Too much of a good thing is bad? Being ‘too relaxed’ in your career can hurt you

TORONTO, Ontario — A good work-life balance can keep employees in any job from succumbing to the stress of their daily schedules. However, a new study argues that too much of a good thing — even relaxing after work — can actually be a bad thing. Researchers in Toronto find there’s a limit to the positive impact of balancing your work with plenty of leisure time. Simply put, if you’re too relaxed, you’re probably not doing your job very well.

Study authors started examining the impact of a good work-life balance after controversy rocked financial giant Goldman Sachs. Exhausted from 100-hour work weeks, a group of junior financial analysts revolted and made the company’s harsh working conditions public information.

Goldman Sachs has reportedly started to address these issues, which a team from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management says is a good thing. Drawing on more than 6,000 employee reviews from the job website and social media platform Glassdoor, the study finds that improving the lives of financial analysts also pays off for their clients as well.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, but here we provide large-scale evidence that supports the recent push to grant these employees at least some reprieve from the extremes of their jobs,” says Ole-Kristian Hope, the Deloitte Professor of Accounting at the Rotman School, in a university release.

Just ‘okay’ is where you want your work-life balance to be

While giving financial analysts time to de-stress appears to be a benefit to everyone, the study finds too much time off impacts their performance in a negative way. To measure this, the team examined each respondent’s review of their work-life balance and data analyzing their career advancement, job mobility, and promotion records.

When it comes to financial analysts, their forecast accuracy — or their ability to correctly predict a company’s future earnings to make good stock picks — is a vital skill in their line of work. Results show these employees do their best work when their work-life balance rates at about 3.5 on a 5-point scale. That’s about the same as saying they have an “okay” work-life balance.

For the skill of getting a client the greatest return on their investments, financial analysts appear to do their best when their work-life balance is actually a little worse — ranking at three out of five points.

“If you have too much work-life balance, that means you’re not focusing enough on work,” Prof. Hope explains. “A little bit of stress is probably a good thing but if it’s too much then the pressure becomes daunting and you can’t do anything.”

Study authors say they chose to examine analysts over other workers because they have a reputation for being more aggressive, career-oriented employees. Typically, they also have a high tolerance for stress, which explains why so many work between 70 and 110 hours a week during peak earning seasons.

The team published their findings in the journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

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