WFH scrapped | Goldman Sachs' full-time office return could cause 'stampede' of imitators

Goldman Sachs' full-time office return could cause 'stampede' of imitators

Goldman Sachs is planning on having its employees work from the office five days a week, according to new reports.

As first revealed by CNBC, the banking giant has asked colleagues at its New York City HQ to return to their pre-pandemic working routines in a move which, according to the publication, comes just weeks after only half of the company's 10,000 employees showed up to the NYC office when it reopened on February 1, after Omicron restrictions were lifted.

Workers were reportedly given more than two weeks' notice to prepare for the return to office, the Daily Mail reported.

Last year, the firm’s CEO David Solomon called working from home “' aberration that we're going to correct as quickly as possible" during a business conference.

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According to the Daily Mail, despite Solomon acknowledging that many firms have made a success of remote and hybrid working, he said the practice “is not ideal for us, and it's not a new normal”.

And an expert has suggested that the decision of such a massive firm like Goldman Sachs could inspire other businesses to march their staff back to the office on a full-time basis.

Peter Cappelli, a Business Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNBC: “Most companies are watching what others are doing before committing to their RTO plans”.

He added: “Nobody wants to make the first move – but now that you see a large, well-known company say it's time to come back to the office, I think we'll see more of a stampede of others doing the same.”

Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on its office return plans, when asked by CNBC.

Is it the right move?

Hybrid and home working models have been largely embraced by the global workforce since the start of the pandemic, with many employees noting an uptick in work-life balance and wellbeing.

But the sentiments of Goldman Sachs’ top boss have been echoed by several high-profile figures in recent months. Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who once worked for Goldman Sachs before embarking on a career in politics, previously told LinkedIn News he doubted he would have done as well if he had started his working life virtually.

"I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom” said Sunak, adding: "That's why I think for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable”.

Furthermore, last November, Morgan Stanley’s Managing Director, Chris O’Dea, admonished young bankers who weren't returning to their offices full time, calling them “nuts” and warning them their career progress was at stake.

The New York Post reported the comments made during an internal conference call. According to the American news outlet, O’Dea said to young bankers: “If you’re 21 to 35, you are nuts not to be in the office all the time.

His comments are in line with those made by the firm’s CEO James Gorman, who earlier in 2021 said: “I fundamentally believe the way you and I develop our career is by being mentored and by watching and experiencing the professional skills of those who came before us.

“You can’t do that sitting at home by yourself – there’s a limit to Zoom technology.”

And some research suggests that workers agree on the benefits of face-to-face working.

Last month, one in five professionals expressed anxiety about the prospect of missing out on both learning opportunities, and chances to progress when not in the office, according to a new report from Momentive.

However, Goldman Sachs' own data found that businesses are now, on average, three per cent more productive per hour since the start of the pandemic – more than double the figure before remote work became more widely spread. The bank’s stats suggested that this would continue to rise – with increased automation and worker efficiency also playing its part – to a huge four per cent in 2022.

And studies have also shown that ending remote working entirely could be actually be detrimental to the careers of some workers.

More than half of women said that working from home would help them progress at work, according to a survey recently commissioned by the BBC. The study found that 56% of UK females said their job opportunities have been boosted as childcare and caring duties become less of a hindrance to working full-time during the pandemic.

The survey also found that 65% of managers think working from home helps advance women's careers.

Work-life balance improves due to WFH

Research has often touted the benefits of remote and hybrid working. Data released in 2021 indicated that organisations that have committed to supporting remote work seem to be carving out more inclusive work experiences for staff members.

The latest analysis from Glint – which looked at aggregated data from millions of staff engagement surveys from over 600 global firms – found that staff members at remote work-friendly organisations were 14% more likely to say that they felt safe to speak their minds.

Elsewhere, nine per cent were more likely to state that their leaders value different perspectives, compared to peers in organisations that haven’t enabled remote work.

Glint’s study also highlighted that virtual work could create a range of opportunities that can help to strengthen feelings of inclusion among employees.

For example, the data stated that virtual ways of working can provide increased flexibility for those with caregiving responsibilities and bypass location bias among other things.

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