Who works harder? Bankers or technology professionals? Bankers are renowned for their crazy working hours, especially in M&A where the conclusion of a deal can result in a frenzy of all-nighters and lost weekends. Jobs in technology companies are just as arduous, however, but in a different way.
"Start-ups will commonly work you 80+ hours a week," said Jeff Hocking, a senior client partner for the technology practice at Korn/Ferry International in San Francisco. "You'll be working all hours on weekdays, and at weekends."
It's not just start-ups: established technology companies will work you to death too. Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple gave an interview to the Financial Times, wherein he said he gets up at 3.45am every morning in the U.S. and works until China comes online in the morning - more than 16 hours later.
Hocking pointed to technology companies like Google and Facebook, which run campus-style offices catering for employees' every need, so that they have no need to go home. "Places like Google and Facebook have offices which almost impossible to leave," he said. "They have top restaurants and gym facilities and onsite day care. When you go to the Googleplex in Mountain View California they will pick you up on a Google bus and you'll be online as soon as you step onboard it - you're connected to the company almost all the time."
Gyms and gourmet food aren't the only thing on offer in technology offices. Google's San Francisco headquarters contains interesting 'bed pods' for employees who feel like napping at work.
According to one contractor who worked at Google, people there will regularly spend days on end at the Googleplex without going back home. A Microsoft employee with alleged insights into working at Google said the company encourages people to come in very early and leave very late by only serving free breakfasts before 8.30am and only serving free dinners after 6.30pm. Google's Mountain View campus is also said to serve free meals at weekends.
Google didn't return a request to comment on the working practices at its new Big Brother-style London office - or on whether it provides people who work there with snoozing facilities if necessary. If it does, it may not be too different to some banks - beds are on offer in Citigroup's building in Canary Wharf, for example, although Citi has been at pains to emphasize that these are offered by a third party provider rather than by the bank itself.
There's not a total dichotomy between banks and technology firms. If technology firms like Google offer gyms and gourmet foods, so do banks like Goldman Sachs. And Marissa Mayer, the not-so-new CEO of Yahoo famously implemented a very-bank like policy upon her arrival and banned people from working from home.
On the whole, however, there's a crucial difference between the long hours in a bank and the long hours in a tech firm. Banks like 'face time' in the office. Technology companies don't. As a rule of thumb, the long working hours in a technology company will be more 'blended' with your life than the long working hours in an investment bank. Identified as long ago as 2008, work/life blend is a hot meme with the millennial generation.
"The total working hours in banks and technology companies aren't hugely different," said one senior human resources manager who's worked in both sectors. "The big difference is in terms of flexibility and work-life blend. There's a lot more flexibility in the technology sector than in banks - people leave the office early to spend time with their kids and then log in late in the evening when their children are asleep. People are always available for conference calls at odd times of the day and night."
Whereas bankers have a reputation for overdoing it, Derek Milan, another senior client partner in Korn/Ferry's San Francisco technology practice, said he sees very few people from the technology sector who burn out. Milan suggested that this is a result of tech companies' emphasis on pleasant working environments and blended lifestyles.
Hanging around all day and night in a hip technology office isn't for everyone. According people immersed in the technology world, there are fundamentally two different kinds of tech employee: recent graduates and the rest. Recent graduates like working in tech firms' big campus offices because they're a sort of university continuum. The rest of the tech employees don't want to live the brand onsite permanently - especially when they have children. Both groups work long hours, but the latter do so after they've put the children to bed. "You manage your time and workload and work times as needed. its about getting the results rather than clocking in and out," said the HR manager who left banking for a technology giant.
Google may well work you harder than Goldman Sachs, but it will do so less painfully.