12 hour workdays

How does anyone manage this for any length of time? Having to do this now for various reasons but I don’t see how anyone could sustain it.

Combined with a commute there must be literally no time to eat/work out/ wash yourself or your clothes and also sleep.

i just don’t understand how people can do this for years without losing their minds

I did 12-18 hour workdays, sometimes 6-7 days a week, for a very long time. You can only do it if work is pretty much the only thing in your life.  I eventually broke free, but seriously regret it.

It is absolutely dehumanising but people do it for a variety of reasons:

(1) many of the jobs that allow people who do not possess extraordinary talent to earn large salaries are of this nature. e.g. investment banking, law and consulting.

(2) people are often encouraged to take on these roles by pernicious ideology. e.g. the "work hard, play hard" culture of the city, the "we're disrupting the world!" cult of the startup, or simply the Liberal and latterly Thatcherite ideology of work and business as supreme over all else.

As to how people sustain it, in the very long term they rarely do. In the medium term, it helps that in many cases, professional jobs, especially in transactional areas, often involve a fair bit of sitting and waiting around. I can only do about eight hours' proper thinking between sleeps, but I can sit around and wait for clients to email me, give trainees random tasks to do, talk to colleagues, etc. for much longer.

The years you spend doing that aren't the only years of your life you lose, unfortunately. Prolonged sleep deprivation like that has serious long term health implications.

Since leaving law, one of the things I really enjoy is a good kip. Fo sho.

Britain, like most other developed countries, would be a much better place if everyone were forced by statute to work 30%% less, starting tomorrow.

12 hours a day isn’t that bad actually even when done over the longer term. The professions laz mentioned much of those 12 hours is taken up by meetings , admin and such most of which is far from mind bendigly complex. 
That said even doing 18 hours a day with half of the day taken up with admin, meetings , and the rest with real work is lunacy .

see junior investment bankers at bulge bracket banks who genuinely do 16-18 hours a day 6 days a week. Utter madness and most barely last 3 years before the penny drops 

That's an oversimplification Laz.  Firms - particularly ones like your current shop - can behave like an abusive domestic partner.  They start out being charming and welcoming and gradually erode people's sense of self-worth. 

A favourite tactic of partners in my old group was to give trainees they wanted high grades in their seats, then uniformly given NQs a very low grade along with mutterings about "Where we wrong about you? Perhaps you can't really cut it", with one exception that would be held up as a shining light. The sensible ones left straight away, but the most of them would then spend the next few years killing themselves to make up for their "disappointing" performance, with drip fed sparing praise until they were up for the next rung of promotion.

In my case, I'm conditioned to workaholism by my family, so they must have been overjoyed that they didn't have to deploy any tactics to get me to slog it out.  


Interesting the influence of family. I inherited both my dad's workaholism and my mum's free spirit, It probably would have been better to inherit only one of these.

12h a day is pretty grim in any circumstances Elffi, although we are in agreement that even in the City, most people are doing less than 12hours' actual work.

I wish I'd inherited my fathers final salary pension that kicked in at 50

the family thing is probably important.


if you've got a "professional" parent who worked long hours and you have the same sort of job, then it "helps" if you've got a partner in a similar role/with similar family background in terms of expectation setting.


(in an ideal world you work the very long days so you can gradually reduce them)


You can only do it if work is pretty much the only thing in your life.


And it's not necessarily the case where much of the time is taken up with meetings, admin and standing around "waiting for clients to email" - if only! 

I absolutely hate when work takes over and the rest of life grinds to a standstill for several weeks.  Grim. 

Yeah I’m not splitting days with meetings or anything it’s actually just working.

i had a weird dream where colleagues and I were programming ‘recipes’ that some how created meals and then Boris Johnson turned up and started ‘cooking/programming’ disgusting food but insisting it was delicious. I think this is because I’ve just been working and watching the news.

im going to go travelling in February I think. I like my job but seriously fuck this

12 hours a day isn’t that bad actually even when done over the longer term.

