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4 Stocks at Risk as Employees Reject ‘Return to Work’ Plans

It’s rare that questions about where employees are when they’re working can put stocks at risk, but returning to work after the pandemic has become a hot-button issue in corporate America.

According to a survey by Morning Consult, nearly half (40%) of workers in the U.S. say they would consider quitting their current job if they aren’t able to work remotely on a permanent basis.

The problem of employees quitting rather than returning to the office has become so prevalent that the media has dubbed the trend the “Great Resignation.” Many companies are bending over backward to accommodate staff.

Management consultancy McKinsey & Co. conducted a survey of corporate executives that found nine out of 10 organizations plan to employ some form of remote and onsite work going forward.

However, some organizations are putting their foot down and mandating that everyone return to the office, drawing criticism from workers and the media. As the debate rages on, we look at four stocks at risk as employees increasingly reject return-to-work plans by their employers.

  • Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)
  • JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)
  • Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)
  • Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)

Return to Work Stocks at Risk: Apple (AAPL)

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Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook received a letter in early June signed by about 80 employees voicing their displeasure at the company’s plan to have them return to the office this fall.

In an all-staff email, Cook told his global workforce of nearly 140,000 employees that they are expected back in company offices after Labor Day this September. Cook stated that all employees will be expected to spend three days a week working at the office and the other two days working from home or at a remote location.

Not all employees were happy with the return to work mandate. In an open letter to Cook that was shared with the media, the disgruntled employees stated:

“We feel like the current policy is not sufficient in addressing many of our needs… It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees.”

The fallout from the letter was swift with several people who signed it leaving the Silicon Valley company.

Fortunately, the public spat over return-to-work hasn’t hurt Apple’s stock in the near term. AAPL shares have risen 13% in the past month to $146.84. We’ll see if any further animosity occurs at Apple in September once employees are expected back at their office desks.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM)

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Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase, America’s largest bank with nearly $3 trillion of assets, has been one of the most vocal critics of work from home policies.

Dimon has on several occasions publicly declared his hatred of remote work arrangements, stating “I’m about to cancel all my Zoom meetings. I’m done with it.”

Dimon has shown little concern for the feelings of bank employees who would prefer to keep working from home, stating, “We want people back to work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before… People don’t like commuting, but so what.”

Indeed, JPMorgan has moved faster than most of corporate America in getting employees back to the office. The New York-based lender opened all of its U.S. offices to employees with a 50% occupancy cap in early July.

The company now has all staff back in the office on a rotational schedule, with half in the office one day and the other half at the office the following day. The bank says it wants 100% of employees back in its offices five days a week by this fall. To date, there has been little public backlash to JPMorgan’s plans.

And the bank just reported better-than-expected second-quarter results, with its net profits jumping 155% due to the release of loan loss reserves and a surge in investment banking revenues. JPM stock is up 22% year-to-date at $154.19.

Stocks at Risk: Facebook (FB)

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Social media giant Facebook appears to have listened to the concerns of its employees when it comes to returning to the office and has proposed a hybrid return to work plan.

The company announced in June that all employees are encouraged to spend at least half of their time back in the office now that the Covid-19 pandemic is retreating. However, the company is granting all employees 20 “remote days” each year that they can use to work from home or another a remote location.

Additionally, employees can apply to their manager and the company’s human resources department for permission to work remotely on a permanent basis, if their role allows for it.

There is no guarantee that requests for permanent remote work will be approved. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told employees in a memo that he himself plans to transition back to the office gradually and plans to continue working remotely for at least half of the next year before returning to the head office permanently. We’ll see how this approach plays out in the coming year.

Facebook stock has been riding high this year. So far in 2021, FB shares are up 32% at $353.72 each.

Goldman Sachs (GS)

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Goldman Sachs is another major American bank that has been leading the charge for us all to return to the office.

The Wall Street investment bank reopened its offices to employees on June 14 and told more than 5,000 recently hired interns, analysts and associates that they are expected to report for duty at the office.

In an all-staff memo leaked to the media, Goldman Sachs senior leadership team said “We are now in a position to activate the next steps in our return to office strategy,” which means bums in seats at head office and other locations around the country.

However, in a move that drew criticism inside and outside the bank, Goldman Sachs is mandating that all 20,000 of its employees report their vaccination status. Making moves that could sent top talent looking for work with less virus exposure is what makes GS one of the stocks at risk over return to work policies.

Although Goldman Sachs has stopped short of requiring that all employees get vaccinated, the lender is strongly encouraging staff to get the jab. Goldman Sachs’ vaccination demand has been hotly debated in the media in recent weeks. How compliant employees are with the request remains to be seen.

Like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs just reported blockbuster second-quarter results, with its earnings per share (EPS) rising 140% compared to a year earlier on the strength of a robust market for initial public offerings (IPOs). Year-to-date, GS stock has climbed 41% to $374.10 a share.

Disclosure: On the date of publication, Joel Baglole held a long position in AAPL. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.