Raymond James plots fall return to in-person work, with ‘more flexibility’

It’s is the latest Tampa Bay company to adjust workplace expectations after the pandemic.
Raymond James Financial plans to bring employees back to its St. Petersburg headquarters starting in September.
Raymond James Financial plans to bring employees back to its St. Petersburg headquarters starting in September. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published July 15, 2021|Updated July 15, 2021

After 19 months working largely out of the office, employees at Raymond James Financial will start returning to their St. Petersburg headquarters in September.

But the coronavirus pandemic has proven to the financial management firm, one of Tampa Bay’s largest companies, that it must adopt a “more flexible” approach to remote and hybrid work if it wants to continue recruiting top advisors, CEO Paul Reilly said.

“Some individuals will expect flexibility in how and where they work, and we must evolve and adapt to attract top talent and maintain exceptional teams,” Reilly said in a letter to employees on Wednesday.

More workers have come to expect such an approach, according to numerous surveys conducted since the start of the pandemic.

A study from March by Tampa staffing and professional services firm Kforce showed that 62 percent of workers would prefer a hybrid model of in-person and remote work, versus just 10 percent who favored in-person work only. Another from the job search site FlexJobs found that 58 percent of workers would “absolutely” look for a new job if they couldn’t keep working remotely at least part of the time. And one from nonpartisan think tank the Conference Board showed 43 percent of workers question the need to return to the office at all.

Related: Can working from home mean working outside of Florida?

In his letter, Reilly touted some of the benefits of remote work, including, for many employees, more productivity and a greater sense of work/life balance, as well as “the creativity and camaraderie of Zoom social gatherings.”

But he also noted the value of in-person work, including the ability to quickly brainstorm and problem-solve, especially at a company with a turnover rate as high as Raymond James. Between 20 and 25 percent of the firm’s employees have been there less than 24 months, he said, depriving them of “in-person mentoring and training by seasoned colleagues.”

The company tentatively plans to resume in-person work on Sept. 13, with health and safety measures including thermal temperature checks, more cleaning and greater social distancing.

The return to in-person work doesn’t mean the company won’t look at more of a hybrid approach down the line. The company last year suggested it might shrink its office space as fewer employees return full-time.

Related: Raymond James hints at cutbacks: 'Our real estate needs will evolve.'

“Our footprint won’t change in the near future,” Reilly wrote, “but over time, embracing various work arrangements will enable us to save considerably on real estate costs, our second largest expense.”

Local employers have varied in their approaches to bringing people back to work.

Kforce announced in April that it would sell its Ybor City headquarters for $24 million as it shifts its employees, including 600 in Tampa Bay, to a hybrid work environment. For now, those employees are still working remotely.

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Related: As Kforce downsizes its HQ, hybrid work in Tampa Bay enters a new era

Tampa phosphate mining company Mosaic is allowing office workers back in on a voluntary basis, and the company plans to bring back others on a more formal schedule after Labor Day, said Ben Platt, the company’s senior vice president of government and public affairs.

Largo technology distribution company Tech Data is still operating remotely in the United States and Canada, said spokesman Bobby Eagle, with some office space — up to 50 percent capacity — available for employees who want to come in. The company has not yet announced any plans for a required return to the office.

One thing companies have learned from the pandemic is that if a similar event happens again, they have a blueprint in place that can work.

“Our teams and infrastructure are battle-tested,” Reilly wrote, “and we know we can raise the bar even higher as we return to the office and embrace flexibility.”