The COVID-19 pandemic led to millions of American workers’ being allowed (really required) to work remotely for most of the multiyear pandemic. As COVID restrictions have subsided, many companies still allow some kind of remote or hybrid work, even though it’s no longer strictly necessary.
Since the outset of the COVID-triggered shift to remote work and indeed for years before the virus forced the issue, many business leaders have been skeptical of remote work. It’s not just that they fear employees will slack off if not under the watchful eye of their managers; many also feel that collaboration and camaraderie suffer, as well.
Remote Work Still Has Its Skeptics
JPMorgan chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon has been perhaps the most visible remote work skeptic to emerge during the pandemic. He feared remote work hurt the synergies among workers that are crucial to competitiveness in an information-based economy. As the remote work debate has continued over the roughly 3 years since the emergence of COVID-19, Dimon’s views haven’t shifted in general, although he’s recently provided a more nuanced view.
In comments at the January 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Dimon reiterated his position that remote work just isn’t a good fit for certain groups, writes Jane Thier in an article for Fortune. Dimon singled out managers, younger workers, and those whose jobs require “spontaneity” in particular.
This represents a bit of a softening of Dimon’s earlier remote work rhetoric, which was a broader critique of the model in general.
Yet, Sometimes, Remote Work Works
For example, Dimon conceded that he believes remote work does work for some jobs, like research and coding. He even noted that for women in particular, remote work may actually be a better option because housekeeping duties tend to fall disproportionately on this group. (We should note that Dimon made this remark as an observation of the way things are in our society as opposed to suggesting this disproportionate share of domestic responsibility is the way things ought to be.)
Dimon is a giant in the world of finance, and people pay close attention to what he has to say. But even the head of JPMorgan will have trouble fighting the will of the majority of the roughly 165-million-strong American workforce who want the ability to work from home at least part of the time.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.