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    ‘Work from Home’ or not – the Question that Banks and Big Tech face in the Post-Covid Era

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    During the last few weeks many people’s feeds were filled with stories about disgruntled junior employees at Goldman Sachs. How much of that is due to the need to ‘Work from Home’, how much of it is specific to banks, and how much of that is down to being overworked, is hard to say. What we do know, though, is that at the Tech Giants things seem to be easier when it comes to planning the Post-Covid Era.

     In February, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon rejected the idea that home working would be the ‘new normal’. Solomon is not the only one to worry about the ‘Connective Tissue’ in his organisation and the loss of ‘Cultural Capital’, other banks are concerned too.

    In their recent report, Behavox (a company that started in Level39 much like #DisruptionBanking), identified some startling instances that seem to be occurring in enterprises across the U.S., Canada and the UK. The survey shared some of the following key statistics about what employees are experiencing

    • Employee is a recipient of racist (13%), sexist (12%), or other inappropriate joke (12%)
    • Angry outbursts during video calls (9%), with outbursts leading to termination half the time in the U.S. (49%)
    • Witnessing inappropriate behaviour during video conferencing meetings (nearly half)

    “There is an inextricable link between the health of corporate cultures, business productivity, and roles of HR and CEOs,” said Erkin Adylov, Founder and CEO of Behavox. “The Behavox Enterprise Conduct and Risk Report is a reality check for HR teams and C-suites. The pandemic and distributed workforces certainly test their ability to protect morale, manage risk, and sustain business continuity. However, these findings ultimately reveal threats and risk that exist regardless of a pandemic or whether employees work at home or in the office. Judging by the findings, it is clear that there is work to be done.”

    How many people are effected by Banks’ decisions to ‘Work from Home’ or not

    With over 1 million people in the UK working in the financial services sector, the total number of people who are trying to judge the best way to approach the new post-Covid reality amounts to multiple tens of millions of people. A much larger sample of the working population than the Tech Giants can boast.

    Banks are not that simple to categorize either. For while building societies (retail banking) like the Nationwide in the UK can go to market and release stories like this:

    Many of the banks involved in Capital Markets and Asset Management have completely different challenges to overcome with their employees.

    Some of the examples of the problems faced by the investment  banking sector were covered by our story back in September. At the time, the Japanese Central Bank had issued a requirement for traders in Japan to be in the office during trading hours. With securities, FX and bond trading (to name but a few) the extra risks are part of the problem the Japanese Central Bank raised.

    In January we reminded you all about how the different channels of communication available to bankers. Some even predict that the global market for holistic surveillance technology may reach a high of 23% in 2021. Perhaps not something that many of the staff at Nationwide are concerned about for now.

    The amount of monitoring or #SurveilTech needed to keep on top of investment banks is not comparable with most other industry sectors, least of all Big Tech.

    And, while this may not be the same amount of people as work in retail banking, there will still be multiples of millions of employees who work in a highly regulated environment. The costs of #SurveilTech are not insignificant either, as many of our readers will know. Putting extra pressure on banks to both monitor costs whilst trying to keep employees safe. Quite the conundrum.

    #BacktoWork Take 2

    It was only mid-September 2020 when we all first tried to get #BacktoWork, some of us were even threatened with losing our jobs if we dallied too long at home.

    Today things look very different.

    Earlier this month Goldman Sachs already informed employees on a Zoom call that they hope to have most of them working in offices again by the summer.

    “Getting them in to the office is best way to get them connected to Goldman Sachs,” Solomon said during the meeting, which was transcribed and shared with Reuters.

    “We understand that until more of us are vaccinated that is going to be a challenge. But based on the current pace of vaccinations, and where we hope to be by the summer, we believe that we are well-positioned and there is a good chance that we can meet that goal.”

    Many in Goldman Sachs think that the pressure to return to the office will be huge by mid-April, now only a few weeks away.

    Most commentators agree, over the next few weeks we will be seeing a large amount of the investment banking community on Wall Street and in the City returning to the office.

    What is Big Tech doing about ‘Work from Home’ Post-Covid?

    Uber is one of the first Big Tech firms quoted as bringing staff back to offices. They are looking at 20% occupancy on March 29. Facebook, quoted by Bloomberg, are looking at a May return to their Silicon Valley offices. If Facebook employees don’t want to come back to the office, there is also the hint that employees may need to take a pay cut. Google are waiting till September before we will know more.

    Twitter were one of the first companies to allow staff to work from home ‘forever’, and it doesn’t appear that anything has changed for them. Like Twitter, Microsoft are also letting employees work from home permanently.

    While the Big Tech firms can allow themselves policies like this, there is the incremental danger that some of their top technologists may use the opportunity to work from a more appealing destination:

    Greece, Estonia and a few other countries have reached out to tech professionals across the world looking to see if they can entice them to change their permanent place of residence now that they don’t need to be in the office so often. One can expect to see more people use these initiatives, and we should witness more of these initiatives the future.

    Have employees worked this out yet though? Because… If you can do your job from anywhere, then someone anywhere could do your job… And the market in Vietnam is pretty good if you are looking for good tech people at a good price.

    The new ‘Work from Home’ trend may replace the existing off-shoring trend

    10 – 15 years ago we saw a huge drive to ‘off-shore’ centres of excellence to countries like India, Poland, the Philippines and other destinations. Banks were some of the forerunners of this exercise with UBS, HSBC, Citi, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, RBS, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and many others leading the race to setup their off-shore hubs.

    Today even those hubs are seeing a substantial amount of their workforce working remotely, with the pandemic still going strong in many of the jurisdictions they are located in. Big Tech has followed the banks, but are less noticeable purely because they employ only a fraction of the headcount that their counter-parts in banks employ.

    Big Tech is starting to have more say in off-shoring, while many banks are having to weigh up compliance and regulatory issues as well as safe working. Regulation may be part of the reason for the return to the office, but it is not the only one.

    The Cost of ‘Work from Home’

    It has been a harrowing year for the CEO of Goldman Sachs so far this year. Following on from his pay-cut in January, he has had a mass of problems to face in his business too.

    But while his peers stay ‘relatively’ quiet on the subject of getting their teams back to the office, Solomon has faced the pandemic head-on. Where he once played DJ sets for his employees, today he is making some of the toughest decisions in Corporate America.

    The time is coming for us to refocus on the ‘Connective Tissue’ of our companies, to re-emerge ourselves in the ‘Cultural Capital’ of our banks.

    It is those that have the hard decisions to make today, that will be the ones we remember and respect in the future. Or, at least, that’s how the world used to work.

    Author: Andy Samu

    #ConnectiveTissue #CulturalCapital #WFH #BacktoWork #WorkFromHome #BigTech #OffShore #DigitalMigrants #InvestmentBanks #SurveilTech