Goldman Sachs lightens Covid rules in push for full-time office return

Bank memo signals call for employee return

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and 200 Wall Street (Getty Images, Dan DeLuca, CC BY 2.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and 200 Wall Street (Getty Images, Dan DeLuca, CC BY 2.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATED Aug. 31, 2022, 7:44 p.m.: After other companies aborted attempts to bring employees back to the office, Goldman Sachs is leading the charge for an office return.

The bank is dropping Covid measures, including vaccine, mask and testing requirements for employees outside of New York City, the New York Post reported. In a memo reported by the outlet, the bank said there was “significantly less risk of severe illness” from Covid, citing the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

While Goldman is lifting restrictions for most employees, a New York City mandate still requires employees to be vaccinated or obtain a medical or religious exemption to skip testing or face covering requirements.

The memo also signaled a nudge for employees to return to the office following Labor Day, directing workers to “speak with your manager to ensure that you understand and adhere to your division’s current return to office expectations.”

Sources told the outlet the memo comes as the bank looks for employees to return to offices full-time after Labor Day.

The bank called employees back in June 2021, relaxed the mandate during the height of the Omicron surge last winter, then called them back again, even as many companies embraced hybrid and remote work.

Its latest memo, however, indicates that not everyone has been coming in five days a week, saying “if you have not been coming in to the office, please speak with your manager to ensure that you understand and adhere to your division’s current return to office expectations.”

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Goldman’s memo follows a similar one from Morgan Stanley, announcing the company was ending tests and other Covid measures as of Sept. 5, according to Bloomberg.

Much of Wall Street started the year working from home, with JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America also pushing back plans for employees as New York City coped with a surge in cases amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

Last year’s Labor Day holiday was initially forecast as a deadline for offices across the city to call employees back to the office, but the Delta coronavirus variant’s spread stymied the push.

New York City’s office landlords appear to be facing an uphill climb. Office occupancy remains stagnant, with Kastle Systems data reported by The City pinning occupancy at 37.6 percent for the week ending on Aug. 17. New York hasn’t inched above 43 percent since the onset of the pandemic.

July marked a bright spot for the market, as Colliers data showed available office space in Midtown Manhattan fell for the fifth straight month. Nearly 2 million square feet of office space was leased in the business district, up three times from July 2021 and more than in any month since December 2018.

This article has been revised to clarify the history of Goldman Sachs’ return-to-work policy.

— Holden Walter-Warner