employees spend on Zoom and email in order to better measure productivity.
On Tuesday, Dimon rolled out a new argument in his battle against working from home: that it damages the U.S. drive for diversity.
Dimon called the office a “rainbow room” and said that workers who stayed home were denying themselves “opportunities to meet other people.” The JPMorgan CEO argued that “if you live in certain parts of our country and go eat out there, it is all white,” meaning remote workers may end up having a more uniform experience than if they traveled into work.
Studies report that minorities, especially Black and Hispanic workers, are teleworking at lower rates than white workers. One April study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19% of Black and 14% of Hispanic workers engaged in telework, compared with 24% of white workers and 38% of Asian workers. The CDC study argues that the difference stemmed from lower rates of college education among minority populations, as well as overrepresentation of Black and Hispanic workers in jobs that don’t allow for remote work.
A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management last September reported that half of Black office workers wanted to work from home, compared with 39% of white workers and 29% of Hispanic workers.
CEOs, real estate developers, and even city mayors have called for workers to return to the office. Developer Stephen Ross predicted in June that a recession might make “people fear that they might not have a job, [and] that will bring people back to the office.” But workers want to stay home. The Slack-funded Future Forum found in July that only one in five knowledge workers wanted to return to the office, a record low.
Nationally, office occupancy rates are hovering around 43%, according to Kastle Systems, a security company.