Humans need eight hours' sleep most of the time to function properly. Those who dispute this simply aren't aware of how much better they would be functioning if they did get eight hours' sleep, or how they are damaging their health in the long term. Thatcher famously boasted about only needing four hours' sleep and she ended up losing her mind to dementia.

If you are at work for 12 hours a day and sleeping for eight hours, that leaves you four hours a day to commute, eat, shower, get dressed, relax, socialise and do chores and life admin. It's just not possible.

12 hours a day really is that bad.

British people, lawyers especially, are notoriously inefficient and unproductive. Often their “12 hour days” will involve a maximum of 8 hours actual work

Agreed Lady P.  Worst for me was 3 years where it was normal to do several 3am finishes and at least one all-nighter a month.  And for what?  Serious health issues and a life filled only with lawyers.  Fuck that.

I'm not British, so I was efficient.  I had less than 45 minutes non-chargeable per day for the most part.  

A lot of this is that people don't actually work these hours for long periods. Studies have shown that people overestimate how much they work, and the more they work the more they overestimate by. eg. someone who claims to work 40 hour weeks probably works more like 35, someone who claims 70 hour weeks is likely working about 55. 

That definitely fits with my experience of the city, where in reality the long hours would be 3 days a week rather than actually every day. People remember the long days and forget about the shorter ones in reporting their experience. 

yeah cos as any fule kno, a lawyer’s time sheet doesn’t lie

Actually lawyers were the worst offenders, overestimating their hours by about 20%

Once you cut out lunch, chatting to colleagues and tea / coffee / fag breaks most lawyers work about 85 minutes a day.

but of course they can’t be seen to be leaving the office before their boss.

norwegians have it right, come in, work silently and solidly for about 6 hours and then piss off to be cabin for some herring and cross country skiing

Some of us are actually concerned about fraud, Delphi.

Have you got a link to that Pancakes?  The only ones I've seen were for more general populations of workers.

Once you cut out lunch, chatting to colleagues and tea / coffee / fag breaks most lawyers work about 85 minutes a day.

but of course they can’t be seen to be leaving the office before their boss.

This is a big part of the problem. You might not be working the whole time you are at work, but you're also not doing other things you should be doing like sleeping or spending time with friends and family. It's a total waste of everybody's time, and the main reason why I refuse to work in a place with a culture of presenteeism.

12 hour days are pretty standard for me.  I usually start early so I can finish early, and I can be flexible and take kids to school, pick them up, do bedtimes etc... but I'm pretty much always on.  Recently I've managed to keep weekends sacrasanct in the main.  I basically work from home in the main though - I couldn't do it if I had to commute to an office every day too - fuck that.

Also wot Anna said.  I refuse to spend even more of my time on presenteeism.  If I'm not actually working, I'm not working.  The whole law firm culture of BEING PRESENT is such wank.

Aren't you in-house, Partridge? In-house offers massive opportunities for pretending to work, surely.

I am tremendously jealous of people that can come in and sit and focus on concentrated work in the office all day. I could probably get my shit done in 25 hours a week if I didn't fuck about so much.

At my last place we were expected to be in the office for 8 really and would regularly stay past 9 (we got to claim for free dinner after that).

A lot of the time was meaningless, has to be said.  Team meeting or breakfast meeting with a 3rd party, then lots of time on the phone.  Lunch was very often just sending the PA out to vital ingredient to grab me a salad which I would then eat on a video con with our other European teams.  More phone calls and probably meetings until about 5 and the 5-9 bit was usually taken up with doing financial modelling, looking at the latest books and making notes on what questions to ask, building presentations, working on updating CMS database with notes on the meetings I’d attended.

So yes it was a pretty full day but hardly an arduous one, but my gf at the time only really saw me on the weekends and sometimes a Friday night.  Other than those times it was mainly just a question of me sneaking into bed with her and trying to get some sleep.  

