Is working from home the future? Label me a skeptic, says Jamie Dimon

  • Jamie Dimon isn't all talk and no action when it comes to him being at odds with the remote working culture in the banking industry.
  • Dimon’s fresh words and a recap of his persistent aversion to the WFH ideation reflect that the era of hybrid work is finally over for executives at the Wall Street bank.

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Is working from home the future? Label me a skeptic, says Jamie Dimon

The pandemic brought the world to a standstill, but, it paved the way for a lot of ‘firsts’ and a new normal. Amid the chaos, society underwent a paradigm shift that made remote work or work-from-home (WFH) the standard. 

Although many cite remote working as the future, Jamie Dimon vehemently disagrees.

While the JPMorgan Chase chief has time and again voiced his reasons to support and oppose the widely-practiced WFH in a pandemic-stricken and post-pandemic world, he’s adamant that the shortcomings outweigh the strengths far more when it comes to the financial services industry.

As the pandemic reached its zenith in 2020, major banks assessed COVID-19 working-from-home policies. JPMorgan Chase asked all its managers globally to allow employees to effectively work from home to implement social distancing. Since then, the bank was ambivalent about the whole WFH idea – apprehensive of how it would pan out and affect staff performance. Employees working in JPM’s corporate and investment banking divisions were asked to rotate between days at the office and at home – which many thought was an established arrangement going forward.

“We are going to start implementing the model that I believe will be more or less permanent, which is this rotational model,” said Daniel Pinto, head of the corporate and investment division and co-president of JPMorgan Chase at the time.

Immediately after the pandemic cases shrank, CEOs of corporations and big businesses within the US were consumed with a desire to get their staff back in the office chair. JPMorgan was one of the first firms on Wall Street to re-envision the office space entering 2023. And in April this year, the organization finally called off the pandemic-phase hybrid work for its senior staff in a memo, specifying that employees “have to be visible on the floor, they must meet with clients, and they should always be accessible for immediate feedback and impromptu meetings”.

The memo came on the heels of Dimon’s CNBC interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he openly mentioned that remote work is (basically) futile: it's infeasible for bosses, young workers, or spontaneity, especially in the banking industry. Dimon’s beliefs were in consonance with other Wall Street firms like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, which also expressed that workforce culture cannot survive over Zoom.

Dimon has advocated remote work setup in the past, but he found it adequate only for professionals working in research and coding, or as a means to support working women trying to juggle multiple roles in the home, raising a family, and professional duties.

In an extensive interview with The Economist this month, Dimon yet again emphasized why he isn’t sold on remote work among a variety of other key topics including increased chances of banking chaos getting sparked again, and why the US economy has grown by less than 2% a year over the last two decades.

"It [remote work] doesn't work for younger kids in apprenticeships. It doesn't really work for creativity and spontaneity. It doesn't really work for management teams. There are real flaws,” he noted. 

He elucidated that some roles at JPMorgan can be hybrid or remote, but such layouts do not accomplish the desired result which is expected of high-ranking executives. “To the extent it works, I'm okay with it. If it doesn't work, I don't mind getting rid of it. We're not going to make that decision because we're pandering to employees — that is not the way to build a great company. So count me as a skeptic,” he said.

60% of JPMorgan’s workforce including all managing directors are working in the office five days a week. But Dimon would like that number to climb up further by expecting the 10% who were working from home prior to the pandemic and the other 30% who mostly work three days in person to resume their presence in the workplace full-time.

Without undermining the seriousness of the physical work ethic and what the job requires, he “completely understand(s) why someone doesn't want to commute an hour and a half every day, totally got it. Doesn't mean they have to have a job here [JPMorgan Chase] either".

Dimon’s fresh words and a recap of his persistent aversion to the WFH ideation reflect that the era of remote or hybrid work is finally over at the Wall Street bank for all executives who want to keep the ball rolling at work.

As he wrapped things up, Dimon was asked how he would like to make a difference, to which he replied, "All I ever cared about my legacy is that people say we're gonna miss the son of a bitch, and he made the world a better place while he was here.”

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