Many bankers and other finance workers regularly put in 120-hour weeks. But all that might be about to change, thanks to new polices at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which force associates to take at least one day off a week (or four weekend days off a month, depending). Given that most of us aren’t pulling down finance-sector money, why would we care? Think of those junior bankers as canaries in the coal mine of our work-life balance.
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In part, technology has forced the change.
“Today, technology means that we’re all available 24/7,” says David Solomon, the global co-head of investment banking at Goldman, tells James Surowiecki, in an interview with The New Yorker. “And, because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks.”
Surowiecki points out that it isn’t just junior bankers who feel the pinch. Anyone who toils in an industry where the bulk of the work can be done online or over a phone has seen the gradual disappearance of boundaries between their work and their personal life. Worse, it’s often hard to define the differences between work and leisure, even to ourselves: if we always carry our smartphones, it’s hard not to dip into our work email, even at our kids’ soccer games or waiting in line at the movies.
The answer might be company policies like these. In addition to mandating days off and forcing workers to take their vacation time, some companies are putting a hold on work email after hours.
Given the pressure many feel to out-perform co-workers in order to stay employed, making work-life balance company policy might be the only way to make sure workers get balance in their lives.
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