Wall Street’s Rigid Culture Bends to Demands for Flexibility at Work

from NYTs

When Tom Naratil arrived on Wall Street in the 1980s, work-life balance didn’t really exist. For most bankers of his generation, working long hours while missing out on family time wasn’t just necessary to get ahead, it was necessary to not be left behind.

But Mr. Naratil, now president of the Swiss bank UBS in the Americas, doesn’t see why the employees of today should have to make the same trade-offs — at the cost of their personal happiness and the company’s bottom line.

Employees with the flexibility to skip “horrible commutes” and work from home more often are simply happier and more productive, Mr. Naratil said. “They feel better, they feel like we trust them more, they’ve got a better work-life balance, and they’re producing more for us — that’s a win-win for everybody.”

Welcome to a kinder, gentler Wall Street.

Much of the banking industry, long a bellwether for corporate America, dismissed remote working as a pandemic blip, even leaning on workers to keep coming in when closings turned Midtown Manhattan into a ghost town. But with many Wall Street workers resisting a return to the office two years later and the competition for banking talent heating up, many managers are coming around on work-from-home — or at least acknowledging it’s not a fight they can win.

More here.

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7 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article and believe they brought up a lot of great points relating to how everyone needs time away for work to focus on themselves and their families. The article provided a example in which in the 1980s work-life balance on wall street didn’t exist and they expected you to work long hours causing someone to not have family time and missing out on important events. How i feel about this is everyone should be able to have some time off to focus on themselves and to have time to spend with their family.
    Working long hours everyday without breaks can really burn someone out causing lots of stress and bad for their mental health.
    Mr. Naratil, now president of the Swiss bank UBS in the Americas agrees that people shouldn’t have to work these long dreadful hours and making a tradeoff compromising their happiness. A interesting quote that Mr.Naratil says is about being able to work at home at times instead of making the horrible commute is “They feel better, they feel like we trust them more, they’ve got a better work-life balance, and they’re producing more for us — that’s a win-win for everybody.” This is a great quote because they are realizing that being able to work at home and have some quality time with the family will cause for better performance at work. I think managers across the United States should see this quote and realize that these employees are humans and need that time away from work to work on themselves and make sure their mental health is good, so their performance at work is at the best it can be.
    Since the pandemic, people have been used to remote working and the banks have been taking a hit because of it. Because of that wall street workers have been resisting going back into the office because the prefer being at home. As a result the competition for banks has been heating up because they need more workers, but it is now hard to find workers.

  2. This article highlights the importance of employees having a work-life balance, rather than putting in 80 hour weeks for years to try and get promotions or raises. Everyone’s definition of success is different, and that is another important thing to keep in mind when reading this article. Some people want to work as much as possible so that they can afford luxury items and travel to extravagant places in their time off. On the other hand, there are people who want to spend as much time as possible with their families and doing things they enjoy, and work to live comfortably. The motivating factor towards happiness will be the main determinant to if someone has a work-life balance, or works as hard as possible on their career. Tom Naratil most likely has a 7 figure salary and lives a lavish lifestyle. Most people would view him as the definition of success, considering he has more wealth than 99.99% of the global population. However, even with all the money and success in the workplace he has accumulated throughout his professional career, he is accepting that people are less motivated to work the hours he did at the time. I think it is important to acknowledge that times have changed and way less people are willing to put in 80-100 hour weeks to gain an advantage in the workplace for a long period of time. When initially starting people might be inclined to grind it out and sacrifice their personal and social lives, but a significant decrease in willingness has been shown. People are so keen on working remotely that wall street had to start accepting it and using it to their advantage. UBS specifically has implemented a policy that their employees should be in the office 3 days a week and can choose the days to start promoting a hybrid setting rather than full remote. As time goes on and the pandemic comes to a close, it will be interesting to see how many employees will remain remote.

  3. The pandemic has had drastic and awful impacts on various factors within society. One of the beneficial actions that emerged is the popular choice of working from home. Employees are able to avoid long commutes and are productive with their flexible schedules. In the banking industry on Wall Street, many offices are forced to give in to the demands of young talent for remote work. Many prominent corporate institutions are taking the decision to adapt to a hybrid model to develop career growth and work-life balance.
    Hybrid work models are an effective method to increase the happiness and efficiency of workers. In a recent Accenture report published by Forbes magazine, 83% of 9,326 workers surveyed said they preferred a hybrid model — in which they can work remotely at least 25%. of the time. Hybrid work models reduce the risk of illness and enable the opportunity to hire diverse talent around the globe. In addition, the system improves professional relationships and helps your mental health. Furthermore, the recent model reaps financial gains for companies. The report also uncovered that hybrid workforce models are utilized by 63% of high-revenue growth companies. Remote working is the future and more industries should attempt to join the ongoing trend.

  4. Covid-19 brought havoc to society as we know it. As we work together to build back much that was lost during the pandemic, we can see a glimpse of good that came out of the pandemic. The workers of today’s generation have a bargaining chip against these employers that have been treating their workers terribly. Workers have leverage in compensation negotiations due to the tight labor market. Companies are desperately seeking workers and are paying a premium. This has been occurring for a while and company margins have not been affected at all by the additional compensation. While administrative expenses have gone up substantially, profits have followed along. This can be directly correlated to the additional productivity seen in these workers that are now being compensated better. Workers make the bulk of a company’s revenue, they should be compensated at a much higher rate than the norm. Extra compensation correlates directly to extra productivity. Work fatigue was and is still a serious occurrence in workers. It is sad it took a deadly pandemic to realize how unfairly companies have been treating their workers, but at least conditions are changing. Most jobs can be done from anywhere in the world. Going into the office 5-6 times a week is useless and only causes greater stress on the employee. There are a plethora of statistics that prove remote work has increased productivity tenfold. Workers should only need to come in 3-4 times a week. This is the bare minimum companies can provide for their workers who without them, there would be no company.

