Work-life balance is the goal of many, even if the term trends towards the ambiguous. But the idea of work-life balance for employees focused on investment banks is often considered to be a myth.
Working for a large investment bank is a labor-intensive pursuit. Reviewing reports and research by analysts are no easy feats, and creating the detailed documents often required during the course of business can be likened to endurance trials. The traditional way of approaching a career in the industry was to buckle down and push through it, regardless of the hours it required. And, prior to the financial crisis, these efforts were offset by notable bonuses.
But the culture surrounding what is acceptable in the workplace has changed. And this potentially left investment banks without an effective strategy for wooing the best and brightest as the economy recovered.
However, many large institutions have made positive strides in providing opportunities for employees, including junior investment bankers, to lead fuller lives with new policies.
While the goal isn’t entirely altruistic, as both the bank and employee can benefit from these efforts, they do demonstrate a shift in thinking within the investment banking industry. Partially driven by employee retention efforts, as well as the work of some firms that are leading the charge, a more effective work-life balance may be achievable in this traditionally cutthroat sector.
To help you familiarize yourself with some of the opportunities currently on the table, here are some perks you can find within some of the largest investment firms across the globe.
Mandatory Time Off
One of the biggest keys to achieving work-life balance is to not spend every waking moment in the office. And the easiest way to get employees to out of the building is to make it policy. Investment banking giants like Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase have begun to encourage employees to leave work at the office, at least on the occasional Friday night or Saturday morning. UBS has told employees to set two hours a week aside to handle personal business, ranging from physical fitness pursuits to PTA meetings.
Citigroup went as far as requiring junior bankers take Saturday off and that they use all of their annual vacation time every year. Another big change in the area of time away from work was initiated by Morgan Stanley. Instead of having to wait approximately five years to be offered a sabbatical, their new policy allows the month-long break to be accessible to junior bankers that reach the vice-president level.
Goldman Sachs led the way for increasing the speed of promotions. With their retention initiatives, designed the keep junior bankers from being seduced by hedge funds and asset managers, Goldman aims to create a clear path to promotion for its newest employees. Barclays Capital quickly followed suit while Morgan Stanley began informing talented individuals of their potential within the first few months of employment.
While receiving a promotion does not signal less strenuous work conditions, it does work as a form of recognition for excelling in the field.
Flexible Scheduling and Remote Opportunities
Whether the result of the differing priorities of millennial workers or the advent of alternative employment options like Uber, having the ability to work outside of a standard nine to five at a specific desk has gained in popularity. Flexible scheduling and capacity to work remotely, at least on occasion, have become benefits du jour to those juggling work and personal obligations. This is even more relevant since advances in mobile technology have changed the business landscape, allowing an employee to functionally take the office with them almost anywhere.
Investment firms like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and CitiGroup have begun to embrace the concept of flexibility. Whether it is offered as a compressed work week, combining office days with work-from-home options, or simply adjusting the daily start and stop times, more companies are looking to attract employees by allowing their job to fit around their lives and not the other way around.
One method for making work-life balance easier is providing onsite facilities to help manage certain needs and obligations. Fitness centers, medical clinics, dining facilities, and similar offerings within the workplace eliminate the need to leave the area to get certain tasks completed.
Citibank offers employees meal vouchers, fully paid for by the company, to remove concerns about grabbing a bite to eat while at work. JPMorgan Chase provides access to backup child care services, discounts on a variety of products and access to counseling and guidance services. Goldman Sachs has onsite healthcare centers for routine medical needs and urgent care.
Most major investment firms offer healthcare coverage for employees, their spouses, and children. But some go beyond the standards, like JPMorgan Chase that extends healthcare options to include care for the parents of employees. Resources for expectant parents, including additional paid leave and adoption assistance, can also be found.
Goldman Sachs even offers employees who get married, or register for a domestic partnership, an additional week of vacation during that year.
Wellness and Business Coming Together
As we move forward throughout the next few years, more benefits designed to make work-life balance easier to achieve may be on the horizon. Improvements in technology change the way business tasks can be done, as well as where and when. Shifts in the definition of family are likely as more members of Generation X, and the Millennials, begin caring for aging parents, giving businesses a reason to explore how to provide benefits based on those changing needs.
While work-life balance in the world of investment banking may never reflect what can be achieved in certain other professions, the restored focus on wellness has things moving in a positive direction. So, begin looking for benefits outside of the traditional compensation package as health and wellness become more prominent concerns, and employees find new ways to find support for their demanding professional and personal lives.