Employers Need To Tread Carefully On The Road Back To Office Working

Open plan office

In some ways the coming weeks and months are likely to be more difficult for organizations and employees than the past year or so has been. With governments increasingly intent on opening up economies effectively closed down by the pandemic, uncertainty is rife.

Employers and staff alike are caught between wanting to go back to something like normal and not wishing to take too many risks, especially since the Delta variant of the coronavirus is pushing spikes in new cases even in countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. where significant proportions of the population have been at least partially vaccinated.

One factor that could be behind the unease about rushing back to normal working habits is a feeling that, just as governments made mistakes in the handling of the crisis, so too did organizations. According to a survey just out from the finance comparison platform NerdWallet, a third of the U.K.’s business leaders are dissatisfied with the way that staff have been managed through the pandemic.

A similar proportion said that financial stability and business productivity was put ahead of staff safety. Unsurprisingly perhaps, more than half of the nearly 1,000 decision-makers questioned said they planned to carry out a review of how they had handled things. However, nearly half have already invested in new equipment designed to improve health and safety and to facilitate social distancing, while more than half have introduced greater flexibility to working hours.

Employers’ definitions of flexibility appear to be, well, flexible. An insight into the current situation is provided by the consultancy Mercer in its latest survey of working policies and practices among nearly 600 employers in the U.S.. The key findings were:

  • Hybrid working — a blend of in-person and remote working — was favoured by vast majority.
  • Predominantly office-based working was the preference of a fifth of employers.
  • Fully remote or virtual-first working was the choice of just 6% of employers
  • A distributed model making increased use of satellite campuses was likely to be adopted by just 4%.

Mercer’s research and analysis suggests that, across all industries, the proportion of the workforce working on-site full-time is likely to be about 40%. The hybrid category will probably be split, with about 29% of the workforce working remotely one or two days a week and approximately 17% doing so three or four days a week. About 14% of workers are expected to work remotely full-time.

The challenge for employers will be deciding how they can retain the employee experience and hang on to talent. Lauren Mason, principal in Mercer’s career business, and Ravin Jesuthasan, global leader of Mercer’s transformation business, suggest five principles to consider:

  1. Empower teams but set guidelines:  Nearly all employers plan to bring in changes to working policies as a result of the pandemic. Nearly half are already actively developing a strategy, while nearly a quarter of employers are in the process of implementing or have already implemented plans. Employers can and should empower teams to continue to work flexibly but they should also establish guidelines to maximize business outcomes and ensure a consistent employee experience.
  2. Keep a pulse on the market and your competition: Flexibility will likely have a high impact on an organization’s ability to retain talent. If employees are unhappy about employers’ flexible working plans, they will be likely to consider other workplaces that might better meet their needs.
  3. Don’t rush to get employees to the office: Employers should focus on returning employees in a way where co-working benefits can be maximized immediately. They should concentrate on making workers feel energized, empowered and engaged to be back together with their colleagues. This may entail phased transitions, where employees may only initially come in one or two days a week, planned team meetings or on-site social events and celebrations to make those early office days more purposeful.
  4. Stay agile: Workers do not want or need a standardized solution. Employers can demonstrate a continued trust and sense of partnership that was so valued during the pandemic by providing options that are appropriate for the work being performed. The key is to give employees some control and flexibility.
  5. Don’t limit flexibility to remote work: Flexible working is about more than remote working. Inclusive flexibility ensures that all jobs can be flexible when needed. Given the massive challenges employers are facing in attracting and retaining workers, options such as flexible schedules or compressed workweeks can be a huge differentiator. Progressive companies are not just challenging “when” and “where” work is done but also how the it is done, who does it and what the work is.
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I am a U.K.-based journalist with a longstanding interest in management. In a career dating back to the days before newsroom computers I have covered everything from popular music to local politics. I was for many years an editor and writer at the “Independent” and “Independent on Sunday” and have written three books, the most recent of which is “What you need to know about business.”

Source: Employers Need To Tread Carefully On The Road Back To Office Working

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Hedge Fund Launches Are Surging

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In the first quarter of 2021, 189 new hedge funds were launched, the highest number since the end of 2017, according to data from Hedge Fund Research.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, 190 hedge funds were started. Since then, the number of launches has been consistently lower, hitting its lowest in the first quarter of 2020 with a total of 84 launches and 304 liquidations.

“The only ones that did get launched [that quarter] were before March,” Kenneth Heinz, president of HFR, told Institutional Investor.

Heinz attributed the newfound surge in launches to three factors: performance, inflation, and risk aversion. According to a statement, the top decile of hedge funds tracked by HFR gained 126.8 percent in the 12-month period ending in the first quarter of 2021. In this quarter alone, the top decile gained 29.7 percent.

Institutional investors are also looking to hedge against inflation, Heinz said. “As the world emerges from the lockdown, inflation is present, and it will continue to build,” he said. “The different strategies provide great protection from inflation.”

These strategies include equity hedge funds and event-driven funds. As of the first quarter of 2021, the greatest portion of industry assets — 30.42 percent — were invested in equity hedge funds. Event-driven funds came in second with 27.53 percent of total industry assets.

Heinz said these particular strategies are appealing to investors because they provide exposure to some hot “meme” stocks. Plus, as the world emerges from a global quarantine, he said there is a large appetite for strategic activity in mergers and acquisitions — a strong point for event-driven funds.

Since the first quarter of 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Heinz said investors have left their risk complacency in 2019. Heinz said 2019 was a “super beta year,” prompting inventors to worry less about risk and more about returns.

“I liken 2019 to the easiest year in the world to make money because everything went up,” Heinz said. “But then March reminded investors they had become complacent about risk.”

As they move into the new year and recover from the pandemic, investors have taken more defensive positioning against risks that were overlooked in 2019. As for the future of the hedge fund industry, Heinz said he believes the market has entered a period of expansion.

