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Here's Why Jamie Dimon Thinks We'll Be Working in Offices After the Pandemic

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Apr 20, 2021 at 6:51AM

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The JPMorgan Chase CEO is still planning to build a new headquarters, and wants it to be full of people.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been countless headlines indicating that companies won't require their employees to work in offices anymore and that remote work will become the new industry standard. To put it mildly, JPMorgan Chase (JPM 1.28%) CEO Jamie Dimon doesn't agree. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on April 12, contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, and Industry Focus host Jason Moser discuss why this highly respected banking CEO sees value in in-person work environments. 

Matt Frankel: Jamie Dimon seems to be a believer that office work is better. I'm not talking about the branches. Obviously there are some aspects of branch-based banking that cannot be done remotely. I'm talking about the office workers, the people who work in their Wall Street offices. He said the bank is still planning to build a brand-new headquarters in Manhattan. That's obviously a big investment. He said there is a bunch of weaknesses from the work-from-home approach, including bringing new employees into the mix. He said it's really tough to train somebody and just kind of to bring him into the office culture if they've never been to the office.

Jason Moser: Yeah. Absolutely.

Frankel: He cited the, "spontaneous learning and creativity," I wanted to get that quote right, that comes from being around your colleagues. There have been years when half the interesting projects I've gotten to work on at The Motley Fool came from a conversation I had when I was visiting the office and someone said, "Hey, what do you think of this?" Just that spontaneous nature of collaboration. No one's going to have a spontaneous Zoom call.

Moser: No.

Frankel: How many times have I spontaneously called you via Zoom over the past year?

Moser: I can't think of one. 

Frankel: Right. He's got a point there, the spontaneous creativity. I would go beyond that even and say that, if you're new in your career, you want to see and be seen by your colleagues and your bosses and things like that. That's really tough to do if you're working remotely.

Moser: Yeah. Well, that old out of sight, out of mind, and before it certainly would be understood if you're worried about being a remote worker that you weren't being seen, now it seems like maybe that is going to be the norm for some folks. I will say, I fully agree with him. I think we're going to get to a point some time here in the next year or two years, whenever, may be it materializes differently for different companies, but I think we may get to a point where actually physically working together is seen as a competitive advantage again. I agree with it totally.

Remote work is fine for stuff that is just automatic and repetitive tasks, things like that. If they just got a job or buttons need to be hit and you just got to do this and that and you just got a routine, but as far as collaboration and learning, remote work is just awful for that. It just doesn't work. At least that's my experience over the last year. I talked to a lot of folks in the investing profession that find remote work to be not good for learning and collaboration as well. I think you and I are on the same page there.

To me, I think he makes a lot of sense there. I think it's why we're seeing companies like Microsoft and Alphabet going ahead and accelerating going back to the office now, because clearly we're at a place where vaccines continue to roll out, the risk is being mitigated each and every day. Reed Hastings, another CEO, been very clear with his thoughts on this as well. I tend to agree. I think being able to work remotely is a nice thing to have, it's a nice thing to be able to do, but if you're in a job that requires collaboration, ideas, developing ideas from the ground up, remote work is just very stifling in that regard. I suspect he's onto something there.

Frankel: Yes. To be fair, I'm a believer in the hybrid work model.

Moser: Yeah. I'm with you. I think the hybrid makes sense. I think honestly, that's what a lot of places had before this started. Maybe not to the extent, maybe that hybrid didn't tilt so far over to the virtual side. I know a lot of places had that option going into this.

Frankel: I know for a fact that The Motley Fool, if you had to work from home for a day, it wasn't a big deal.

Moser: It was absolutely normal.

Frankel: Yes. Zoom could be productive, being remote can be productive, just as productive as being in the office. You can even make the argument that it's more so in certain ways, because you're saving your commute and things like that. What did it take you to get to and from the office each day?

Moser: There's no drive, that's for sure.

Frankel: That's time you could spend getting work done.

Moser: True, but by the same token, that drive was often spent listening to podcasts or something where I was learning, and that was unencumbered time, 20, 25, 30 minutes on the road where I could actually listen to something and learn, which is a little bit different when you are in a house full of all sorts of things going on.

Frankel: I really think the market has been surprised at how many CEOs, David Solomon from Goldman Sachs is another one who has mentioned that he wants people in the office. I think the market has been surprised, especially when it comes to these tech companies, at how eager CEOs are to get people back in the office, not necessarily all the time. I doubt Google is going to make people work in the office all the time. That's just not what they are about anyway.

Moser: Yeah. Who knows how they implement it fully. But yeah, I did get your point. I think the idea is being together more than not.

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