This Isn’t Just JPMorgan’s Problem

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Some workers are already going back home

JPMorgan Chase sent some of its workers home this week after an employee in its trading unit in Midtown Manhattan tested positive for the coronavirus, a person familiar with the matter told DealBook.

The timing isn’t great. The news broke days after President Trump brought attention to the investment bank’s plan to bring some of its senior workers back to the office, inaccurately tweeting, “Congratulations to JPMorgan Chase for ordering everyone BACK TO OFFICE on September 21st. Will always be better than working from home!” (The bank had, in fact, only asked some senior employees in its sales and trading division to return.) Mr. Trump’s tweet politicized a decision that JPMorgan, and other companies, would probably like to make without such fanfare.

Jamie Dimon’s reported comments about young people working from home didn’t help either. JPMorgan’s C.E.O. told analysts with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in a private meeting that working from home “seems to have impacted younger employees, and overall productivity and ‘creative combustion’ has taken a hit,” one of the analysts, Brian Kleinhanzl, wrote in a note, according to Bloomberg. A spokesman for JPMorgan later clarified that the bank had noticed a productivity drop in all employees, though younger workers “could be disadvantaged by missed learning opportunities.”

The bigger story is how it highlights the calculations that companies are making as they bring people back to the office. The worries about productivity and weakening social ties are real, and so are the risks (including legal liability) of virus outbreaks in offices. The case numbers in New York are down, which could make people more comfortable with coming in; the same can’t be said about London, for example. How much pressure should companies put on employees to return to the office? How will sporadic outbreaks affect workers’ attitudes toward coming in? When, if ever, will workers get used to the cycle of going to the office until a new case emerges and they are told to stay home? Is it better just to deal with the consequences of remote working until there is a vaccine?

• A JPMorgan spokesman told The Times in a statement, “We’ve been managing individual cases across the firm over the course of the last few months and following appropriate protocols when they occur.”


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in Connecticut, Lauren Hirsch in New York, Ephrat Livni in Washington, and Michael J. de la Merced and Jason Karaian in London.


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