“Even though the markets have recovered and they’ve gone back to record highs, I think institutions that are allocating are still very much more cognizant of risk than they were prior to the first quarter of 2020,” he said. “I think that’s the reason that you’re seeing more capital inflows and more funds launching.”

https://i0.wp.com/onlinemarketingscoops.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Hamlin.jpg?resize=79%2C79&ssl=1

By: Jessica Hamlin

Source: Hedge Fund Launches Are Surging | Institutional Investor

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Critics:

A hedge fund is a pooled investment fund that trades in relatively liquid assets and is able to make extensive use of more complex trading, portfolio-construction and risk management techniques in an attempt to improve performance, such as short selling, leverage, and derivatives. Financial regulators generally restrict hedge fund marketing except to institutional investors, high net worth individuals and others who are considered sufficiently sophisticated.

Hedge funds are regarded as alternative investments. Their ability to make more extensive use of leverage and more complex investment techniques distinguishes them from regulated investment funds available to the retail market, such as mutual funds and ETFs. They are also considered distinct from private-equity funds and other similar closed-end funds.

As hedge funds generally invest in relatively liquid assets and are generally open-ended, meaning that they allow investors to invest and withdraw capital periodically based on the fund’s net asset value, whereas private-equity funds generally invest in illiquid assets and only return capital after a number of years. However, other than a fund’s regulatory status there are no formal or fixed definitions of fund types, and so there are different views of what can constitute a “hedge fund”.

Banks Are Giving the Ultra-Rich Cheap Loans to Fund Their Lifestyle

Billionaire hedge fund manager Alan Howard paid $59 million for a Manhattan townhouse in March. Just two months later he obtained a $30 million mortgage from Citigroup Inc.

Denis Sverdlov, worth $6.1 billion thanks to his shares in electric-vehicle maker Arrival, recently pledged part of that stake for a line of credit from the same bank. For Edgar and Clarissa Bronfman the loan collateral is paintings by Damien Hirst and Diego Rivera, among others. Philippe Laffont, meanwhile, pledged stakes in a dozen funds at his Coatue Management for a credit line at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In the realm of personal finance, debt is largely viewed as a necessary evil, one that should be kept to a minimum. But with interest rates at record lows and many assets appreciating in value, it’s one of the most important pieces of the billionaire toolkit — and one of the hottest parts of private banking.

Thanks to the Bronfmans, Howards and Sverdlovs of the world, the biggest U.S. investment banks reported a sizable jump in the value of loans they’ve extended to their richest clients, driven mainly by demand for asset-backed debt.

Morgan Stanley’s tailored and securities-based lending portfolio approached $76 billion last quarter, a 43% increase from a year earlier. Bank of America Corp. reported a $67 billion balance of such loans, up more than 20% year-over-year, while loans at Citigroup’s private bank — including but not limited to securities-backed loans — rose 17%. Appetite for such credit was the primary driver of the 21% bump in average loans at JPMorgan’s asset- and wealth-management division. And at UBS Group AG, U.S. securities-based lending rose by $4 billion.

Borrowing Binge

“It’s a real business winner for the banks,” said Robert Weeber, chief executive officer of wealth-management firm Tiedemann Constantia, adding his clients have recently been offered the opportunity to borrow against real estate, security portfolios and even single-stock holdings.

Spokespeople for Howard, Arrival and Laffont declined to comment, while the Bronfmans didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Rock-bottom interest rates have fueled the biggest borrowing binge on record and even billionaires with enough cash to fill a swimming pool are loathe to sit it out.

And for good reason. With assets both public and private at historically lofty valuations, shareholders are hesitant to cash out and miss higher heights. Appian Corp. co-founder Matthew Calkins has pledged a chunk of his roughly $3.5 billion stake in the software company — whose shares have risen about 145% in the past year — for a loan.

“Families with wealth of $100 million or more can borrow at less than 1%,” said Dan Gimbel, principal at NEPC Private Wealth. “For their lifestyle, there may be things they want to purchase — a car or a boat or even a small business — and they may turn to that line of credit for those types of things rather than take money from the portfolio as they want that to be fully invested.”

Yachts and private jets have been especially popular buys in the past year, according to wealth managers, one of whom described it as borrowing to buy social distance.

‘Significant Benefit’

Loans also allow the ultra-wealthy to avoid the hit of capital gains taxes at a time when valuations are high and rates are poised to increase, perhaps even almost double. Postponing tax is a “significant benefit” for portfolios concentrated and diversified alike, according to Michael Farrell, managing director for SEI Private Wealth Management.

Critics say such loans are just one more wedge in America’s ever-widening wealth gap. “Asset-backed loans are one of the principal tools that the ultra-wealthy are using to game their tax obligations down to zero,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

While using public equities as collateral is the most common tactic for banks loaning to the merely affluent, clients further up the wealth scale usually have a bevy of possessions they can feasibly pledge against, such as mansions, planes and even more esoteric collectibles, like watches and classic cars.

One big advantage for the wealthy borrowing now is the possibility that rates will ultimately rise and they can lock in low borrowing costs for decades. Some private banks offer mortgages on homes for as long as 20 years with fixed interest rates as low as 1% for the period.

The wealthy can also hedge against higher borrowing costs for a fraction of their pledged assets’ value, according to Ali Jamal, the founder of multifamily office Azura.

“With ultra-high-net worth clients, you’re often thinking about the next generation,” said Jamal, a former Julius Baer Group Ltd. managing director. “If you have a son or a daughter and you know they want to live one day in Milan, St. Moritz or Paris, you can now secure a future home for them and the bank is fixing your interest rate for as long as two decades.”

Risks Involved

Securities-based lending does comes with risks for the bank and the borrower. If asset values plunge, borrowers may have to cough up cash to meet margin calls. Banks prize their relationships with their richest clients, but foundered loans are both costly and humiliating.

Ask JPMorgan. The bank helped arrange a $500 million credit facility for WeWork founder Adam Neumann, pledged against the value of his stock, according to the Wall Street Journal. As the value of the co-working startup imploded, Softbank Group Corp. had to swoop in to help Neumann repay the loans and avert a significant loss for the bank.

A spokesperson for JPMorgan declined to comment.