It’s an easy habit to get into when everyone around you is doing the same if not more hours.  The pay is pretty useful compensation and I really never worked weekends.

Yes, in-house.  I used to have a job which was a piece of piss.  Now I manage teams in the UK, US, Sweden and China which allows almost no scope for pissing about.


I am tremendously jealous of people that can come in and sit and focus on concentrated work in the office all day. I could probably get my shit done in 25 hours a week if I didn't fuck about so much.

Except that you'd just be given more to do.  I always thought being inefficient when you were on billables as nuts, as you were losing more of your life without anything to show for it.

Mugen, are your 12 hour days a new/temporary thing?  If not, learn from we mugs and get out.

Its funny how junior laywers and trainees get excited about free cabs and dinner after 9/10, it soon wears thin. And what of the proliferation of big firms with sleeping suites in their offices, again madness,they should be told to fvck off when they ask a trainee to sleep n a sleeping pod for x continuos nights

Its funny how junior laywers and trainees get excited about free cabs and dinner after 9/10, it soon wears thin. And what of the proliferation of big firms with sleeping suites in their offices, again madness,they should be told to fvck off when they ask a trainee to sleep n a sleeping pod for x continuos nights

I've traditionally been able to hit my targets even in big law firms without working much past 7pm as I usually come in and just get on with stuff unlike some colleagues who spend two hours a day chasing the latest gossip. 

I really object to staying late when it's waiting around in case the other side happen to send the documents so you can send them onto someone else when you know they are unlikely to appear until the next morning.

I've also learned over the years that a task that takes an hour at 8pm after a busy day probably takes 20 or 30 minutes the next morning after a decent night's sleep so I tend to go home and do it in the morning.

Ebitda - we worked on them collaboratively, no way could I mess around with the debt elements for example, I know a bit about it but not enough.  My bit was the management model sections of growth projection and the wargaming for management, base, best, worse etc scenarios.

I think most of it is grandstanding. It’s a practice from the 80s inherited from Microsoft and Apple. It probably suits those minds who can sit in front of a computer all day and work on code. I’m not sure it works as effectively in law. I don’t think I’ve been to a conference or networking event where someone’s replied negatively to the question “are you busy”. It’s bullshit IMO. The Germans rightly  take a very very dim view of it too. 

I think face time in corporate is much more prevalent than say commercial litigation, where the end game is more clear by virtue of directions timetables . If you have to exchange witness statements by X date, that date does not come as a surprise nor will it miraculously move forward, if anything it is often moved back.

I think the issue with IBankers,at analyst, associate and VP level is their hours are so long because it is an industry norm to work on the 50th revision of part of a model all day, whilst chatting and on instant messenger all day, then a psycopath MD or 3 give you three pitches that need to be done in 24 hours at 7PM. 

The massive spike in people finishing their work day at the exact time that they’re allowed to claim free dinner / taxi home is all the evidence you need of the reality of people actually needing to be in the office at that time.

its basically all a willy waving exercise

Ebit it's the same in some consultancy areas.  When I was doing corporate finance you'd do a pitch and someone senior would look at it a couple of times and ask for some slight changes then the afternoon before the meeting they'd read it properly and decide it needed a total rewrite which took you late into the night.  No need to work late at all if they'd read it properly a week earlier.

no tec we didn't mate.

Wellers I agree. An acquaintance I knew got an offer from Rothschild following a long term internship. no face time there, utter slave drivers for shit pay. He worked in the consumer and retail team, and his hours were 9-3 Monday to Friday, Saturday 10-10 at least and every other Sunday 9-5.

Unlike most investment banks, they take on everything that comes through the door, and there is not so much pitching, but mainly execution, combined with the fact they simultaneously execute loads of "small deals" A year later he was barely recognisable , he got his bonus and resigned as did half the group

Similar at the Bar too. You could finish court at a reasonable time, travel back to Chambers, get admin done and then sit waiting for papers which would arrive (generally incomplete) just before 6 pm with the odd update trickling through from the other side throughout the evening. Do your prep all evening/night, fight with the out of date Chambers printer in the small hours of the morning and then make sure you are back in Chambers before court so that you can be there to receive the important part of the brief that wasn't sent before legging it off to court to do it all over again. 

