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Maintaining Work/Life Balance for Finance Professionals

Work/life balance—the ongoing process of striking a balance between one’s work or career and the other aspects or demands of life (including family, leisure, and personal responsibilities)—is an ongoing challenge of contemporary existence. Even before COVID-19 turned homes into makeshift offices, several mega-trends made it more difficult to achieve work/life balance.

One factor is technological advancement, which has improved communications tremendously but has blurred the lines between personal time and work time. Another factor is demographic change, as numerous couples of the “sandwich generation” struggle to cope with caring for their aging parents on the one hand and their children on the other. This situation places an even more tremendous strain on the growing number of single parents.

A negative work/life balance can cause burnout, stress, health problems, and pressure on marital and family relationships. Because these issues can significantly affect worker productivity and output, many progressive organizations are prioritizing addressing the topic of work/life balance. They have implemented policies and procedures to encourage employees to achieve it.

  • The finance industry is infamous for struggling to create a positive work/life balance because of its long hours and intensely competitive nature.
  • Achieving work/life balance includes being proactive in requesting flexibility with work hours, remote work, and time.
  • Job seekers should look for companies that encourage work/life balance.
  • Fostering a culture of work/life balance is crucial for attracting and retaining good employees
  • Remote work may allow for more opportunities to have a work/life balance.

Work/Life Balance in Finance

The finance industry is infamous for being one of the most difficult sectors in which to achieve work/life balance because of its long hours and intensely competitive nature. For example, financial analysts routinely work more than 40 hours per week.

Junior employees at investment banks may clock as many as 100 hours per week, according to a study done by Goldman Sachs in 2021. Though financial analysts and investment and banking professionals enjoy above-average compensation and growth prospects, as with any other demanding profession, there is a cost in terms of high-stress levels and limited time for self and family.

Work/life balance is a global issue. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) maintains data on work/life balance for 41 countries as part of its Better Life Index. The OECD ranks the U.S. 29th out of these nations for work/life balance.

U.S. workers work an average of 1,767 hours per year, well above the OECD average of 1,687 hours, while 10.4% of U.S. employees work “very long hours” (i.e. more than 50 hours per week). The U.S. also scores low on the work/life balance scale because it is the only OECD nation without a national paid parental leave policy, although certain states provide such payments. In contrast, Canada ranks 14th for work/life balance, with Canadians on average working 1,644 hours per year and only 3.3% working more than 50 hours per week.

95+

The number of hours Goldman Sachs first-year analysts reported working in a February 2021 survey. A month later, Goldman announced it would better enforce its “Saturday rule,” which stipulates that junior staff should not be expected in the office between 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Sunday.

What Employees Can Do

The results of a 2022 Pew Research study revealed the extent of difficulty faced by working people in juggling work and family life. 58% of working mothers and 43% of working fathers said they found it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities. But there are ways in which one can work toward achieving work/life balance.

Make Work/Life Balance a Priority

Before signing up for yet another arduous assignment that will involve working an 80-hour week, ask yourself whether you really need to take it on or whether you would be better off spending some of that time with your family. Though choices like these may be easier for senior professionals high up in the corporate hierarchy, an enlightened company will not penalize an employee for turning down an assignment that involves putting in long hours. Or at least management will try to work with them to develop a more reasonable timeline or get extra help.

Likewise, being proactive in asking your company for some flexibility with work hours to care for a young child, for example, is likely to make you a happier and more productive employee.

Look for Companies That Encourage Work/Life Balance

Most of the biggest and best companies encourage work/life balance because retaining talented employees is a critical part of their growth strategy. But it’s not just the Fortune 500 companies that offer this balance. Numerous smaller companies do so as well, so focus on this aspect while conducting your job search.

Glassdoor.com, for instance, releases an annual list of their top companies for work/life balance based on employee feedback. While technology firms, dominated the list, U.S., finance-related firms and consulting companies also found spots in the top 20 in 2022 including Veterans United Home Loans.

Be a Leader for Change

Deloitte Dads is a support group for working fathers that was started by a couple of consultants in the accounting and consulting giant Deloitte LLP. The group got its inspiration from Career Moms, which was organized in 2007 by another Deloitte consultant to help working mothers. If your company does not yet have someone to champion work/life balance, consider taking the lead.

There are numerous ways in which companies and employers can develop perks to make work more palatable. These include telecommuting, flexible work schedules, mandatory vacations, elective sabbaticals, access to child care, and workplace facilities such as gymnasiums and subsidized cafeterias.

What Employers Can Do 

Though retaining the best employees is a perpetual challenge for most companies, it is proving to be especially so for financial firms in recent years. One of the consequences of the 2008 market meltdown was that the financial industry came under an increasing degree of regulatory scrutiny, while compensation levels in areas related to capital markets also declined. As a result, Wall Street is no longer the default destination of choice for talented young people. Many have opted to start their own fintech company or consulting firm instead.

So what can employers do? Fostering a culture of work/life balance is crucial for attracting and retaining good employees because an increasing number of people may prefer the flexibility and low-stress nature of such an environment to the rigidity and stress associated with a more conventional workplace. Some companies are experimenting with a four-day workweek. Wildbit, a small software company founded in Philadelphia in 2000, offers a four-day workweek as of 2017 and made it permanent.

Though there are undoubtedly costs involved for a company that offers these benefits, the return on such investments—in terms of better productivity, lower absenteeism, recruiting talented employees, retaining them, and developing greater commitment to corporate goals and objectives—will more than justify the expenses in most cases.

Example of a Company Encouraging Work/Life Balance

Flexible working hours appear to be one of the benefits most valued by employees. TD Bank Group (TD), one of Canada’s largest banks, has received numerous kudos and awards for its culture.

TD offers its employees a variety of flexible work options, such as an employee share ownership plan, flexible work hours, an Employee and Family Assistance program, mental health awareness training, and emergency childcare, according to its benefits page.

What Does Work/Life Balance Mean?

Work/life balance refers to the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy—the equilibrium between professional career/paid activities and personal life.

How Many Hours Do Financial Analysts Work?

Most financial analysts work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but industry experts say that is on the low end, especially for junior analysts.

Do Financial Analysts Make a Lot of Money?

The median annual wage for financial analysts was $81,410 in May 2021. The lowest 10% earned less than $48,740, and the highest 10% earned more than $163,640.

The Bottom Line

Though maintaining work/life balance is a challenge for most professionals in the finance industry, where working long hours is the norm, employers need to foster a work/life balance culture to attract and retain talented employees.

The negative effects of an adverse work/life balance include physical and emotional health problems and interference with family and relationships. Conversely, the positive effects of a healthy work/life balance include higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and decreased employee turnover, thereby benefiting all parties involved—employees, employers, and families.

Proper work/life balance benefits everybody: employees by reducing stress levels and increasing downtime; employers, by improving productivity, reducing absenteeism, and attracting/retaining good employees; and families, which benefit from increased parental involvement and more time with each other.

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