Still, for the banks it’s a risk worth taking. Asked about securities-backed loans on last week’s earnings call, Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Sharon Yeshaya said they’d “historically seen minimal losses.” Among the bank’s past clients is Elon Musk, who turned to them for $61 million in mortgages on five California properties in 2019, and who also has Tesla Inc. shares worth billions pledged to secure loans.

“As James [Gorman] has always said, it’s a product in which you lend wealthy clients their money back,” Yeshaya said, referring to Morgan Stanley’s chief executive officer. “And this is something that is resonating.”

By:

Source: Banks Are Giving the Ultra-Rich Cheap Loans to Fund Their Lifestyle

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Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Price Chart May Show $30,000 as Floor

Bitcoin has been grinding lower in a trading range just above $30,000, prompting cryptocurrency insiders to flag the round number as a potential floor for the virtual coin.

Crypto prognostication is fraught with risk, not least because Bitcoin’s price has roughly halved from a record high three months ago. Even so, some in the industry are coalescing around $30,000 as a support point, citing clues from options activity and recent trading habits.

In options, $30,000 is the most-sold downside strike price for July and August, signaling confidence among such traders that the level will hold, according to Delta Exchange, a crypto derivatives exchange. It “should provide a strong support to the market,” Chief Executive Officer Pankaj Balani said.

Traders are also trying to take advantage of price ranges, including buying between $30,000 and $32,000 and selling in the $34,000 to $36,000 zone, Todd Morakis, co-founder of digital-finance product and service provider JST Capital, said in emailed comments, adding that “the market at the moment seems to paying attention more to bad news than good.”

Bitcoin has been hit by many setbacks of late, including China’s regulatory crackdown — partly over concerns about high energy consumption by crypto miners — and progress in central bank digital-currency projects that could squeeze private coins. The creator of meme-token Dogecoin recently lambasted crypto as basically a sham, and the appetite for speculation is generally in retreat.

Bitcoin traded around $31,600 as of 9:26 a.m. in London and is down about 6% so far this week. It’s still up more than 200% over the past 12 months, despite a rout in calendar 2021.

Konstantin Richter, chief executive officer and founder of Blockdaemon, a blockchain infrastructure provider, holds out hope for institutional demand, arguing Bitcoin would have to drop below $20,000 before institutions start questioning “the validity of the space.”

“If it goes down fast, it can go up fast,” he said in an interview. “That’s just what crypto is.”

— With assistance by Akshay Chinchalkar

Source: Bitcoin (BTC USD) Cryptocurrency Price Chart May Show $30,000 as Floor – Bloomberg

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Critics:

The dramatic pullback in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies comes as a flurry of negative headlines and catalysts, from Tesla CEO Elon Musk to a new round of regulations by the Chinese government, have hit an asset sector that has been characterized by extreme volatility since it was created.

The flagship cryptocurrency fell to more than three-month lows on Wednesday, dropping to about $30,000 at one point for a pullback of more than 30% and continuing a week of selling in the crypto space. Ether, the main coin for the Ethereum blockchain network, was also down sharply and broke below $2,000 at one point, a more than 40% drop in less than 24 hours.

Part of the reason for bitcoin’s weakness seems to be at least a temporary reversal in the theory of broader acceptance for cryptocurrency.

Earlier this year, Musk announced he was buying more than $1 billion of it for his automaker’s balance sheet. Several payments firms announced they were upgrading their capabilities for more crypto actions, and major Wall Street banks began working on crypto trading teams for their clients. Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange company, went public through a direct listing in mid-April.

The weakness is not isolated in crypto, suggesting that the moves could be part of a larger rotation by investors away from more speculative trades.

Tech and growth stocks, many of which outperformed the broader market dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, have also struggled in recent weeks.

Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar

Imagine Imagine logging on to your own account with the U.S. Federal Reserve. With your laptop or phone, you could zap cash anywhere instantly. There’d be no middlemen, no fees, no waiting for deposits or payments to clear.

That vision sums up the appeal of the digital dollar, the dream of futurists and the bane of bankers. It’s not the Bitcoin bros and other cryptocurrency fans pushing the disruptive idea but America’s financial and political elite. Fed Chair Jerome Powell promises fresh research and a set of policy questions for Congress to ponder this summer. J. Christopher Giancarlo, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is rallying support through the nonprofit Digital Dollar Project, a partnership with consulting giant Accenture Plc. To perpetuate American values such as free enterprise and the rule of law, “we should modernize the dollar,” he recently told a U.S. Senate banking subcommittee.

For now the dollar remains the premier global reserve currency and preferred legal tender for international trade and financial transactions. But a new flavor of cryptocurrency could pose a threat to that dominance, which is part of the reason the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on developing prototypes for a digital-dollar platform.

Other governments, notably China’s, are ahead in digitizing their currencies. In these nations, regulators worry that the possibilities for fraud are multiplying as more individuals embrace cryptocurrency. Steven Mnuchin, former President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, said he saw no immediate need for a digital dollar. His successor, Janet Yellen, has expressed interest in studying it. Support for a virtual greenback cuts across party lines in Congress, which will have a say on whether it becomes reality.

At a hearing in June, Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, signaled openness to the idea. Warren and other Democrats stressed the potential of the digital dollar to offer free services to low-income families who now pay high banking fees or are shut out of the system altogether.

Kennedy and fellow Republicans see a financial equivalent of the space race that pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union—a battle for prestige, power, and first-mover advantage. This time the adversary is China, which announced this month that more than 10 million citizens are now eligible to participate in ongoing trials.

The strongest opposition to a virtual dollar will come from U.S. banks. They rely on $17 trillion in deposits to fund much of their core business, profiting from the difference between what they pay in interest to account holders and what they charge for loans. Banks also earn billions of dollars annually from overdraft, ATM, and account maintenance fees. By creating a digital currency, the Federal Reserve would in effect be competing with banks for customers.

