Mixed blessings of working from home
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Mixed blessings of working from home

The Covid-19 coronavirus has thrown up many challenges for bankers forced to work from home. But perhaps none is tougher than trying their very best to pretend they’re getting anything done.

I remember when the lockdowns began across Asia. Back in March, many of my friends in the banking industry were complaining about the inconvenience of not being able to access documents from home, lamenting the loss of personal contact with colleagues or clients, and fretting about how they would get business done. They had a genuine fear that swapping face time for FaceTime would severely damage their businesses.

Many of them have now adjusted. It’s not so much that the risks have lessened, although impressive work on digital roadshows gives some encouragement. It is more that many bankers no longer care. After spending decades as workaholics, they have discovered afternoon naps, Netflix binges, long lunches. How can they ever go back?

One banker answered the phone this week and admitted he was supine, staring at the TV doing nothing resembling work. His defence was simple: “The market is quiet,” he said. I can’t blame him for putting his feet up if he doesn’t have the deal flow to get through, but it’s hard to imagine him doing the same just six months ago.

Another banker talked about an amazing afternoon he spent on a junk boat during work hours, making sure to reply to emails to keep up appearances. A Singaporean banker spent much of his day in the pub this week, being forced to decline a phone call with a colleague when he realised the din of fellow drinkers – and, perhaps, his own slurred speech – might give the game away.

Of course, not everyone is enjoying the relaxing benefits of working from home. Others complain that it has actually made their days busier. After all, the golf courses are closed.

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