Top-tier investment bank JPMorgan, led by well-respected CEO Jamie Dimon, required its traders, bankers, brokers and research analysts to return to its offices by Sept. 21, after being allowed to work from home for the last six months.
The bank claims that it’s essential to have people return to its offices. Wall Street runs on access to information and intelligence. Working closely together builds a network that affords the opportunity to share ideas and strategies in real time. Traders, bankers, brokers, compliance, human resources and other personnel rely upon daily discussions and interactions to conduct their jobs. Young employees need mentors, guidance and direction. The synergy, according to JPMorgan, is diminished when its people are disconnected from one another.
The same week the return-to-work command was made, JPMorgan sent home some of its traders after an employee in the equities trading trading division contracted Covid-19. In response to the matter, Brian Marchiony, a company spokesperson, said the bank has been “managing individual cases across the firm over the course of the last few months and following appropriate protocols when they occur.”
The return-to-work initiative has garnered heated debates. Some, such as President Donald Trump, say that businesses must quickly reopen and people brought back to their offices to get the economy rolling again.
We’ve already witnessed a job-loss crisis that has not been seen since the Great Depression. In excess of 55 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. The recent weekly and jobs reports from the U.S. Department of Labor show some increases in job growth, but the numbers are unimpressive and far beneath the record-setting high level of employment rate hit prior to the outbreak.
There’s real concern that many temporary furloughs will turn into permanent job losses and businesses that closed during the pandemic won’t have enough financial resources to open again—even if they’re permitted to do so.
Others argue that, due to health concerns, businesses should stay shut indefinitely until a vaccine is discovered, manufactured and delivered to everyone. During this time, for everyone’s safety, employees should be allowed to continue working remotely.
There’s not a simple answer. When we eventually fully reopen, there will be people who contract the virus. Some may get sick and some may succumb to the disease. If we don’t reopen, millions more Americans will lose their jobs, eat into their meager savings and run the risk of financial ruin.
Deaths of despair will occur. The stress and anxiety of being under lockdown, coupled with job losses, lack of work options and watching your savings dwindle away, leads to substance abuse and an increase in the suicide rate.
When you are financially safe and secure, it is easy to be flippant and call for continuing the shutdown.
When your spouse loses their job and you’re worried about the precariousness of your position, you might be inclined to take the health risk. Since you have to pay your mortgage, leases on automobiles, health insurance, college tuition for the children and trying to put aside some funds for retirement, there’s an immediate need to keep working and earning a living.
There’s a bigger picture here too. Consider, for example, what would happen to New York City if millions of workers don’t return. We’ve already seen a mass exodus of residents fleeing New York because of the current conditions, which include an uptick in the crime rate, drug use and homelessness.
The ecosystem of restaurants, bars, barbershops, retail stores and an array of other businesses will be severely impacted without office workers. A downward vicious spiral will happen. As more people move out and additional businesses close, taxes will be raised to make up for the shortfall in city revenue and public servants—police officers, teachers, nurses, firefighters and sanitation workers—will be laid off. The quality of city life will radically decline—pushing more people to flee, which will hurt the remaining businesses, and this cycle will continue until something is done about it.
We desperately need our elected leaders in Washington D.C., corporate business executives, health experts and pundits to put aside their differences and work together to come up with reasonable solutions that keep us safe, the economy up and running and getting people back to work.