In a recent blog post, Greg Baer, president of the Bank Policy Institute, which represents the industry, warned that homebuyers, businesses, and other customers would find it harder and more expensive to borrow money if the Fed were to infringe on the private sector’s historical central role in finance. “The Federal Reserve would gain extraordinary power,” wrote Baer, a former assistant treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

Some economists warn that a digital dollar could destabilize the banking system. The federal government offers bank depositors $250,0000 in insurance, a program that’s successfully prevented bank runs since the Great Depression. But in a 2008-style financial panic, depositors might with a single click pull all their savings out of banks and convert them into direct obligations of the U.S. government.

“In a crisis, this may actually make matters worse,” says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and the author of a book on digital currencies that will be published in September. Whether a virtual dollar is even necessary remains up for debate. For large companies, cross-border interbank payments are already fast, limiting the appeal of digital currencies. Early adopters of Bitcoin may have won an investment windfall as its value soared, but its volatility makes it a poor substitute for a reliable government-backed currency such as the dollar.

Yet there’s a new kind of crypto, called stablecoin, that could pose a threat to the dollar’s dominance. Similar to the other digital currencies, it’s essentially a string of code tracked and authenticated via an online ledger. But it has a crucial difference from Bitcoin and its ilk: Its value is pegged to a sovereign currency like the dollar, so it offers stability as well as privacy.

In June 2019, Facebook Inc. announced it was developing a stablecoin called Libra ( since renamed Diem). The social media giant’s 2.85 billion active users worldwide represent a huge test market. “That was a game changer,” Prasad says. “That served as a catalyst for a lot of central banks.”

Regulators also have concerns about consumer protection. Stablecoin is only as stable as the network of private participants who manage it on the web. Should something go wrong, holders could find themselves empty-handed. That prospect places pressure on governments to come up with their own alternatives.

Although the Fed has been studying the idea of a digital dollar since at least 2017, crucial details, including what role private institutions will play, remain unresolved. In the Bahamas, the only country with a central bank digital currency, authorized financial institutions are allowed to offer e-wallets for handling sand dollars, the virtual counterpart to the Bahamian dollar.

If depositors flocked to the virtual dollar, banks would need to find another way to fund their loans. Advocates of a digital dollar float the possibility of the Fed lending to banks so they could write loans. To help banks preserve deposits, the government could also set a ceiling on how much digital currency citizens can hold. In the Bahamas the amount is capped at $8,000.

Lev Menand, an Obama administration treasury adviser, cautions against such compromises, saying the priority should be offering unfettered access to a central bank digital currency, or CBDC. Menand, who now lectures at Columbia Law School, says that because this idea would likely require the passage of legislation, Congress faces a big decision: to create “a robust CBDC or a skim milk sort of product that has been watered down as a favor to big banks.”

By: Christopher Condon

Source: Cryptocurrency: Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own.

Led by countries as large as China and as small as the Bahamas, digital money is drawing stronger interest as the future of an increasingly cashless society. A digital dollar would resemble cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum in some limited respects, but differ in important ways.

Rather than be a tradable asset with wildly fluctuating prices and limited use, the central bank digital currency would function more like dollars and have widespread acceptance. It also would be fully regulated and under a central authority.

Myriad questions remain before an institution as large as the Fed will wade in. But the momentum is building around the world. As the Fed and other central banks work through those logistical issues, Wall Street is growing in anticipation over what the future will hold.

“The race towards Digital Money 2.0 is on,” Citigroup said in a report. “Some have framed it as a new Space Race or Digital Currency Cold War. In our view, it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game — there’s a lot of room for the overall digital pie to grow.”

There, however, has been at least the semblance of a race, and China is perceived as taking the early lead. With the launch of a digital yuan last year, some fear that the edge China has ultimately could undermine the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Though China said that is not its objective, a Bank of America report notes that issuing digital dollars would let the U.S. currency “remain highly competitive … relative to other currencies.”

References:

Do You Get Your Money’s Worth From Buying An Annuity?

Coin Stacks And Chart Graphs On A Chessboard

Once upon a time, in the (somewhat mythical) past of traditional defined benefit pensions, your employer protected you from the risk of outliving your money in retirement, by acting, more or less, as an insurance company providing an annuity. With that benefit receding into the past, many experts have been hoping that Americans with 401(k) plans would avail themselves of annuities on their own, to give themselves the same sort of protection, and, indeed, the SECURE Act of 2019 made it easier for those plans to offer their participants an annuity choice, and, when surveyed, 73% of those participants said they would “consider” an annuity at retirement.

At the same time, though, Americans distrust annuities — in part because traditional deferred annuities had high fees and expenses and only made sense in an era predating IRAs and 401(k)s, when they were attractive solely due to the limited tax-advantaged options for retirement savings. But that’s not the only reason — annuities, quite frankly, aren’t cheap.

How do you quantify the value of an annuity? In one respect, it’s subjective and personal: do you judge yourself to be in good health, or does family history and your list of medications say that you’ll be one of those with the early deaths that longer-lived annuity-purchasers are counting on? Do you want to be sure you can maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement, or do you figure that you won’t really care one way or another if you have to cut down expenses once you’re among the “old-old”?

But measuring the value of annuities, generally speaking, does tell us whether consumers are getting a fair deal from their purchases, and here, a recent working paper by two economists, James Poterba and Adam Solomon, “Discount Rates, Mortality Projections, and Money’s Worth Calculations for US Individual Annuities,” lends some insight.

Here’s some good news: using the costs of actual annuities available for consumers to purchase in June 2020, and comparing them to bond rates which were similar to the investment portfolios those insurance companies hold, the authors calculated “money’s worth ratios” that show that, for annuities purchased immediately at retirement, the value of the annuities was between 92% – 94% (give-or-take, depending on type) of its cost. That means that the value of the insurance protection is a comparatively modest 6 – 8% of the total investment.

But there’s a catch — or, rather, two of them.

