The One Where: All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. And Unproductive.

Inspired by the recent news that Goldman Sachs junior bankers are requesting an 80-hour work limit, we wanted to discuss the importance of working hours and ensure sustainability is at the heart of what you do.


We are by no means questioning or challenging the hours that have been in the news lately, we have no experience of working in investment banks, and don’t know if this is standard or not, but the only thing we will say, introducing an 80-hour limit cap is not the answer. Short of locking these junior bankers away once they hit the 80-hour mark, we don’t know how this could be policed.


The only way to successfully make a change like this, or any significant change really, is through a culture change in these organisations where it is unaccepted that people work overtime, to this extent anyway. However, in a harsh, results driven environment like banking, where there are 71 applications for every 1 vacancy, (source below) this is something that is difficult to achieve.


So, what does this mean?


You could be forgiven into thinking the more hours you work, the more work you will get done. However, the contrary seems to be true. Stanford and Boston professors, (links below) saw a lack of productivity once people start working overtime – so much in fact, they couldn’t tell the difference between an employee who worked 55 hours in a week or more than 70 hours in a week.


Personally, I understand short-term long hours during year end as an accountant or during ‘go-live’ of a project. The key term here is short-term. This is just for a few days maybe stretching out to a couple of weeks. This is unusual and does not, or should not at least, become the norm as this amount of working is not sustainable.


Another key term here is productivity. Late nights and extra hours do not make you productive. Do you know what does make you productive? Breaks. Exercise. Sleep. Strange, right? The whole concept of working more actually has a detrimental effect on your productivity. So why is ‘work more’ always the answer? We would suggest this is an outdated concept. The answer should be to ‘work smarter’.


Richard Koch has written the business classic ‘The 80/20 Principle’. There are countless books, articles and even new methodologies which are designed to help people work smarter and not longer. The 80-hour work week should not be considered a badge of honour.


I urge you to try a new approach. Read Koch’s book or one similar and try the principles they suggest. Say ‘No’ to the meeting request which doesn’t need you. Set time to look at your emails and when to focus on ‘actual’ work. See how much of a difference it makes.