Citigroup’s CEO Jane Fraser has banned the use of video calls on Fridays for internal meetings less than a month after taking the helm at the investment bank. Client and regulatory meetings will be exempted from this ban, as will audio-only calls.
As well as ‘Zoom-free Fridays,’ Fraser has called for work calls to only be scheduled during working hours. These initiatives aim to re-establish a work-life balance and try to combat the unsustainable “relentlessness of the pandemic workday”, and the toll that takes on employee wellbeing.
Fraser also reminded Citi staff to take annual leave and granted all employees an extra day of leave on 28 May as a ‘reset’ day.
The need to limit the number of unnecessary, unproductive meetings, encouraging employees to take breaks and holiday, and listening to employee’s needs was emphasized by a Microsoft report as ways for companies to retain and attract talent in the new hybrid world of work.
Citigroup recently made headlines last week when it announced the launch of a pilot to get American employees back to the office.
Addressing employee fatigue
This move by Citigroup comes at a time when one of its competitors is grappling with complaints from junior bankers about the working culture.
Last week, a group of 13 first-year investment banking analysts at Goldman Sachs presented management with a slide deck laying out bad working conditions, including 95-hour working weeks, a decline in mental and physical wellbeing, and lack of sleep due to anxiety.
One of the analysts wrote: “I’ve been through foster care and this is arguably worse”, while another wrote: “Being unemployed is less frightening to me than what my body might succumb to if I keep up this lifestyle.”
On Sunday evening, Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon – who has previously referred to working from home as an aberration and signaled the bank’s interest in a return to the office as soon as the summer – responded to these allegations.
He said himself and the leadership team took the complaints “very seriously” and acknowledged that some of the staff feel they had to be connected 24/7.
“It’s great that this group of analysts went to their management. We want a workplace where people can share concerns freely,” wrote Solomon. “So we want to encourage all of you to take the opportunity to speak with your management. If there are any issues, do not hesitate to reach out to ask for help.”
As a result of the complaints, Solomon promised in his memo that he would strengthen the enforcement of a no work on Saturday rule, which bans junior bankers from working between Friday 9pm and Sunday morning, according to the Financial Times.
Also, Solomon noted that the bank was “being more selective about business opportunities that we pursue, and we’re working to automate certain tasks in our business”.
However, he concluded the memo saying that “in the months ahead, there are times when we’re going to feel more stretched than others, but just remember: If we all go an extra mile for our client, even when we feel that we’re reaching our limit, it can really make a difference in our performance.”
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