In the first place, the authors calculate their ratios based on a standard mortality table for annuity purchasers — which makes sense if the goal is to judge the “fairness” of an annuity for the healthy retirees most likely to purchase one. But this doesn’t tell us whether an annuity is a smart purchase for someone who thinks of themselves as being in comparatively poorer health, or with a spottier family health history, and folks in these categories would benefit considerably from analysis that’s targeted at them, that evaluates, realistically, whether annuities are the right call and whether their prediction of their life expectancy is likely to be right or wrong.

In the second place, the 92% – 94% money’s worth calculation is based on the typical investment portfolio of insurance companies, approximated by the returns of BBB-rated bonds. This measures whether the annuity is “fair” or not, in that “moral” sense of whether the perception that the company is “cheating” is customers is real (it’s not).

But these interest rates are very low. The authors, in addition to their calculations of “money’s worth,” back into the implied discount rate from the annuity costs themselves. For men aged 65, that interest rate is 2.16%; for women aged 65, 2.18%.

Now, imagine that you compare this annuity to an alternative plan of investing your money in the stock market, earning 7% annual returns, and believing you can predict your death date (or not really caring if you fall short or end up with leftover money for heirs).

The cost of the protection offered by the annuity, the guarantee that you will never run out of money, and that you will not suffer from a market crash, is very expensive indeed — when you compare apples to oranges in this manner, the money’s worth ratio is, according to my very rough estimates, more like 60%, meaning that about 40% of your cash is spent to purchase the “insurance protection” of the annuity.

And, again, that’s not because insurance companies are cheating anyone; that’s solely because of the wide gap between corporate bond rates and expected returns when investing in the stock market— a gap which was particularly wide in the summer of 2020 when this study was competed, but remains nearly as wide now.

As it stands, Moody’s Baa rates are in the 3% range; in the 2000s, they were in the 6% range, and in the 1990s, from 7% – 9%. Although this drop in bond rates is good news for American homebuyers because this marches in tandem with mortgage rates, it makes it far harder for retirees to manage their finances in ways that protect them from the risks that they face in their retirement.

Perhaps interest rates in general, and bond rates specifically, will increase as we leave our current economic challenges, but there’s no certainty, and as long as this gap between bond rates and expected stock market returns remains so substantial, retirees will be challenged to find any sort of safe investment that makes sense for them. Which means that what seems like a great benefit for Americans looking to borrow money — for mortgages, car loans, credit cards — can pit the elderly against the young in a generational “us vs. them” contest.

As always, you’re invited to comment at JaneTheActuary.com!

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Yes, I’m a nerd, and an actuary to boot. Armed with an M.A. in medieval history and the F.S.A. actuarial credential, with 20 years of experience at a major benefits consulting firm, and having blogged as “Jane the Actuary” since 2013, I enjoy reading and writing about retirement issues, including retirement income adequacy, reform proposals and international comparisons.

Source: Do You Get Your Money’s Worth From Buying An Annuity?

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Critics:

An annuity is a series of payments made at equal intervals.[1] Examples of annuities are regular deposits to a savings account, monthly home mortgage payments, monthly insurance payments and pension payments. Annuities can be classified by the frequency of payment dates. The payments (deposits) may be made weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or at any other regular interval of time. Annuities may be calculated by mathematical functions known as “annuity functions”.

An annuity which provides for payments for the remainder of a person’s lifetime is a life annuity.

Variability of payments

  • Fixed annuities – These are annuities with fixed payments. If provided by an insurance company, the company guarantees a fixed return on the initial investment. Fixed annuities are not regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Variable annuities – Registered products that are regulated by the SEC in the United States of America. They allow direct investment into various funds that are specially created for Variable annuities. Typically, the insurance company guarantees a certain death benefit or lifetime withdrawal benefits.
  • Equity-indexed annuities – Annuities with payments linked to an index. Typically, the minimum payment will be 0% and the maximum will be predetermined. The performance of an index determines whether the minimum, the maximum or something in between is credited to the customer.

See also

References

  • Kellison, Stephen G. (1970). The Theory of Interest. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin, Inc. p. 45
  • Lasher, William (2008). Practical financial management. Mason, Ohio: Thomson South-Western. p. 230. ISBN 0-324-42262-8..
  1. Jordan, Bradford D.; Ross, Stephen David; Westerfield, Randolph (2000). Fundamentals of corporate finance. Boston: Irwin/McGraw-Hill. p. 175. ISBN 0-07-231289-0.
  • Samuel A. Broverman (2010). Mathematics of Investment and Credit, 5th Edition. ACTEX Academic Series. ACTEX Publications. ISBN 978-1-56698-767-7.
  • Stephen Kellison (2008). Theory of Interest, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill/Irwin. ISBN 978-0-07-338244-9.

How to Buy Happiness (Responsibly)

The great reopening offers ample opportunity to lift your spirits if you have some money to spare. Here’s how to do it right. Bring on the nationwide spending binge. Half of all people over 18 in the United States are now fully vaccinated. Tens of millions of them are emerging, blinking in the springtime sunshine, and heading straight for restaurants, movie theaters or a flight to somewhere — or anywhere, really.

It is true that millions of people are still trying to get their hotel jobs or theater gigs back. But collectively, Americans are holding on to a larger share of their income than they have in decades.

That leftover money is a kind of kindling. We may look back on this moment as a once-in-a-lifetime period, when many millions of Americans felt that money was burning actual holes in their pockets.

It is an unfamiliar sensation for many of us. “There is a puritanical streak that runs through all aspects of money in America,” said Ramit Sethi, an author who focuses more attention than most on spending well in addition to saving intelligently. “And most of the conversations start with no.”

But we should consider the strong possibility that saying yes right now could bring a true improvement in happiness. So this column — and another one next week — will be about maximizing it through strategic spending.

The conversation begins with “Yes, and … — with perhaps with a side order of “Yes, but …” To help us all get there, I called on some of my most thoughtful contacts among people who talk, think or write about money. And I made sure to ask them this: What are you doing yourself?

Brian Thompson, a financial planner in Chicago, was prepared for this moment. He generally has two questions at the ready: What do you want to spend your money on? And why are you really spending it?

