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"My husband works 120-hour weeks in banking and I'm concerned for his health"

I read this weekend's news about an associate at a US bank dying, possibly after working very long hours, with a sense of trepidation.

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My husband works for an investment bank. He regularly works more than 120 hours a week and no one seems to care. 

Working more than 100 hours a week is normal for him. He recently went 37 hours straight without sleep to close a deal. In a typical month, he'll get one weekend off - if that. Protected days are not recognized and if he does work a day that he should have had free, there is no time off in lieu. Last year, he forfeited two weeks of paid leave because he was staffed on so many deals. When he's sick, he doesn't take a sick day - he has to work from home and to log on as if he's in the office. 

The sad thing is that he's a great banker. I don't want to pressure him into changing his career: he spent a long time studying an MBA and gaining additional certifications to be in his current position. What seems crazy is that banks are so prepared to work people into the ground. People's mental and physical health are consistently ignored in order to get the “deal done” and it doesn't seem that HR or line managers really care about people's wellbeing. Everything is urgent and needs to be responded to ASAP. But if everything is urgent, nothing is.

I blame the managing directors. They're making unrealistic promises to clients, and junior bankers like my husband are tasked with making those promises come true. The MDs will send comments and ask my husband to run in circles creating materials before they even know what they want. There have been many occasions, typically on a Friday at 6pm, when my husband will receive comments from an MD that require him to work another four hours at least. The MDs are supposed to get permission when they ask juniors to work on Friday, but they rarely do. Instead, they expect juniors to work through the night on what are often internal references for work no one will ever see, and to have it ready for their mornings.

If MDs want the team to work through the night, then they should stay up with them and work alongside them on the models. If team members work through the night, they should be given recovery time. It would make sense for bankers to have a legal protection on working hours, like pilots or doctors. - If they logged their hours on a weekly basis, then once they reach their threshold, they should not be able to resume work for at least 24 hours. 

Managing directors should also actually ask the team when the work they're being allocated can be completed by. Today, many analysts and associates are staffed on multiple projects and deals and MDs don't seem to understand this.

This toxic industry needs radical change. The associate who died could have been my husband or anyone at his firm. People are wasting their lives in these jobs. My husband is our main income provider, yet his personal life and responsibilities fall short because of these ridiculous demands of this role. 

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AUTHORCatherine Caldwell Insider Comment

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