JPMorgan Expects to Keep Offices Half Full After Lockdown Ends

The bank expects to keep its offices half full at the most for the “foreseeable future.”

By Michelle F. Davis, 5/20/20

When employees return to work at JPMorgan Chase & Co., their coffee mugs and pictures of the kids probably won’t be where they left them.

The bank has been placing workers’ personal items into sealed boxes to prepare desks for common use after lockdowns tied to the coronavirus pandemic begin to ease, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

Co-workers will be harder to find, too: The bank expects to keep its offices half full at the most for the “foreseeable future,” the memo states. Capacities will vary by location, according to a person briefed on the plans.

“As we prepare for this level of flexible seating and put protocols in place for all areas to be cleaned and disinfected effectively, we have started clearing all desk surfaces and floor areas of any personal and business-related work items,” JPMorgan said in the memo. “We know how important your items are and will continue to make every effort to treat them with care.”

The world’s biggest banks have been studying how best to safely bring employees back to the office once restrictions put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19 are lifted. Planners are trying to figure out how to reorganize lobbies, elevators and work spaces to prevent contagion and keep employees far enough apart to meet social-distancing guidelines.

At JPMorgan, that means some staff will be sitting at different desks, and in some cases different floors, when they get to work, according to the memo, which was sent Wednesday to employees in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Similar notices were sent to U.S. workers other than branch staff, the person said, asking not to be identified because the moves haven’t been announced publicly.

Not everyone will come back at the same time or even to the same location where they used to work, and the return will happen slowly and “in waves,” according to the memo. Officials at American Express Co. and Visa Inc. have said the majority of their workers won’t be coming back at all for the rest of the year.