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Maintaining Work/Life Balance for Finance Professionals

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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, a number of mega-trends were making 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, a situation that places an even greater strain on the growing number of single parents.

An adverse work/life balance can cause burnout, stress, and health problems; it can also take a substantial toll on marital and family relationships. Because these issues can have a significant effect on worker productivity and output, many progressive organizations are making it a top priority to address the topic of work/life balance and have put in place policies and procedures aimed at encouraging employees to achieve it.

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.

  • 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.
  • There are ways in which one can work toward achieving work/life balance, including 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 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.

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. Many (possibly one-third) work between 50 and 70 hours per week, and those at investment banks may clock as many as 70 to 85 or even 100 hours per week. Though financial analysts 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 to make for senior professionals who are 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. In the U.S., finance-related firms that made the top 20 in 2020 included 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.

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 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. 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 and elective sabbaticals, access to child care, and workplace facilities such as gymnasiums and subsidized cafeterias.

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.

Wildbit, a small software company founded in Philadelphia in 2000, experimented with a four-day workweek in 2017 and made it permanent.

Companies 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. It offers its employees a variety of flexible work options. These include the flexibility to change times for starting and ending work, reducing the workweek, changing the number of days worked while keeping hours the same, job sharing with another employee, and the ability to work from home for a certain number of days per week.

Acuity Insurance, which ranked first on Glassdoor.com’s list of best companies for work/life balance in 2020, was cited for its flexible schedules and hours, on-site gym, and “lots of extras,” but most of all, a familial feeling: “Acuity wants me to succeed at my job but also at life,” one employee wrote. Lendio won kudos for its excellent benefits, “snacks in the break room for free,” “great work/life balance especially during COVID”—”and they don’t micromanage.”

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 culture of work/life balance to attract and retain talented employees. The negative effects of an adverse work/life balance include burnout, stress, health problems, and the breakdown of marital and family 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.

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. Some credit the concept to industrial engineer/efficiency expert Lillian Gilbreth, the matriarch of the family in the book Cheaper by the Dozen.

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. That’s a bit of an understatement, some industry pros would say. Word on the street is that most financial analysts work somewhere between 50 and 70 hours per week, and that doesn’t include time spent studying for professional and licensing exams.

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.

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