How to deal with WLB in banking

I start as an Analyst in a few weeks and I'm beginning to wonder how I will deal with the hours and stress in banking. I'd be very grateful for people to leave a comment below explaining how they maintain physical and mental health, friendships, and romantic relationships, if at all possible. Thanks.

Comments (18)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 27, 2022 - 6:54pm

Encouraging.

Most Helpful
  • Incoming Analyst in IB-M&A
Jun 27, 2022 - 7:01pm

Fellow incoming, but I'll share the advice my brother (and some friends) who has been at it for a while gave me.

You have to protect your time - at the end of the day the company won't do it for you so you have to do it for yourself. As a first year this will likely be very hard as you're getting to grip but even then knowing what can be delayed a few hours on weekends or when to call it quits on a Friday night is useful. There's always something that can be done and if you go in thinking 'I have to be in until 2 AM' you will.

Scheduling in non-banking stuff. Make sure you don't lose your life to waiting for your next week to come around. If you have protected hours, schedule in calls with your friends and partner. An hour of catch-up goes a long way vs an hour more watching Netflix after you've already woken up.

Exercise in short bursts - if you don't have time to go for long gym breaks, you'll get a lot of the benefits of exercise from a short 2-3 mile run. Outsourcing to morning gym

classes if you're not swamped can also be really useful - show up and have someone else push you through the motions. Also portion control and healthy options for ordering in food is the most important thing. No point running every morning if you eat steak frites every dinner.

It gets better - it is a short while, and even second analyst year is better than first. You've got to ride it out to some extent and try take as much enjoyment from your job as possible. Set expectations with your friends and family (my folks really struggled getting that my brother couldn't attend dinners whenever they wanted) and make it clear that just because you're time short doesn't mean you don't care. There's always time to call for Mother's Day or a friend's birthday even if you can't make the party.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Jun 27, 2022 - 8:33pm

Kinda off topic question but what time do most of you log off for the night when you currently have nothing to do? If it's a slow night and you fall asleep by midnight/1am would anyone be emailing you past that expecting something? What's the norm with when you can go to sleep?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 27, 2022 - 8:36pm

If you don't have an email by 12 and nothing has been discussed, you can be safe to assume you can go to sleep…unless you're working with a company cross border. Don't wish that on anyone

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 28, 2022 - 5:50pm

Even if you're cross border.. I am on 4 cross border deals and if at 12 I have no email and not expecting, I log off. If they want someone to do random requests last minute at 3am then they can staff a local analyst on the deal. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jun 27, 2022 - 9:44pm

it's not that bad bro, also as a first year, you pretty much don't do anything for the first 3 months as you're still learning and we can't really give you that much to do lol

Jun 27, 2022 - 9:53pm
THE PsYcHoLoGy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It will be very firm / group / team dependent. If you are in a strong group with productive senior bankers, then WLB can be challenging. You will have to sacrifice your time, sleep, weekends and you will see your relationships dwindle. Though, I've found the friend "wash out" to be fairly informative re identifying who your real friends actually are - true friends will respect the grind, your goals and be excited for what you are trying to achieve.

Best advice is to try and get 1-2 days of working out during the week (early mornings before emails start) and on weekends.

For me, the analyst / associate stint was extremely challenging... recalling back to 100-120 hour weeks for weeks or months on end with low sleep and functioning off of caffeine and survivorship mentality. It can be frustrating, challenging and make you question why you do it, but it will make you stronger.

Best of luck and try to enjoy the hell of a ride this world is.

Jun 28, 2022 - 3:36pm
illinois122, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Definitely a tough one that I struggled with right when I started. As someone noted above, you're ultimately the one responsible for your time and whatever bank you are at has the ultimate goal of closing deals and generating revenue (whether you get your workout in or not). That said, managing expectations from the get-go is crucial. Things definitely get easier after your first year and you start to see how different people in your group work and when you can get away with leaving earlier, etc. As I think someone noted above, go in with the expectation that you will need to work hard but don't go in thinking you need to be sitting around until 3AM just to prove you can "keep up" because you will feel guilty when you don't. If you can leave at 8pm on a slow night during the summer, do it. 

The most important thing you can do is set boundaries for yourself and the biggest driver of that is communication. For example, if you are on multiple staffings with different teams be in constant communication with each of them on your timelines for each deal. At the end of the day you are one person and if you're making errors staying up until 5am for 14 days straight you are useful to no one. Unless the people you are working with are complete lunatics (which I have run into), most people will be accommodating with what needs to get done and by being in constant communication you jumpstart this process. At the end of the day it benefits everyone if a quality product is put together that is correct. If people get upset with you "over-communicating" what your timelines are, they are part of the problem and try your best to avoid them.

Lastly, on the physical health stuff. Try to at least block off 30-45 mins at minimum a few times a week to exercise (5-6 days a week if possible). You should never under any circumstances trade your physical health for a job. I made the mistake of doing it and it took me over 6 months to reach a point where I can consider myself somewhat "healthy" again. I think at my worst, I put on 40 pounds from the job. Try to establish a routine early on with the groups that you work with that you'll be off the desk for 30-45 mins to work out. I found a good time to always be right around dinner. Establish a good enough routine where if someone asks they know you're just getting your daily exercise in and can be online shortly after if needed. If they can't respect you working out for 30 mins, they are part of the problem and you should avoid them as much you can. They clearly do not care about your mental and physical health. Physical and mental health should not be taken lightly.

