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Goldman Sachs Row Hits Nerve As COVID-19 Blurs Work-life Line

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Goldman Sachs row hits nerve as COVID-19 blurs work-life line

Workweeks that can stretch to as long as 105 hours at Goldman Sachs sparked a recent revolt of junior bankers. But the discontent has been met with a lack of sympathy at the famous investment bank. This is leading to a wider debate about the future of working life after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Goldman Sachs row also hits nerve as COVID-19 blurs the dividing line between work and life.

The erosion between office and home boundaries during the pandemic means many white-collar workers can relate on some level to the complaints.

The issues underlying the Goldman Sachs controversy are “reflective of a broader problem,” said Temple University sociologist Kevin Delaney. He is the author of “Money at Work: On the Job with Priests, Poker Players and Hedge Fund Traders.”

A Goldman Sachs employee who has been with the firm for about three years told AFP that the pandemic had indeed made work more grueling. And that first-year employees can suffer especially from the lack of opportunities to interact with senior employees.

But the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said workweeks of 95 hours or more are not a surprise.

“When you take a job in investment banking, you know that you’re going to be working long hours,” the person said. “The hours get better over time. But that’s a function of figuring out how things work and becoming more efficient.”

That the staffers spoke up is characteristic of a generation who “were encouraged to raise their hands,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for human resources consulting firm Robert Half. He added that younger employees expect a more collaborative work culture.

Will Change Come?

Making money is Goldman’s core mission. It is an “ever-expanding” goal that orients all of its incentive structures, Delaney, the Temple University sociologist, said. Goldman is also a client-facing business with a 24-hour global orientation, which adds to the pressure.

“Change will be hard because there’s a lot pointing in the other direction,” he said.

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