There are no wrong answers, Mr. Thompson said. “I always come from the approach that there is no judgment, and I try to come with empathy to help people clarify what the money means for them,” he said.

Paradoxically, the first thing to think about here is saving. Paulette Perhach said it better than I could here in her classic 2016 article exhorting everyone to build a freedom fund. (“Freedom” is my word — she uses an F-bomb, if you’re trying to find it via internet search.)

Savings aren’t just for when your car breaks down or you get sick. Having a freedom fund means you are not beholden to someone else — whether that’s a significant other who is treating you like garbage or a boss who is harassing you or otherwise making you miserable.

“This is about power, and power comes in a lot of different forms,” Ms. Perhach, an essayist and a writing coach, told me this week. “It comes from options. From looking at life and making sure one person does not have so much say over the outcome of your finances that you would have to tolerate behavior that goes against your own self-respect.”

Every few years, I reopen my well-worn copy of “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending,” a book from 2013 by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, for a review session. This time, I called Professor Dunn, a member of the psychology department at the University of British Columbia, to help me along.

A first principle of research in this area has generally been that buying an experience brings more satisfaction — and less buyer’s remorse — than buying stuff. In the years since the book was published, Professor Dunn said, this conclusion has largely held up for people with more money, though it can be less true for people farther down the socioeconomic ladder.

So what types of experiences should we be making a priority?

After a year marked by loss, I adopted a narrow approach focused on things that I might not have a chance to do again. I will never attend another John Prine concert or again eat food touched by the hands of Floyd Cardoz, both of whom were among the many we lost to the pandemic.

But there are things I can do instead that aren’t likely to recur, like attending my friend’s swearing-in ceremony as police chief in another state. And I’m prioritizing a trip with my daughters to the Great Barrier Reef (using approximately 9,000 years of frequent-flier mile savings) before it is no more.

Professor Dunn endorsed my plans, and the need to get out into the world again. “The only experiences I’ve been having are Netflix and DoorDash,” she said.

Professor Dunn lost her mother, Winifred Warren, to lung cancer in September and has a plan to celebrate her someplace other than a Zoom chat. Soon, she’ll get over the border to California and dine with her aunt and her mother’s best friend at the famed French Laundry — where Ms. Warren had been hoping to go herself, once she got better.

But just because so much fun seems available again all at once, it doesn’t mean you should pursue it all simultaneously. People who have reasonably high incomes — but the proclivity to go the immediate gratification route — can rack up quite a bit of debt,” Professor Dunn said.

Indeed, credit card issuers are licking their lips in anticipation of whatever orgy of spending ensues this year. Ms. Perhach found herself impulsively buying concert tickets recently and was inspired to pen a warning about the behavioral science of overspending for Vox.

The gratification doesn’t necessarily last long — and can even be wiped out by the dread of any new debt, she said. “I’ve done trips with an undercurrent of ‘I’m about to be in trouble,’” she told me this week. “And that’s not a great recipe for fun.”

If you are among the many lucky millions who are better off financially than you were at the beginning of 2020, consider how good it might feel to give something away.

Minnie Lau has spent much of the past year helping her accounting clients in the San Francisco Bay Area spend and save the windfalls from initial public offerings and other stock winnings in as tax savvy a manner as possible. Both they and she have done quite well. They did nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for.

But amid so much death, fear and suffering, coming out ahead still leads to conflicted feelings. “My ill-gotten gains are going to the food bank,” Ms. Lau said of the money she has made investing this year. “People should not have to line up for food. Didn’t California just announce that it had a surplus? What kind of crazy world is this?”

Everyone else I talked to this week felt a similar urge. Professor Dunn recalled being overwhelmed with gratitude after receiving her coronavirus jab. Now, she’s a monthly donor to UNICEF’s vaccine equity initiative. Ms. Perhach is supporting VONA, which helps writers of color, while Mr. Sethi busted into his emergency fund to donate to Feeding America and match his readers’ donations.

Mr. Thompson, the financial planner, has given money to help people who are both Black and transgender — a segment of the population that he believes needs more help than most. And he’s redoubling his efforts at work to reduce the racial wealth gap.

“If I can help more people build more wealth to pass down, it is a way of serving my purpose and helping people in the process,” he said. “And I think that takes more than just giving. It means systemic change.”

Ron Lieber

 

 

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/

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Critics:

Money management is the process of expense tracking, investing, budgeting, banking and evaluating taxes of one’s money which is also called investment management. Money management is a strategic technique to make money yield the highest interest-output value for any amount spent. Spending money to satisfy cravings (regardless of whether they can justifiably be included in a budget) is a natural human phenomenon.

The idea of money management techniques has been developed to reduce the amount that individuals, firms, and institutions spend on items that add no significant value to their living standards, long-term portfolios, and assets. Warren Buffett, in one of his documentaries, admonished prospective investors to embrace his highly esteemed “frugality” ideology. This involves making every financial transaction worth the expense:

1. avoid any expense that appeals to vanity or snobbery
2. always go for the most cost-effective alternative (establishing small quality-variance benchmarks, if any)
3. favor expenditures on interest-bearing items over all others
4. establish the expected benefits of every desired expenditure using the canon of plus/minus/nil to the standard of living value system.

References

China’s GDP Surge Is Chance To Reboot Country’s Image On World Stage

China’s economy had a great 12 months, leading the globe out of the Covid-19 era. Yet the last year has damaged something equally important: Beijing’s soft power.

Beijing’s handling of questions about what happened in Wuhan—and why officials were so slow to warn the world about a coming pandemic—boggles the mind. If China’s handling of the initial outbreak was indeed the “decisive victory” that it claims, why overreact to Australia’s call for a probe?

Harvard Kennedy School students might one day take classes recounting how China’s leaders squandered the Donald Trump era. As the U.S. president was undermining alliances, upending supply chains, losing allies, and playing down the pandemic, Beijing had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to increase the country’s influence at Washington’s expense.

