Don’t ask us to come to the office more often—or we’ll give up, say investors

(Bloomberg) – Finance professionals have a warning for their employers: Don't ask me to come to the office more often or I'll quit.

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That's according to the latest Markets Live Pulse survey, which found that about one in two people in finance would change jobs — or have already done so — if their bosses asked them to spend more time in the office. More than half of the 1,585 global respondents, including 1,320 finance professionals and 265 individual investors, prefer a hybrid arrangement, while only about 20% prefer office work.

The number of people who took part in the survey was well above the average for respondents to recent MLIV Pulse surveys, a sign that getting back to the office is still a top priority for many working professionals. Of course, under the guise of anonymity, it is easier to promise to stop working because of hybrid work than to follow up with action.

Wall Street bosses have been among the most vocal in pushing for a five-day-a-week return to the office. JPMorgan Chase & Co. ended the remote arrangement for its directors in April, saying they now have to be in the office every day of the week. The policy follows comments by the bank's Chief Executive, Jamie Dimon, earlier this year that working from home “doesn't work” for younger employees or bosses.

According to the MLIV Pulse survey, about 40% of finance professionals say they already work in the office four days a week or more — about twice as many as those who said they prefer to work in an office.

Although the financial sector hasn't seen layoffs on the same scale as the technology or retail sectors, a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an executive coaching firm, shows that the industry has shed nearly 37,000 jobs in the US so far this year has mined , an increase of 320% over the same period last year. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is working on its third round of layoffs in less than a year as business execution continues to be sluggish. Morgan Stanley has initiated its second round of cuts in less than six months.

Despite these startling layoffs, the situation for job-seeking banking professionals isn't as dire as it seems, according to Andy Challenger, Challenger's senior vice president. US employers added about 339,000 jobs in May, a wage boom that far exceeded expectations and reinforced perceptions that workers' economic health remains relatively strong.

“If we look at the overall job market and finances, unemployment remains very low, historically low,” Challenger said. “There are still vacancies and companies are still hiring. So it's not a terrible job market to look into.”

Layoffs don't affect how often people come into the office, according to the MLIV Pulse survey. Only about one in ten Wall Street professionals said the recent downsizing has motivated them to participate more often.

Finding another job with more flexible hours in the industry would be harder, Challenger said, as many of the big financial firms are changing their home office policies in lockstep. Still, more than two-thirds of banks offer either full flexibility or a structured hybrid arrangement, according to a survey by Scoop Technologies Inc., a company that helps companies coordinate hybrid teams.

​The move from two to three days in the office might raise some grumbling, but it probably wouldn't be a “walk-away point,” said Rob Sadow, co-founder and CEO of Scoop. However, if employers attempt to break the four-day limit, they may begin to notice the dynamic change.

“Four days a week or more, a lot of people will lift their heads and at least look around and see what options they have,” even if a tough macro environment ultimately pushes them to stay there, he said.

“Staff are really nervous about laying a fingernail on flexibility. Because they think if they give in even an inch, the employer might keep pulling,” Sadow said of the number of survey respondents who said they would quit if asked to be more involved. “You may see a very strong rhetoric or reaction to the issue of flexibility because they think it's not just about being asked to come an extra day – it feels like a gateway to being asked to come full-time.”

Currently, company policies appear to be the single most important determinant of how much time people spend in the office: approximately 86% of finance professionals adhere to their company's office policies. Those who do not meet the requirements say that in most cases they have not had any consequences. Of the 1,320 finance professionals surveyed, only 28 said they had been reprimanded for non-compliance by their manager or HR. Five respondents indicated that they faced compensation-related penalties and two indicated that they faced termination.

City leaders have been among the most vocal in calling their workers back to the office, concerned about the impact remote work will have on their downtown areas. For example, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News, New York City loses more than $12 billion a year as workers spend 30% fewer days in the office and therefore place fewer orders with Manhattan sellers during the week. According to restaurant management software provider Toast, New York, along with Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, is still seeing a sharp decline in weekday lunchtime traffic compared to before the pandemic — a trend that reflects both hybrid working and the rising Inflation is attributed to the cost of eating out.

The MLIV Pulse survey found that even finance professionals, who typically have more disposable income than the average city dweller, are keeping their weekday spending in check: while half reported their eating habits had not changed at all after the pandemic, packs about a third They eat lunch more often than they used to, eat office lunches or go straight home without having an after-work drink.

MLIV Pulse is a weekly poll of Bloomberg News readers on-terminal and online, conducted by Bloomberg's Markets Live team, who also hosts a 24-hour MLIV blog on the terminal. The May 29-June 2 Return to Office survey drew responses from portfolio managers, researchers, strategists, economists, traders, investment bankers and individual investors.

This week's survey focuses on prices, margins and power. Do you feel that some companies have raised their prices more than necessary to increase margins? Share your views here.

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