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Investment Banker Study Chronicles the Negative Effects of 100-Hour Work Weeks

Posted Feb 16, 2012 6:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A study of a small group of newbie investment bankers who worked an average of 80 to 120 hours a week documents the stress-related toll.

About two dozen people were observed over a decade, and every one developed a stress-related physical or emotional ailment, the Wall Street Journal reports. The problems included insomnia, alcoholism, substance addictions, heart palpitations, eating disorders and an explosive temper.

Banks emphasized work-life balance, but perks such as take-out meals and car service blurred work-life boundaries, according to the study.

During the first two years, the bankers studied were eager and energetic. By the fourth year, many bankers were “a mess,” the story says. One investment banker recalled his anger at a cabdriver when he tried to open a locked door from the outside. "I became so furious that I kept banging against the windows like crazy, swearing at the poor guy,” he said.

By the sixth year, about 60 percent continued treating their bodies as antagonistic to their goal of long work hours, while 40 percent focused more on their health and set limits.

The study by University of Southern California researcher Alexandra Michel will be published this month. An online summary notes that investment bankers aren’t the only professionals who work long hours. "Surprisingly, many highly educated individuals with the most attractive employment options, including software engineers, consultants, investment bankers, and lawyers, seemingly choose to work up to 120 hours per week,” she writes.

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