Goldman Sachs dusting hits nerves as pandemic blurs lifeline

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Goldman Sachs dusting hits nerves as pandemic blurs lifeline


New York (AFP)

A revolt by Goldman Sachs junior bankers against workweeks of up to 105 hours has inspired both discontent from the historic investment bank and a wider debate on the future of work after the Covid pandemic -19.

Erosion between office and home boundaries during the pandemic means that many white-collar workers can identify on some level with complaints, even if the plight of elite young bankers in search of wealth does not inspire sympathy.

The issues underlying the Goldman Sachs controversy “reflect a larger issue,” said Temple University sociologist Kevin Delaney, author of “Money at Work: On the Job with Priests, Poker Players and Hedge Fund Traders. “.

“People feel that the boundaries have disappeared between work and leisure and work and life. A lot of people struggle because they don’t know when to take time off. ”

In the wake of the dust, Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon urged staff to adhere to a company-wide policy of not working on Saturdays, and praised young staff for to have spoken.

The blame was felt beyond Goldman’s corner in Lower Manhattan. Citi Managing Director Jane Fraser this week announced ‘zoom-free Fridays’ and urged workers to take their vacation, adding that she is planning a few days off ‘knowing I’ll come back with a fresher brain’ .

Jennifer Moss, a union columnist specializing in workplace issues, welcomed the changes but said employers will have to act if they want to retain their staff after the pandemic.

The upheavals of the past year – along with efforts to improve diversity in large companies – create the potential for improving the work culture. But experts warn that change is not easy.

“It must be this change in mindset, but it’s a good start,” Moss told AFP. “It’s a legacy of overwork that has been institutionalized. ”

– Beyond personal care –

Compared to other options, overwork might be considered a preferable situation during the pandemic. Government data shows millions of people in the United States remain out of work.

The coronavirus itself has also infected or killed many “essential” workers such as supermarket staff, transit workers, nurses and others who cannot work remotely.

But among those who still have a job, mental exhaustion is on the rise.

In a February article published in the Harvard Business Review, Ross said the disruption was particularly pronounced for younger employees.

A millennial named in history said he encountered professional barriers as well as adverse health effects due to reduced opportunities for exercise.

A survey of 1,500 workers showed that 85% said their well-being had decreased and 55% said they felt they had not been able to balance their family and work life, according to Ross.

Possible steps to remedy the situation include establishing a manageable workload and a mental health resource page for staff as part of a strategy to de-stigmatize the problem.

Solutions must go beyond self-healing stages such as yoga and meditation applications, says Moss, adding that “we desperately need upstream interventions, not downstream tactics. ”

– Will that change? –

All of the young Goldman bankers felt that their working hours had a negative impact on relationships with friends and family and also created unrealistic deadlines.

Most also said they felt they had been abused at work and avoided in meetings, according to an 11-page presentation complete with statistics and charts, much like what the bank would prepare for a customer.

“There was a time when I didn’t eat, shower or do anything other than work from morning until after midnight,” said one of the staff interviewed.

A Goldman Sachs employee who has worked at the firm for about three years told AFP that the pandemic has indeed made work more taxing and that first-year employees may suffer most from the lack of opportunities to interact with. senior employees.

But the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said work weeks of 95 hours or more were no surprise.

“When you take a job in investment banking, you know you’re going to be working long hours,” the person said. “Hours improve over time, but it’s a function of understanding how things work and becoming more efficient. ”

The fact that staff members have spoken is characteristic of a generation that “has been encouraged to raise their hands,” said Paul McDonald, senior managing director of human resources consultancy Robert Half, adding that young employees expect a more collaborative work culture.

McDonald’s predicts that employers will be more open to flexible work formats once the pandemic is over, including combining time at the office and working from home.

“Employers meet employees more today than I have ever seen,” he said. “But they don’t make excuses for the work that needs to be done. ”

But how much big power organizations like Goldman really want to change remains an open question.

Making money is Goldman’s primary mission, an “ever-expanding” goal that guides all of its incentive structures, said Delaney, the Temple University sociologist. Goldman is also a customer-centric company with a 24-hour global focus, which adds to the pressure.

“Change will be difficult because a lot of things are going the other way,” he said.

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