COVID-Coordinators, Restroom-Limits, And Plexiglass-Dividers: How The Largest Hedge Funds Are Preparing To Re-Open

Hedge funds are going to extreme lengths to try and protect employees returning to work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Millennium Management is adhering to a lengthy 50 point checklist for re-opening its offices that includes items like air filtration and an application process for staff who want to return to the office, according to Bloomberg. Like their rivals, their plans also include infrared thermometers and plexiglass dividers for between desks. 

Staff will be scanned for fever upon walking to the elevator in many buildings. A new type of gloved doorman will await employees, tasked with pressing the buttons on the elevator and making sure that there is a limit to the total number of employees allowed in the building. 

The details at Millennium, which has 1,300 employees, also include the details of commuting and vacation planning. Millennium plans on not re-opening some offices until September, at the earliest. Funds are also implementing a longer-term work from home-style approach for many positions. 

Barbara Bernstein, chief human resources officer at $12.5 billion Magnetar Capital, said: “You have to rethink all the little things. One thing’s for sure, our offices will look and feel different.”

Her office has been discussing "modular furniture, grab-and-go lunches and foot pedals on stall doors in restrooms". 

Until funds re-open, banks are leading the way in terms of examples, keeping bare-bones crews on board and adopting practices like sanitizing stations to combat the virus. Recall, we noted months ago that Ken Griffith even up and moved his entire office to a makeshift trading floor at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. 

Those same banks are now discussing their measures for re-opening; most of which focus on crowd control. J.P. Morgan, for instance, says it'll keep offices half full. Citigroup is planning on opening additional offices in New York to spread out its staff.

Offices like Point72 will likely apply the same precautions they used at their Asian offices, like keeping doors open to limit touch areas and increase air flow, and setting up additional sanitizing stations. Millennium will be implementing checkerboard-style seating. 

Alifia Doriwala, a managing director at Rock Creek, said: “We’ve bought masks for our staff to wear. We’re thinking of closing the kitchen, and limiting bathroom use to two at a time.”

Firms like Clearbrook Global Advisors have developed a 7 stage plan for re-opening that includes an in-house Covid-19 coordinator and testing the 24 person staff before they return. Employees will also have to take educational training on how to navigate the premises and use masks. 

Bridgewater has said it plans on increasing deep cleanings, limit employee mingling (as if there was any at Bridgewater to begin with) and require masks "at least some of the time". 

A survey done in May of more than 50 hedge fund clients found that about 70% of them were starting to look at procedures for re-opening. Many are rearranging floor plans, separating employees and encouraging the use of stairwells instead of elevators. Only 7% of respondents said they would stagger the timing of people coming and going from the building.

Restrooms also remain a problem, since infected particles can linger in the air after a toilet is flushed. 

Bernstein concluded: “The pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink what our office spaces should look like in the future. That includes just how much space we’ll need now that more employees are more likely to work from home.”