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Investment Banking in New York

Banking Investment / June 24, 2021

When Dave finally calls it a day and leaves his downtown employer on a Friday night at 9 p.m., he doesn’t officially log off of his computer. That’s because the 24-year-old from Chelsea knows that by the following morning — yes, a Saturday — he’ll be back in the office sporting a suit and tie.

“In investment banking, that’s what you do. Working on Saturdays is a no-brainer, ” says the sleep-deprived banker, who asked for his last name to be withheld for professional reasons. Sure, he earns six figures, but he also averages just five hours of shut-eye a night after his typical 16-hour workdays.

That’s unacceptable, according to JPMorgan Chase.

Before January, the bank considered itself generous for allowing its young bankers one work-free weekend each month. But JPMorgan Chase has since changed its tune: Employees are now encouraged to take off every weekend, unless they’re working on live deals, per its new “pencils down” policy.

Score one for employees’ rights, yes?

Investment bankers aren’t the only ambitious New Yorkers pushing themselves to the brink with intense hours. Law-firm partners, chief executives, physicians and even chefs work considerably longer hours than the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 national average of 7.8 hours per workday.

“[These people] won’t drop their work, ” Cohen adds. “These folks are hard-wired to compete and work without limits. They also know that if they drop the ball, there are dozens of others eager to retrieve it.”

‘These folks … know that if they drop the ball, there are dozens of others eager to retrieve it.’

- Career coach Roy Cohen

Adam Goodman, 29, can attest to that. As the former vice president at a boutique banking firm, working on Saturdays was the norm — as were 70- to 100-hour workweeks. While he applauds JPMorgan Chase’s new policy, he points out that “newer investment bankers will gladly come in [on the weekends], because they feel it’s their responsibility. [The] senior guys had to put in their time, and now the junior guys feel they need to do the same.”

And bosses do little to alleviate that pressure, as some contact their employees throughout the weekend with the expectation they’ll receive an answer. “It’s a slippery slope, since most conscientious professionals concerned about how their boss perceives them and their work ethic will respond to the email or call over the weekend, ” says Caroline Dowd-Higgins, career coach and author of “This Is Not the Career I Ordered.”

Though there may be little relief for investment bankers, Maggie Mistal of MMM Career Consulting maintains that, for most employees, it is possible to set boundaries when you’re off the clock.

For starters, shut off email notifications on your phone and alert colleagues to call you in case a true emergency arises — but be sure to define what a real emergency entails so you’re not called for something as small as a fire drill. “This way, you are free from constant email alerts that bring your brain back to the office, but you are still available if a situation really needs your attention, ” Mistal says.

She notes the same applies to a weekend packed with busy personal plans. “I proactively let those I’m working with know that I will be unavailable, and [tell them] who they should contact if they need assistance in my absence.”

In addition, Mistal advises talking to your boss about all of the work you’re doing they may not be aware of, and to get support in potentially redistributing work that’s beyond the scope of your job. And if the boss isn’t open to redistribution and chooses to continue having the work fall on your shoulders, she suggests considering alternatives like moving on.

But before you take such a drastic step, be certain your feelings of being overworked are justified — and not simply an expectation of your chosen career.