Why are Wall Street financiers working too hard and is it possible to fix it?
Image: Jordan Richmond | CC BY 2.0
The Institutional Investor has published a long article on the working ethics of American financial companies on Wall Street. The authors figured out why employees of such organizations often work almost without sleep and weekends. We present the main ideas of this material.
Workaholism is part of American culture. According to Malissa Clark, associate professor in the field of psychology and the head of the University of Georgia Research Laboratory of Work and Family Studies, people recycle, also because of repentance - it seems to them that everyone around does more than them.
Finance is one of the industries where the workaholism of employees is strongly encouraged. According to Clark, there are frequent situations when employees are required to be in touch 24/7, and management encourages processing.
The founder of the New York Avenue Group, a consulting firm from Jeremy Greenberg, uses wheel metaphor for hamster to describe Wall Street. According to him, financial companies pay a lot of attention to performance metrics - management analyzes the number of hours spent by employees in the office, and the time spent on a specific project is calculated. As a result, even the employees themselves begin to brag about how little they sleep.
However, the situation is explained not only by the concepts prevailing in the industry. Greenberg explains that financiers are forced to work a lot and, due to the nature of the markets around the world, the temporary difference between the US and Asia, where the major exchanges are located, reaches 12 hours. To co-ordinate actions on various trading floors, financial companies have to adapt, as a result, often meetings take place early in the morning or late in the evening.
Typical day on wall street
When Amit Hezi, a twenty-five year old auditor (Amit Hezi) got a job at Ernst & Young, he did not expect him to work 80 hours a week. But it was in this mode that all his colleagues worked. The working day of the Big Four's auditor begins at 9 am, he often leaves the office at 11 pm, and then checks the mail from his laptop at home until two in the morning. Often, in order not to break deadlines, we have to work on weekends.
At the same time, Hezi calmly refers to such processing, the young man is convinced that a lot of work is necessary to remain effective. He admits that half a year of work in this mode has led to burnout, but he believes that this is the only way to make a career.
Such an attitude can be fraught with real danger. And for financial companies, alarm signals have already sounded. For example, in 2015, an intern at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, Moritz Erhardt, died of an epileptic seizure after 72 hours in a row. After this incident, the bank launched a global assessment of the employees' working hours, including reducing the number of days that interns can work in a row.
Dreams of a four-hour working week
Information about how other industries relate to the search for a balance between work and personal life, reaches the financiers. There are many among the inhabitants of Wall Street who would like to work remotely while drinking cocktails on the beach. Popular books like Timothy Ferriss, a book about the four-hour work week , which has become a world bestseller, contribute to this desire .
Ferris admits that he himself once worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. At that time, he earned $ 70,000 a month, but did not know what to do with such money, and he felt disgusting.
Despite the success of his book, experts doubt the reality of the implementation of its financial advice. For example, Malissa Clark believes that the four-hour work week is unattainable for some professions. She advises employees of financial companies on Wall Street to begin with gradual improvements in the area of work-life balance.
For example, those of them who due to processing leave the office at nine in the evening, it is worth trying at least sometimes to leave at eight. Do not forget about lunch breaks that can be used for walks. It is also important to establish boundaries that work cannot overcome — for example, to prohibit yourself from checking mail on weekends.
“The hedge fund guy will never be able to work from home four days a week. Such people can only gradually reduce the time spent at work, and this should be done smoothly, openly and after consulting with management, ”agrees Jeremy Greenberg.
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