As someone said above on food, just because you can order the steak frites doesn't mean you should every night. Food plays a big role in your energy levels and how you think.

Overall, the biggest takeaways would be to communicate as much as possible with your teams and try to establish a routine. It will never be perfect as things always pop up but as long as you can be consistent the majority of the time, you can make it through and hopefully make some cash along the way. Just my two cents - happy to chat further on any of these topics.

Jun 28, 2022 - 3:39pm
AltRightWarlord, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It is essential to not let the PC, extremist liberal agenda wear you down. This radical worldview is being pushed onto young financiers everywhere by shadowy, violent paramilitary organizations such as the ACLU and Soros Fund Management. Always keep your guard up, don't trust anyone darker than beige and eat three square meals of red-meat a day - no one ever owned the libs on an empty stomach. 

Fly high brother, we're taking our country back soon

Power 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 28, 2022 - 3:59pm

Ok so I've been doing it for a couple years now and here is my take:

- In your first year, you have limited leverage so need to suck it up somehow. Then it improves as you gain more social capital / are more efficient and can "push back" a bit more 

- Once you have a bit of respect, exaggerate your hours to minimise staffing. If you have 40% capacity, say you have 20% (everybody does this so you have to play the game). 

- Underpromise, over deliver

- Never try and take as much as possible. Don't try and be at 0% capacity all the time. Don't feel bad when you have a down week. Nobody is gonna give you a medal when you work 100 hours, and nobody is going to care either if you work 50 hours. Enjoy the downtime. Overstate your workload.

- Make sure you're not the guy that is always available all the time. If you start replying to emails at 6am, people will abuse it. You gotta set reasonable boundaries (don't go overboard either). 
 

- Generally, if you can do so, it is better to be great on 2-4 projects than being bad on 5-7 projects. Manage your workload proactively. 
 

- FORCE YOURSELF to see your friends. Even if you're working on weekends, go for brunch or coffee - nobody will blame you for taking 2 hours off on a Sunday. 
 

- Try and exercise. 
 

- Eat healthy 

- Prioritize your sleep. You gotta sleep as much as possible. As a note, sleep is not like a bank account where you can recharge on the weekend. Sleep lost is never recover. So if you can somehow finish earlier and start later please do so. A good way is to start from home and finish from home, ie. go to the office mid morning after replying to a few urgent asks, and go home around dinner time / downtime so you don't lose commute time before bed.  
 

- You need to manage your stress. To do so 1) find some kind of hobby - salsa is a good one for example to meet people and go whenever you want but could be anything else 2) meditate. Meditation is great to help with relaxing especially if you do so before bed so you also sleep better 

- Pick the right seniors to work with. Some people are extremely unorganised and if you have to work with them make sure you learn to manage them somehow to minimise the pain. 
 

- Ultimately, YOU are the only responsible for your health. If you feel unwell, need to go to the doctor, or are sick, it is YOUR responsibility to communicate it. 
 

- Take holidays. So many people don't take holidays and it is just ridiculous. Plan in advance and people won't say no. Other analysts/associates can cover for you. 
 

-Make time for the important. If you need to attend your mother's birthday, communicate it. If you're on a date and what an associate asks you at 10pm can wait until the morning, tell him you're held up but can do it in the morning unless really urgent (unless they're complete dicks they will usually agree to wait until the morning). 
 

Note: the above won't necessarily make you top bucket, but do you prefer being top bucket and work 100 hrs/week, or be medium bucket and enjoy your life ?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 28, 2022 - 4:08pm

By the way, put your phone on airplane mode when you sleep. If some MD on a different time zone wants to call you at 3am because he urgently wants a different colour on the comps page you sent p34 of the deck, he can wait till the morning. You should be smart enough to know when you need to be online or not. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 28, 2022 - 4:35pm

This is extremely helpful, especially the top bucket point. At what time is it reasonable to log off? If you don't get an email by 12:30 is it safe to assume you can go to bed? I know this is dependent on bank, culture, whether on a live deal or not etc, but just as a general rule of thumb?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 28, 2022 - 5:42pm

It's not dependent on whether it's a live deal or not, it's dependent on the urgency of the specific task. If you're doing a model for a deal for 3 weeks' time or have a pitch in 1 week, then you can wait until the next day. 
 

If you're presenting to the board of directors in the morning and someone asks you something at 1am, then you gotta do it asap. 
 

These things are a bit hard to see at the beginning as you don't know how M&A works, but you will get better at assessing these over time. 
 

I usually go to bed at 1am but 12 is my usual cut off time (although I quickly look if anything super urgent a bit later).  But if something can wait till the morning, then depending on plans for the evening or workload I would push back from 10/11pm sometimes. Just don't abuse it. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jun 28, 2022 - 11:44pm

Facere et totam accusantium quaerat. Qui corporis alias recusandae totam laborum sit minima.

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