  5. The pandemic forced many new changes and one of them was flexible working schedules. The banks are requesting employees to go back in office, but many do not like that idea. Throughout the pandemic, the transition from in-office to remote made it super convenient for many people. Employees were happy that they can spend less time in the office and more time with their families. The trends of remote working and flexible work schedules changed the norms and it is here to stay. My perspective is that although these trends will stick around, it will eventually create problems to arise. Working from home does sound appealing to many, but it is not optimal for professional growth. Being able to work in the office will require people to interact and collaborate more. In my experience, being on a zoom meeting does not create the same feeling as one would experience in an in-person meeting. Remote is not as exciting and that feeling of connection is pivotal for creating great work. It can also be very hard to learn remotely. I have known many people who struggle to learn remotely. Being on zoom is not as interactive as it would be in-person and it is very hard to mimic that same energy. While I am not a fan of remote working, I do the like idea of flexible working schedules. Working 3 or 4 days in office would benefit many employees, especially those who work in demanding industries like banking. Having a reasonable work-life balance is necessary to keep employees happy. In the article it did say that employees were more productive and happier because of their flexible schedules. The key thing to take away from the article is that happier employees tend to produce more work. Another thing that I found interesting was that many banks are now considering reducing their real estate footprint. Less people in the office can be very beneficial to the environment. One reason is that there will be less commuters. Many people would reduce their carbon footprint greatly. Another benefit is that less space is needed in the office. Firms will have to consider whether or not expanding is necessary. Wall street is very competitive and demanding, so although I strongly believe in flexible working schedules, I do not think that banks will allow their employees to have better work-life balances. The pandemic created change in many areas, but it will not change the norms of Wall Street.

  6. This article caught my attention because it will probably be an ongoing discussion for a while and this will eventually affect me and most of my peers in the future. The article highlights how the Covid-19 pandemic forced most companies to switch a lot of their employees to a virtual method of working if possible. Many Americans have become rather comfortable with the change of pace and many Americans also do not want to return to their in person jobs, especially in corporate America. Whether these large companies decide to switch to hybrid or all in-person will directly affect my life in the future and a lot of America as well. As a college student I have done mostly in-person schooling, and a hybrid/ online version for some of my last few years. I have come to see various pros and cons of this method of doing work. I have seen that a more flexible schedule has given me less stress when working on certain progress because I have had less things to worry about such as my commute or proper attire and etiquette when I am in a working environment. However I have also observed shortcuts that can occur when working or people not always giving their maximum effort.
    If companies started looking at online working as an asset rather than a liability maybe the perspective of it would change. Many employees in the job field prefer to work from home so maybe offering some sort of a hybrid schedule where working from home two days a week and working in an office for three days would draw in more potential employees. There are also more creative options such as during the summer if an employee works for an entire week in person the can have a half day on Friday or even the whole day off. This would not only incentivize employees to work in an office but it also would maybe make certain companies stand out because they are offering something unique.
    I do believe that hybrid work is going to stay in the job field at least for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of people working that see the advantages and are not willing to give those advantages up. As stated in the article many people working that have children simply do not want to miss spending time with their kids anymore than they have to. Giving people the ability to work from how can allow parents to pick up and drop off their children and still be able to be productive and avoid paying childcare costs.

  7. I was raised in Moscow, Russia, and also had an opportunity to spend a lot of time in Western Europe, the first region that started to adopt the work-life balance philosophy. In the past 10 years, many European countries and companies have adopted 40 hours/week or even 32-hour/week policies. For example, there is a law that all members of the European Union have to follow that states that an employee cannot work for more than 48 hours a week for more than 17 weeks. Inspired by the culture that promoted less work and more leisure time, I have concluded that it is indeed a comfortable environment for people to prosper and be happy.
    However, a few years after I arrived in the US, I changed my opinion on the work-life balance approach. I believe that people have to decide for themselves whether they would like to work more. Salary is an incentive that pushes us to work longer hours and invest more time into getting a higher reward. I believe that it is up to every individual whether he or she wants to make more money or not. Having a goal of working as an investment banker, I acknowledge that I will be working up to 80 hours a week. However, while 80 hours a week might seem overwhelming, I also acknowledge the great financial return and opportunities to succeed that come with that job. I don’t think that working more than 60 hours a week is necessarily a bad thing. It is completely up to a person whether he wants to get higher returns on his time, or whether he is satisfied with his current salary. Wall Street, which is known for its stressful environment, in the end, exists with its main goal to make as much money as possible. Similarly, any individual who wants to be a part of that money-making machine must acknowledge that he enters into a trade-off – longer and more stressful hours in return for a great salary. In this case, a person must decide what is more important for him, the opportunity to truly succeed in life or spending more time with his family and friends. Every choice is a trade-off: you give up something in return for a good or service you need. In this case, you devote the majority of your time in return for great financial benefits. No one is obligated to enter into this trade-off, however, if someone wants to become successful, he needs to put a lot of time and effort into it. As Elon Musk said, “work like hell, this improves the odds to success.”

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