Wellbeing concern | Citigroup tells staff 'go away for two weeks' in burnout ultimatum

Citigroup tells staff 'go away for two weeks' in burnout ultimatum

Citigroup has told its bankers to take a fortnight off as bosses attempt to improve working conditions for junior staff and to prevent staff burnout, The Times has reported.

Executives at the financial giant want all junior bankers to take off “two, fully disconnected” weeks away before the end of September, amid concerns about long working hours taking their toll. The publication reports that this is said to effect junior bankers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

As reported by The Times, Citigroup has also promised associates and analysts in the region one work-free “disconnect” weekend every month as part of a wider plan put in place earlier this summer.

The two-week switch-off is the latest move from the bank sought to improve the wellbeing of its workers.

Earlier this year, chief executive Jane Fraser announced a move to hybrid working which would allow most staff to work from home for at least two days a week post-pandemic.

Other financial institutions have sought to offer their employees alternatives to reduced hours or extra time off.

Earlier in the year, junior workers at Goldman Sachs spoke out about the extreme burnout being caused by stressful working conditions and long working weeks, as reported by the Financial Times.

As a result, the firm announced in August that it would be raising its base pay for first-year bankers to £80,000, with Second-year bankers seeing a rise to £89,000. Among other touted improvements to working life promised by CEO David Solomon was ‘work free Saturdays’ – however he also warned that it was likely high volumes of work would continue across the company.

But there was no action taken to cut Goldman’s 95 hour working week, which many had declared “inhumane.”

Work shut-downs grow in popularity

Citigroup may not be going as far as closing down entirely for a fortnight, but the concept is not unheard of.

In fact, in June, the dating app Bumble closed its entire business for one week to give its circa 700-strong workforce a needed break to destress and recharge.

And, to give employees the opportunity to recharge and avoid burnout, LinkedIn previously gave its global workforce a paid week off work.

The time off – dubbed ‘RestUp’ – extended to the vast majority of the organisation’s 15,900 full-time workforce, according to Yahoo! Sport.

In a previous interview with CNN Business, Teuila Hanson, Chief People Officer at LinkedIn, said: "We wanted to make sure we could give them something really valuable, and what we think is most valuable right now is time for all of us to collectively walk away."

Does extra-time off really help burnout?

However, some studies suggest that simply giving staff a few extra days off is not the most effective way to reduce the stress and fatigue that has reached epidemic levels over the past 18 months.

Analytics solutions firm Visier recently surveyed 1,000 full-time employees across the U.S. about their experiences with workplace burnout.

The results found that time off work, often seen as the best way to recharge, isn’t enough to alleviate the chronic burnout the majority of employees are experiencing.

While more than half (54%) of employees anticipate taking more time off this year compared to last year, one-third report they’re expected to check in on work while on vacation. Additionally, nearly half (49%) of employees said PTO only temporarily relieves their burnout.

Surprisingly, the Visier study also found that more than 37% of employees said they’re not comfortable talking to their supervisor about their burnout. When asked why, employees’ top reason was a fear of being seen as incapable of doing their jobs.

Furthermore, 73% of those surveyed believed that managing burnout was their responsibility and not their employer’s.

New laws could help prevent burnout

Amidst an ‘epidemic of hidden overtime’, demand has risen for new laws around a ‘right to disconnect’, according to the latest report from the Autonomy thinktank.

Alongside trade union Prospect, Autonomy is now calling for greater legislative protections for workers, proposing legislation that would create a ‘right to disconnect’. The new laws would be similar to those currently in place in France, which stipulate that employees do not have to take calls or read emails related to work during their time off.

Research conducted earlier in the year by Prospect found that that 59% of all workers support the introduction of a ‘right to disconnect’, while 17% are opposed. It also found that among new remote workers, 66% were in favour and 14% against.

The new proposed legislation would theoretically create two amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996, both of which would ensure workers have the legal right to fully disconnect from all work communications outside working hours.

Any breach of the legislation would give employees the ability to take their employer to an employment tribunal.

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