Kingsmill's Investment Miscellanea: Friday June 4th, 2021

Jun 04, 2021 | Joshua Kingsmill


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Key Takeaways

  • Return to work “hybrid models” are now emerging in the U.S.
  • Balancing the long-term ramifications of this prolonged work-at-home vs. the advantages/disadvantages of the traditional 9-5 will be interesting
  • “3rd Child stocks”: adding to our investment vernacular

I read with great interest the announcement that Apple is telling office staff to prepare to return to the workplace at least most of the time. This seems to be part of the trend of the so-called “hybrid” work model. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, in an email to staff, told office employees this week that they are expected to return to their workspace three days a week starting in September. He said it wants most office workers to show up Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays.

 

In the U.S., which is months ahead of where we are in Canada, in terms of easing restrictions and return to work, companies are laying down new rules and setting expectations for hybrid work. At JPMorgan Chase, employees on some teams can schedule work-from-home days, but not on Mondays or Fridays. At Salesforce.com Inc. offices that have reopened, Thursdays are proving to be the most popular in-office day, creating high demand for meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, and prompting the company to rethink its office design.

 

For myself, like most people who have jobs in offices, we’ve adapted our work and life and schedules. Clients have become used to communications via email, or online WebEx and phone calls. I spent some time over this last 18 months working on my home office: what do you think:

 

 

OK – this isn’t actually my home office, but an aspirational version of my current basement dwelling RBC DS Home office!

 

Research has shown that most employees prefer some form of flexibility in where they work (I know very few people who aspire to return to office full-time). A survey of 9,000 workers by Accenture found 83% of respondents viewed a hybrid workplace as optimal, which means companies need to figure out the new norms. It’s interesting that one rule emerging for many firms in New York is that they can pick one permanent day to work remotely each week, so long as it isn’t Monday or Friday. Employees can request a second remote day, which could be a Monday or Friday, so long as they seek permission each week to work one of those days from home.

 

RBC, Avril and I have started coming into the office one day a week: Tuesdays. The rest of my team and staff at RBC DS have various arrangements: some are never in the office, others come in frequently. When I call our institutional Trading desk for larger trades, they all tell me that they can’t wait to get back onto the trading floor: they just don’t have the same energy and intensity or collaboration, all working from home. Currently in Downtown Toronto, the ratio of construction workers to office tower workers and homeless people meandering around seems to be about equal. Personally, I look forward to going into the office. And when things are opened, and there is more of a buzz, the ability to share ideas and have quick discussions with colleagues, socialize, and have in-person lunches or dinners, and go to events with clients will be welcome. I might even share a pint or two with some of you readers at some point again.

 

After so long at home however, how we work has changed. So many business practices have evolved and are completely on-line. It’s hard to imagine that downtown core will truly ever return to full-time 9-5, 5 days a week. Looking back at the commute (and I live in Toronto): that’s not something that we will all be wanting to return to.

 

The markets have an incredible ability to come up with new acronyms to represent different stages of the market. In recent times, we have had the “stay-at home trade”, and now the “reopen trade”. With the announcement in China that they will allow couples to have a third child after census data showed a continuous decline in birth rates, I read that Chinese investors have been piling into “3rd Child Stocks” Think maternity-wear, milk-powder manufacturers, and domestic Toy makers: many of them had sharp increases in their share prices following this increase to allow a third child (it was only in 2016 that they replaced their decades-old one Child policy with the two-child limit).

 

As we come into the summer months, I too will be again making changes in the upcoming weeks: moving for the summer months from a Weekly, to a “fortnightly” Update. I predict some might look up “Fortnightly”: it’s a fancy way of saying every two weeks!