London’s workaholic traders want shorter hours to improve “culture, diversity, and wellbeing”

The Hours.
The Hours.
Image: Reuters/Simon Dawson
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London’s finance bros want shorter hours. And also, perhaps, fewer bros.

In a letter to the London Stock Exchange and other European trading venues, two traders’ bodies today asked for a shorter work day. The 8.5 hours for which markets currently open necessitate traders to be at work for long periods either side of the core hours, they said. Those long hours are hurting workers’ wellbeing, and getting in the way of diverse hiring goals.

Europe’s trading hours are long compared to the rest of the world, with Asia open for 6 hours and the US for 6.5. European hours are stretched, in part, to overlap those markets. But being a bridge has a human cost.

“This long hours culture impacts on traders’ mental health and wellbeing,” according to a press release of the letter sent to exchanges today by the London’s Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) and the Investment Association (IA). “It has also been identified as a key obstacle in recruiting and retaining more diverse talent, in particular for those with family or caring commitments.” That observation is in line with other industries. Many sectors like tech and banking have begun to admit, in recent years, that the structure of work is one of the reasons women and people from less privileged economic backgrounds aren’t well-represented. Long hours make it difficult for parents, carers, or anyone with other responsibilities than work to get ahead.

The industry bodies suggest shorter hours would make trading a happier work environment, as well as a more diverse one. “It is hoped the proposed shortened day could also have an impact on workplace culture by improving work-life balance, and providing a necessary step towards creating more diverse and inclusive trading floors,” the release says. The AFME also says the 90-minute reduction would make markets more efficient, because the first and last hours of the day are comparatively slow in terms of trading volume.

The call comes at a time when firms across the world are starting to take employee wellbeing more seriously, and when cutting hours and upping productivity is high on the global agenda. This week, a trial by Microsoft Japan showed that workers increased their sales by almost 40% when working a four-day rather than a five-day week, perhaps because they were both rested and incentivized by the extra time off.

After all, the one perk most workers want from their job is, according to one study, to spend less time there.