Goldman Sachs just issued an office policy that would be standard practice almost anywhere else (at least any workplace outside the elite, high-pressure world of investment banking): Interns are longer permitted to work between midnight and 7 a.m.
The policy shift was reported by Reuters, and came about two weeks after the New York Times reported the suicide of 22-year-old Goldman Sachs intern and analyst Sarvshreshth Gupta, who had “felt overwhelmed by the all-nighters and 100-hour workweeks,” according to the report.
A few hours before he died, Gupta made a call to his father at 2:00 a.m., where he was still working from the office, saying the pressure of the job and the workload was “too much,” according to the Times. His death was later ruled as a suicide.
A Goldman Sachs spokesperson would not state whether the new policy was a direct response to the recent incident. “This is a continuation of our ongoing efforts to improve the overall work experience of our junior bankers,” said Michael DuVally in an email. “We’re continuing to examine the issue and when we identify areas that will improve the junior bankers’ overall work experience, we’ll implement further changes. The process is ongoing.”
The work-time regulations apply to interns. As to whether or not salaried Goldman analysts pull all-nighters at the office, DuVally said he wouldn’t generalize.
Goldman and other big banks have been incrementally improving conditions for junior employees since 2013, following the death of a Merrill Lynch intern. The official cause of death was reported to be epilepsy, but medical examinations at the time said he had also been overworked to the point of exhaustion.
Goldman was also the first among the industry giants to make what is (unfortunately) a fairly radical move in banking: The firm now instructs analysts to take Saturday off. (For Sunday church-going types, there is the option to switch days.) JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup soon adopted the same measures, announcing that junior bankers should take one “protected weekend” a month where they didn’t work at all.
This year Goldman raised pay by 20% (to $85,000) for first and second-year analysts in an effort to improve working conditions and stay competitive with other investment banks.
Such changes are emerging at a moment where as investment banks — once the hottest places to work for elite business school graduates — are increasingly competing with tech firms like Facebook and Google for talent. Of course many entry-level types work hard at those Silicon Valley firms as well. Yet the tech industry has a better reputation for being a fun, cool place to work. Banks, on the other hand, are more commonly known for being unhappy places to work, more like sweatshops than fun-houses.