May 2022

Improved Mental Health And Empathy Will Lead Us Back To The Office

Jefferies has always been defined by our people and their entrepreneurial spirit. That means we empower each and every one of you to use your best judgment when it comes to serving clients, managing teams, and defining personal work-life balance.


We feel this stands in stark contrast to the headlines we are seeing from many in our industry and others.  We don't feel comfortable issuing sweeping edicts from the mountain tops, monitoring individual building-entry keycard swipes in judgment or rigidly defining that one size must always fit all as we construct the future of our work-life balance.  That is simply not Jefferies.  We will always strive to do our best to maintain a culture of transparency, trust, and respect.  As many firms have stressed that returning to the office is primarily about increasing efficiency, productivity and results, the purpose of today's note is to explain a broader perspective on this topic, and one that we think is even more important than being able to optimally maximize our day-to-day result.  


May is Mental Health Awareness Month and perhaps one of the silver linings of COVID has been to highlight the importance of this topic. We are all at risk. Nobody is immune. We have all felt and seen the emotional impact that COVID-related isolation has had on us. In fact, that has been one of the drivers in doing everything we can to effectively transition to the new normal of our hybrid model. The good news is that those efforts are being well-received, and the vast majority of our team are enjoying being back in the office, with our midweek numbers starting to approach pre-COVID levels.  Thank you all.  However, we do have more to do in this regard.


Our plan has been to encourage each sub-group within our firm to decide which critical mass days they will strive to be together in person. Many of us are doing this, but some are not. For those who have not been in the office regularly yet, we understand that it might seem daunting combined with a sense of comfort that has set in for many to work primarily from home. We also understand that commuting has never been a positive, and now can be rife with complicated and real issues. Yet, we strongly believe the negatives of these realities are far outweighed by the magic of being together in person. There is something to be said for getting out of our strange new comfort zones of self-isolation and instead enjoying each other in living glory. The two of us have been traveling extensively to our various offices around the globe, enjoying our industry conferences, and spending a lot of time with clients. We have also been regulars at 520 Madison and have enjoyed meetings, lunches and dinners with our teammates. For those of you who are doing the same, we know you’d agree: There is absolutely nothing more refreshing, enjoyable, valuable or rewarding than spending significant in-person time with our partners and clients. In fact, we believe that our mental health has been greatly improved by being with as many of you as possible. We are not solitary creatures. We thrive on each other's energy, emotions, intellect, camaraderie, and humor. We have proven that we can sacrifice and stay in relative isolation when we have no choice. But this is not a long-term sustainable way to stay happy, to thrive and to grow. It's not about productivity, it is about mental health and happiness. For those of you not there yet, get yourselves into a routine that includes appropriate time back in the office and with your colleagues.


The second complicating factor about working from home is unique to our more senior colleagues at Jefferies. For those with many years of experience, the break from endless road warrior travel and monotonous commutes has given many of us a rebirth in terms of energy and excitement. We can enjoy meals with our significant others, be actively involved with our children and parents, and plan quality time with friends. For many, this newfound freedom will result in extending our careers in many ways we never dreamed possible. We will never ask any of you to go back to the way things were (pre-Covid) and miss the chance to have a reasonable balance in your life. You deserve it, and we want you to have it all. However, now is the time for some real empathy on your parts regarding the mid-level and junior folks at Jefferies. Empathy involves putting yourself in the shoes of others to really understand and feel what is going on in their lives. Many of our mid-level and junior colleagues are justifiably feeling abandoned. They need to be in your physical presence and be exposed directly to your experience, perspective and humanity. They need to learn the nuances of what makes every senior person successful, and they need to be able to emulate positive role models. They need seniors they respect to truly care about them, their careers, and their futures. They need to learn how to cultivate clients, navigate complex markets and bring complicated problems to a successful win-win conclusion. They need to spend time at lunches and dinners with you and your clients. They need to be in person when pitches happen.  They need to see a big trade or deal get executed in a truly collaborative manner on the trading floor.  They need to be told real-time when they make a mistake and how to anticipate and correct it. Basically, they need every single thing that you and the two of us needed when we were in their shoes. They need to know that the senior leaders are selflessly prioritizing the needs of those who support them. We don't have selfish leaders at Jefferies. We know this is going to require some sacrifice from our seniors. Yes, you have plenty of long-term relationships and everyone has proven how effective and efficient you can be by never leaving your home office. That was amazing for these past two years. Now we need you to not only return to the office but do so enthusiastically and with purpose to give back to those who have worked so hard to support you these past few years. They need this from you, and we cannot do it without all of you.


Jefferies is a living, breathing organism that is made up of 4,754 wonderful humans. We are a firm with a strategy, a purpose and an incredible future. We are all mentally healthier when we are around each other regularly. Our juniors and mid-level partners need our empathic seniors to truly lead them in person.  If we all make the true effort, we can have the hybrid flexibility we all want and the camaraderie, mentoring, and culture we deserve. It just requires more effort from all of you. Fortunately, that is one area where you have never let us down. 


Prioritizing mental health and striving to be ever more empathetic,


Rich and Brian


CEO, Jefferies Financial Group

[email protected]
@handlerrich Twitter | Instagram
Pronouns: he, him, his
President, Jefferies Financial Group

[email protected]