I recently attended one of my daughter’s college soccer games. The game was on the Thursday before Homecoming weekend, and a few alumni from the team were on the sidelines to enjoy the game. I was surprised to see one of my daughter’s former teammates, because she worked for a financial services firm on the west coast. As she explained it to me, she was required to take one week off every six months, so she had decided to take this week off to catch up with friends in New England and watch her former teammates play two soccer games. I asked if she was still playing soccer and she told me that she was not. She got up at 5 AM to run, but for six days a week she needed to be at work by 9 AM and never got home before midnight. We in the medical profession are used to long hours, but hers seemed very long indeed.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal (Business: October 13, 2015), ridiculously long work hours are common in the financial services industry, but a few small firms are trying to change that with the institution of “firm forty” work weeks. The idea is that the employees are actually restricted to working only forty hours a week. During those 40 hours they are fully engaged in their business activities and should not be on social media or engaged in on-line shopping. However, once the day is finished, the employees are expected to leave the office and totally disengage from work. The rationale for the policy is that longer hours do not necessarily translate into more productive work.
Data suggests that productivity falls when employees work more than 48 hours each week. A fixed 40 hour work week, particularly in the financial services industry, is a novel concept – particularly given that, for many workers, the distinction between home and work has become blurred. Recruiters for “firm forty firms” report that they can attract high-caliber candidates who are willing to forgo some salary for limited hours and separation of work from home life.
As for my daughter’s friend, when I mentioned that her hours seemed long, she simply smiled. Her solution was to gain experience for two to three years and then find a better job that was more enjoyable.