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#WFH: What Performance Expectations?

MEET Brad (cont.)

The performance expectations are not clear, but they were not clear in the office either. Just do your job and that is it. It is the way Wall Street operates. Some of the leadership sent people to branch locations, rather than sending people home. They felt more comfortable with Connecticut people going to the Connecticut office and New Jersey people going into that branch. They did not feel comfortable just sending people home to work . A lot of people are still going into the offices in New York and have been through the whole pandemic. Many older, seasoned traders just do not feel comfortable doing business any other way and the firm has remained open. The leadership never told people what to do, they left it up to the individual. If they wanted to work from home they could, but they kept the office open for those who wanted that. Brad feels that across Wall Street some firms have shut down, but some have never even really considered it. People were still going into the office because that was the environment where they felt comfortable working. For the most part, he feels the Finance industry has tried to comply with the #WFH orders of the governor and wants people to be safe through the Coronavirus pandemic. Generally, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and London all told people to work from home.

On a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being I do not want to do this anymore and 4 I love it, he would be a 2.75 or a 3. He would love to have the option of selecting times when he could work from home, but until COVID-19 sent people home, working from home always had a stigma attached to it. It is an issue of trust. There was an assumption that if you said you were working from home you were really goofing off. People have gotten fired over this issue. There is that old-school belief that someone must be physically in the office to man the ship and if you are really at work, you are really in the office where everyone can see you. Brad also admitted that he likes the face-to-face office environment. It is also what he is accustomed to. He has discovered that working from home has some benefits and if attitudes towards #WFH change, he would love to have that option because it cuts out the commute.

Brad finds it harder to squeeze in extracurricular activities than he did when he was in the office. He stays online a little longer, hangs around the desk a little more. Brad finds it more difficult to pull himself out of the apartment and make it to the gym to go do his workout. This is intensified because it is New York, and initially everything officially was closed for COVID-19. New York was the epicenter of the pandemic early on. He does like the personal space as compared to the office and trading floor where even receiving a phone call is prohibited. He likes the freedom and flexibility in the work from home environment. He thinks the line between work and personal life has blurred, not blended, and that has both positive and negatives.

Moving forward, if he were going to continue to work from home, he would set up more equipment, monitors and a turret. Brad would like some help with setting up his remote workplace, so that he is not responsible for the whole thing. Someone from IT at the firm might set up things like the docking station and connectivity. If you are working for a company, that company needs to help you create a workspace that is workable. Brad also feels there could be more emphasis on strategy and planning, which has been lost during quarantine. People log into calls and do their jobs, but he misses the little conversations that happen between colleagues. He misses the watercooler talk and feels like those conversations are invaluable to understanding where the firm is headed and what is coming down the pike. Rumors of people being let go because of a downturn in the market and the lack of communication can be disconcerting.

His friend, who is a programmer for Wall Street, loves working from home. He dreads going back to an open office space. He loves being able to focus and get the work done. Brad admits that for him, it is easier to focus at home too. Trading floors of Wall Street remain notorious for constant conversation, yelling and excitement and not for quiet concentration. He says he can focus and if he needs a quiet moment to concentrate, he can get one. He is on the research side of things and his job is much different than a trader. He is required to think about complex capital structures and industries and make inferences and connections.

The quiet and peace he experiences being a single guy alone in his apartment makes working from home something he really appreciates. Wall Street is in limbo and it may take years before the impact of COVID-19 plays out. It will be difficult if not impossible to tell if the impact on the Street is related to working from home or the economic influence of the actions taken because of the pandemic.

When I asked Brad six months later, this is what he said: I’m working way harder and there are fewer ways to mess around. It can get incredibly stressful when there is a lot of action or need. It’s a little harder to get things done. It’s easier to sit down for three minutes, but overall it is more efficient use of my time.

A lot less gets written down or printed out than in the office. I’ve found it a little difficult to have the sidebar conversations and quick catch ups that make work interesting and colorful. It is also harder to meet new clients, which might be related to the pandemic as much as working from home. I am getting to the point that I really want to meet up with more friends and clients and exchange ideas. Those that were harder to get a hold of are now easier and those that were easier are now harder to reach. I miss restaurants and casual meetings the most. The company has backed us 100% and we are allowed to work from home indefinitely, but I am not sure what that really means. Working from home carries way less stigma and is becoming the normal way to work. I appreciate the flexibility and that part is wonderful. Also I find getting in touch with people who are further away and terribly busy is easier than before. I am a 3.25 now. I have grown to appreciate #WFH a little more but still miss my people.

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