And now, many in Beijing appear to understand the extent to which they blew it. Earlier this month, Xi Jinping urged the Communist Party to cultivate a “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” image globally. It’s the clearest indication yet that the “wolf warrior” ethos espoused in recent times by Chinese diplomats was too Trump-like for comfort—and backfiring.

The remedy here is obvious: being the reliable economic engine leaders from the East to West desire.

The Trump administration’s policies had a vaguely developing-nation thrust—favoring a weaker currency, banning companies, tariffs of the kind that might’ve worked in 1985, assaulting government institutions. They shook faith in America’s ability to anchor global finance. The last four years saw a bull market in chatter about replacing the dollar as reserve currency and the centrality of U.S. Treasury debt.

China is enjoying a burst of good press for its gross domestic product trends. Not just for the pace of GDP, but the way Xi’s team appears to be seeking a more balanced and sustainable mix of growth sources. Though some pundits were disappointed by news that industrial production rose just 6.6% in May on a two-year average basis, it essentially gets Asia’s biggest back to where it was pre-Covid-19.

China is getting there, slowly but surely. Far from disappointing, though, data suggest Xi’s party learned valuable lessons from the myriad boom/bust cycles that put China in global headlines since 2008. That was the year the “Lehman shock” devastated world markets and threatened to interrupt China’s meteoric rise.

Instead, Beijing bent economic reality to its benefit. Yet the untold trillions of dollars of stimulus that then-President Hu Jintao’s team threw at the economy caused as many long-term headaches as short-term gains. It financed an unproductive infrastructure boom—one prioritizing the quantity of growth over quality—that fueled bubbles. It generated a moral-hazard dynamic that encouraged greater risk and leverage.

Unfortunately, Xi’s government doubled down on the approach in 2015, when Shanghai stocks went into freefall. The impulse then, as in the 2008-2009 period, was to throw even more cash at the problem—treating the symptoms, not the underlying ailments.

The ways in which Team Xi restored calm—bailouts, loosening leverage and reserve requirement protocols, halting initial public offerings and suspending trading in thousands of companies—did little to build a more nimble and transparent system. The message to punters was, no worries, the Communist Party and People’s Bank of China have your backs. Always.

Yet things appear to be changing. In 2020, while the U.S., Europe and Japan went wild with new stimulus schemes, Beijing took a targeted and minimalist approach. Japan alone threw $2.2 trillion, 40% of GDP, at its cratering economy. The Federal Reserve went on an asset-buying tear.

The PBOC, by sharp contrast, resisted the urge to go the quantitative easing route. That is helping Xi in his quest to deleverage the economy. It’s a very difficult balancing act, of course. The will-they-or-won’t-they-default drama unfolding at China Huarong Asset Management demonstrates the risks of hitting the stimulus brakes too hard.

The good news is that so far China seems to be pursuing a stable and lasting 2021 recovery, not the overwhelming force of previous efforts. And that’s just what the world needs. A 6% growth rate year after year will win China more soft-power points than the GDP extremes. So will China accelerating its transition from exports to an innovation-and-services-based power.

It’s grand that President Joe Biden rapidly raised America’s vaccination game. That means the two biggest economies are recovering simultaneously, reinforcing each other.

China’s revival could have an even bigger impact. Look at how China’s growth in recent months is lifting so many boats in Asia. In May alone, Japan enjoyed a 23.6% surge in shipments to China. Mainland demand for everything from motor vehicles to semiconductor machinery to paper products is helping Japan recover from its worst downturn in decades. South Korea, too.

The best thing Xi can do to boost China’s soft power is to lean into this recovery, and provide the stability that the rest of the globe needs. Xi should let China’s GDP power do the talking for him.

I am a Tokyo-based journalist, former columnist for Barron’s and Bloomberg and author of “Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades.” My journalism awards include the 2010 Society of American Business Editors and Writers prize for commentary.

Source: China’s GDP Surge Is Chance To Reboot Country’s Image On World Stage

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Critics:

The economy of China is a developing market-oriented economy that incorporates economic planning through industrial policies and strategic five-year plans. Dominated by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and mixed-ownership enterprises, the economy also consists of a large domestic private sector and openness to foreign businesses in a system described as a socialist market economy.

State-owned enterprises accounted for over 60% of China’s market capitalization in 2019 and generated 40% of China’s GDP of US$15.66 trillion in 2020, with domestic and foreign private businesses and investment accounting for the remaining 60%. As of the end of 2019, the total assets of all China’s SOEs, including those operating in the financial sector, reached US$78.08 trillion. Ninety-one (91) of these SOEs belong to the 2020 Fortune Global 500 companies.

China has the world’s second largest economy when measured by nominal GDP, and the world’s largest economy since 2014 when measured by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which is claimed by some to be a more accurate measure of an economy’s true size.It has been the second largest by nominal GDP since 2010, which rely on fluctuating market exchange rates.An official forecast states that China will become the world’s largest economy in nominal GDP by 2028.Historically, China was one of the world’s foremost economic powers for most of the two millennia from the 1st until the 19th century.

The Chinese economy has been characterized as being dominated by few, larger entities including Ant Group and Tencent. In recent years there has been attempts by the Xi Jinping Administration to enforce economic competition rules, and probes into Alibaba and Tencent have been launched by Chinese economic regulators.

The crackdown on monopolies by tech giants and internet companies follows with recent calls by the Politburo against monopolistic practices by commercial retail giants like Alibaba. Comparisons have been made with similar probes into Amazon in the United States.

See also

5 Myths About Flexible Work

Flexibility might be great in theory, but it just doesn’t work for us. We have literally heard this statement hundreds of times over the years. It doesn’t matter what industry we’re talking about — whether it’s tech, government, finance, healthcare, or small business, we’ve heard it. There’s always someone who works from the premise that “there’s no way flexible work policies can work in our organization.”

In reality, flexible work policies can work in any industry. The last twelve months of the pandemic have proven this. In fact, a recent Harvard Business School Online study showed that most professionals have excelled in their jobs while working from home, and 81% either don’t want to go back to the office or would choose a hybrid schedule post-pandemic. It’s important to recognize, however, that flexibility doesn’t always look the same — one size definitely does not fit all.

