About six weeks ago, Goldman Sachs announced that it was giving its youngest investment bankers Saturdays off, in part to prevent burnout and quick attrition and in part to make Goldman sound to college kids like the kind of fun, easygoing workplace that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson might conceivably make a movie about.
Now, as with most things, other banks are starting to follow Goldman's lead. According to a person close to the bank, J.P. Morgan is about to announce that it, too, is taking it easy on its underlings by giving them one "protected weekend" per month.
According to our source, analysts and associates in J.P. Morgan's investment banking division will be told later this week that they are barred from working one weekend per month, and that the bank will be hiring more junior staffers next year in order to bring down the average workload from a gazillion hours a week (approximate figure) to something more closely resembling a normal job.
The bank has been working its young employees harder than average for years, the source said, but only recently realized that "when we looked at the rest of the Street, we really hadn't properly kept pace" by putting in place measures to prevent burnout. J.P. Morgan's health-care banking group has been testing out the new, relaxed regime, which has been "very successful for morale," according to Dealbreaker. For everyone else, according to our source, the protected weekend policy will start in January.
The decision among investment banks to go easy on young workers is a fascinating long-tail result of the financial crisis, and the recruiting and retention issues that have followed. It's no longer as fashionable to brag about how many hours you've worked in the last week at your first-year banking job — increasingly, as more and more college students look to Silicon Valley tech firms, they're seeing places where you can maintain a much saner lifestyle (with free food, pinball machines, yoga classes, etc.) and still be well paid.
It will be interesting to see whether J.P. Morgan's one-weekend-a-month policy ends up being more effective at retention than Goldman's 36-hours-a-weekend policy. I'm pretty sure I'd prefer the J.P. Morgan plan, since two days off at a time seems more likely to produce actual relaxation, and even though the Goldman plan results in more net hours off per month, it also seems more likely to be violated by a senior banker butting in with work. ("I know you can't officially work past 9 p.m. tonight, but I thought I'd send over this slide deck just in case you feel like taking a peek.")
As with Goldman's plan, the hardest part of J.P. Morgan's banker-appeasement policy will be convincing senior bankers to respect the new boundaries for their junior grunts. But if it works, and the bank can retain more of its promising young employees by giving them more time off, you're likely to see every firm on Wall Street follow suit. Yoga classes may not be far behind.