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Surprisingly, Financial Services Workers Achieve Work-Life Balance

Study finds that U.S. workers have been able to achieve a work-life balance, but still feel like they are underpaid, according to an survey.

Employment consultants, HR managers and executive search firms all talk about work-life balance and, no doubt,  a large portion of employees are still trying to achieve the proper mix of work and leisure in their lives.

In financial services, the focus on balancing work and family has usually tilted more toward work, especially in recent years, as firms have cut back and the remaining workforce is trying accomplish the same goals with fewer resources.  

However, despite the challenge of doing more with less and working longer hours, U.S. financial services workers are reporting less stress and a better work-life balance than their peers in Europe or the Middle East, according to a study from This is surprising, since European workers generally have a 35-hour work week and more vacation. Plus, U.S. workers are known to work well more than 40 hours per week, and have fewer vacation days.

Stress At Work, Wall Street

According to a note from eFinancialCareers' Constance Melrose, who is managing director for North America, years of longer work hours have forced U.S. financial services workers to perfect the work-life balance, whereas European workers are just starting to face the "do more with less" mandate as the Euro zone economies struggle. Melrose writes:

As European countries -- despite abundant vacation allotments and 35-hour work weeks -- face increasing economic pressures, they, too are forced to work more hours under increasingly stressful circumstances. That financial professionals in Europe and the Middle East are more stressed out and feel they have less time for leisure activities may simply be a matter of growing pains and perception. But all is not lost. These countries can look to the United States as proof that it is possible to get more done in less time.

If European financial services workers do look at their U.S. peers, they will find that many financial services workers claim they have achieved work-life balance, according to the eFinancialCareers survey. Melrose adds:

Wall Street workers have spent decades of long hours in the office, and have perfected the art of balancing career with hobbies and personal life. Our respondents say they spend these off-work hours playing sports, with friends and family, and -- the great American pastime -- watching TV. In fact, 66% of U.S respondents say they have achieved work-life balance, compared with just 47% of those in Germany. And Wall Streeters engage in a multiplicity of stress-busters from reading to cooking to volunteering. Respondents told us about walking their dogs, engaging in animal rescue, spending time in bars and spending time in prayer.

However, despite achieving a good balance between their carrier and their personal lives, workers in the U.S. still feel under appreciated, especially when it comes to their paycheck:

After all, U.S. and U.K. respondents say they are far more likely than their colleagues elsewhere to say they are underpaid and bring work home. Yet these countries report the lowest stress levels.

The eFinancialCareers Stress Survey 2013 was conducted among a total of 3,399 finance professionals currently working, of which 1,905 in the U.S, 583 in the UK, 435 in France, 359 in the financial centres of Middle East, and 117 in Germany. The survey was conducted in May 2013. Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2013 | 11:50:13 AM
re: Surprisingly, Financial Services Workers Achieve Work-Life Balance
Yes, I did find the survey to be a little surprising, hence the headline. The survey was only of financial workers who are currently working, so the data doesn't include the opinions of contractors, consultants and, obviously, those who are not longer in the financial services industry because they have been laid off. The trend in the US has always been "do more with less" and longer work hours, so there does seem to be a disconnect with the survey results and a lot of the anecdotal stories we all hear.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2013 | 2:08:53 AM
re: Surprisingly, Financial Services Workers Achieve Work-Life Balance
Is this a joke? Over the last 10 years, I've watched how many firms downsized substantially even when the workload did not drop, and watched, and experienced, how many workers had to pile on many extra hours of work, usually on salary so they didn't receive any overtime. In the jobs I had, I often worked 60 or more hours a week - on top of a 4 hour daily commute because I couldn't afford to raise a family any closer to NYC and still live in a decent neighborhood with decent schools. Now, many Wall Street workers - if lucky enough to be working, are working under contracts as 'consultants' with little or no benefits.
Ironically, several years ago, when the huge bank I worked for announced a new initiative for work life balance, my manager substantially increased my work load and hours. He considered the plan to be quite the joke, an attitude which was common there and in other banks that said the same thing. Remember - managers were being forced to cut positions while improving service and turnaround and reducing budgets. And keep in mind, in a number of European countries, health care is not directly connected to employment, and those who are employment have all sorts of safeguards that American workers don't have. European workers might put in extra hours out of ambition or company loyalty; American workers do it frequently due to lack of choice - they need to keep their jobs which they'll lose if they don't put up with employer abuse.
I'm about to start a contract on 'Wall Street'. No benefits, not even TransitChek (which saves employers money), not even access to any real benefits. I will have a so so hourly rate, and may have to work overtime without being paid. I will work a 2nd job on weekends just to afford to pay my local taxes and other expenses. I will constantly be exhausted, and will not get to spend time with my family. I won't get any sick days, I won't be paid for holidays, I won't get vacation days. And no job security (unlike many European workers).
Not what I'd call a work - life balance. But hey, I'll be grateful to be working for the duration of the contract - if I am kept that long; so many people I know from work have now had multiple years out of work. Oh, and I forgot to mention, not only does a lot more work now go to 'contractors', the contract rates are a lot lower. Unless, of course, the work is offshored, for a few bucks an hour. SO we are supposed to consider ourselves lucky.
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