The Myth of the Five C’s

You may be wondering, “If you can recruit the best candidates, increase your retention rates, improve your profits, and advance innovation by incorporating a relatively simple and inexpensive initiative, then why haven’t more organizations developed flex policies?” This question will be even harder for organizations to ignore after we’ve experienced such a critical test case during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Insight Center Collection

Building Tomorrow’s Workforce

How the best companies identify and manage talent. We believe fear has created stumbling blocks for many organizations when it comes to flexibility. Companies either become frozen by fear or they become focused by fear. It is focus that can help companies pivot during challenging times. In the years that we’ve been working with companies on flexibility, we’ve heard countless excuses and myths for why they have not implemented a flex policy. In fact, the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance has boiled these myths down to the fear of losing the 5 C’s:
  1. Loss of control
  2. Loss of culture
  3. Loss of collaboration
  4. Loss of contribution
  5. Loss of connection

Addressing the Fears

Myth #1: Loss of Control

Executives are often worried that they’ll open Pandora’s box and set a dangerous precedent if they allow some employees to work flexibly. They worry that if they let a few employees work from home, then the office will always be empty and no one will be working. The answer to this is structure and clarity. We can virtually guarantee that any organization that correctly designs and implements their flexibility policy will not lose anything.

To maintain control and smooth operation of your organization, it’s imperative that you set standards and clearly communicate them. Organizations should provide clear guidelines on the types of flexibility offered (for example, remote work, reduced hours, asynchronous schedules, job sharing and/or compressed work weeks) and create a centralized approval process for flexibility to ensure that the system is equitable. It is also helpful to have a calendar system for tracking when and where each team member is working.

You must also commit to training everyone on these standards — from those working a flexible schedule, to those supervising them, to all other coworkers. Education and training will help your team avoid “flex stigma,” where employees are disadvantaged or viewed as less committed due to their flexibility. Training can also help organizations to ensure that successful systems and structures that support flexibility are maintained.

Myth #2: Loss of Culture

While you may not see every employee every day, and you may not be able to have lunch with people every day, culture does not have to suffer with a flexible work initiative. However, it is essential that teams meet either in person or via video conference on a regular basis. At the Alliance, we recommend that companies and firms first define what culture means to their individual organization and then determine how they might maintain this culture in a hybrid or virtual environment.

Many organizations with whom we’ve worked reported that they found creative ways to maintain culture during months of remote working during the pandemic. Many Alliance members organized social functions like virtual exercise classes, cooking classes, happy hours, and team-building exercises to maintain community. Additionally, it’s important to take advantage of the days when everyone is physically present to develop relationships, participate in events, and spend one-to-one time with colleagues.

Myth # 3: Loss of Collaboration

As long as teams that are working a flexible schedule commit to regular meetings and consistent communication, then collaboration will not be compromised. It’s important for all team members to maintain contact (even if it’s online), keep tabs on all projects, and be responsive to emails and phone calls. We always recommend that remote teams also meet in person occasionally to maintain personal contact and relationships.

For collaboration to be successful, remote employees must not be held to a higher standard that those working in the office. Additionally, technology should be used to enhance collaboration. For example, when companies are bringing teams together for brainstorming sessions, virtual breakout rooms can facilitate small group collaboration and help to ensure that all voices are heard. Some organizational leaders have also incorporated regular virtual office hours for unscheduled feedback and informal collaboration.

Myth #4: Loss of Contribution

We have often heard leaders say: “If employees are not physically at their desks in the office, then how will we know that they’re actually working?” But with endless distractions available on computers these days (from online shopping, to Instagram, to Facebook, etc.) you really don’t know what your employees are doing at their desks, even if they are in the office.

In fact, they could be searching for a new job (that offers flexibility!) right before your eyes. It’s important to clearly communicate what is expected of each individual and trust that they will complete the job within the expected timeframe. All employees should be evaluated on the quality of their work and their ability to meet clearly defined performance objectives, rather than on time spent in the office.

Myth #5: Loss of Connection

Technology now enables people to connect at any time of the day in almost any locationMeetings can be held through a myriad of video conferencing applications. Additionally, calendar-sharing apps can help to coordinate team schedules and assist with knowing the availability of team members. Even networking events can now be done virtually. For example, one of our team members created a system for scheduling informal virtual coffee chats between partners and associates to maintain opportunities for networking and mentoring during the pandemic.

It’s important to know what your employees and stakeholders prefer in terms of in-person, hybrid, or virtual-only connection. In a recent survey conducted by BNI of over 2,300 people from around the world, the networking organization asked the participants if they would like their meetings to be: 1) in-person only, 2) online only, or 3) a blend of online and in-person meetings.

One third of the participants surveyed said that they wanted to go back completely to in-person meetings. However, 16% wanted to stick with online meetings only, and almost 51% of the survey respondents were in favor of a blend of meeting both in-person and online. This is a substantial transition from the organizational practice prior to the pandemic, with a full two-thirds of the organization saying that they would prefer some aspect of online meetings to be the norm in the future.

A recent 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey found that almost half of the CEOs of major corporations around the world do not expect to see a return to “normal” this year. Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic will be that corporate leaders have overcome their fears of the 5C’s and will now understand how flexibility can benefit their recruitment and retention efforts — not to mention productivity and profitability.

By:Manar Morales & Ivan Misner

Source: 5 Myths About Flexible Work

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Critics:

A flexible work arrangement (FWA) empowers an employee to choose what time they begin to work, where to work, and when they will stop work. The idea is to help manage work-life balance and benefits of FWA can include reduced employee stress and increased overall job satisfaction. On the contrary, some refrain from using their FWA as they fear the lack of visibility can negatively affect their career.

Overall, this type of arrangement has a positive effect on incompatible work/family responsibilities, which can be seen as work affecting family responsibilities or family affecting work responsibilities. FWA is also helpful to those who have a medical condition or an intensive care-giving responsibility, where without FWA, part-time work would be the only option.

Types of flexible work arrangements

References

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