Was offered the opportunity to go back a couple of months ago. Went straight back into fight/flight mode.

Salaryman culture. Common in and around London.

as others have said, it's best avoided if possible

and certainly not worth it unless you are making big big dollar

Orwell I generally work pretty humans hours this is just cod of a deadline and my line manager will probably let me take time off in lieu.

Im not mental I wouldn’t do it all the time.

Just fantasising about going travelling in a few months

It is fucking horrible, but given I earn 5 times what my wife does and we want to buy a home and have kids it's not as if I have much choice for the foreseeable future. 

Unfortunately, neither of us come from money so we are pretty much all on our own. 


12 hours a day leaves you plenty of time to do other things provided you arrive by 8, and live withn an hour of the office....

hang on hang on "I'm not British so I am efficient"?!?!??!?!? RUDE!

Tangent Boy16 Oct 19 10:38

Was offered the opportunity to go back a couple of months ago. Went straight back into fight/flight mode.

As in fight or flight mode at the thought of returning?  Interesting. I had a similar experience recently and was quite taken aback with my reaction.

I have never, ever taken the free after 9 dinner as a point of principle.  It means THE MAN (OR WOMAN OR PERSON OF FLUID GENDER*) has won.

I'd rather go out for a Micky D's or a pizza x take out or a wagglemamas or even a sub.

I have honestly never understood why it is expected for firms to provide you with dinner either tbh.  It's not like you wouldn't pay for and eat dinner if you were at home.

Aren't you in-house, Partridge? In-house offers massive opportunities for pretending to work, surely.

I've always found it to be the opposite when IH.  Sure, come in at 9, slope off at 5 & have a totally free evening.  But it was a relentless slog in between.

Back in PP, I'm slipping back into the old habits of being in the office after 6 & taking work home, but having lots of non-chargeable crap in between. 

The only difference, I think, is having to put up with colleagues who want to fill your day with pointless chats/meetings/planning/BD/'networking' etc etc.  It's mostly stuff I'd have been able to sack off when IH for not being part of the core day job and failing the 'moscow' test. 

There's a lot that is unavoidable with the PP model and I get that it's difficult in some areas to work a solid day if you're having to wait for documents etc, but if we embraced technology more and trusted people to work remotely more, there wouldn't be quite so much 'dead' time stuck in an office and we could all get back some of those lost hours. 

Let people work at the time they want and where they want, and I have a feeling productivity would actually improve.



Exactly that Orwell. A physical reaction to the thought of it. Shame really, as I haven't yet worked out what to do with the rest of my life.

Fair point Delta.  It is pointless sitting around waiting for an e-mail to arrive so you can forward it on and in this day and age can go home and deal with it but I remember the bad old days when you couldn't do that.

I do remember working at one big firm and wondering why I spent so much money on mortgage, etc. for a flat that I only saw for a few hours at night and at the weekend.

Wang, my last office paid for breakfast and lunch too.  Was ace.


12 hour days 5 days a week doesn't necessarily need to mean sleep deprivation.  

I often do 9.30am to 9.30pm (or a bit later) for weeks at a time. It's a bit crap but provided you have the money for support (I don't have to wash or iron my own clothes etc) and provided you get weekends its doable.  8 hours kip may be optimal but somewhere between 6 and 7 hours sleep is enough for most people most of the time particularly if you can have a bit of a lie in on the weekend (and yes, I know science says it doesn't work like that but science says lots of stuff and then changes its mind (see e.g. diet)).  If someone else is essentially sorting out 'life' and you have everything set up well its not that bad.

Up at 6.30am. Hour or so of time with the kids and then get them to school (critically with the nanny sorting out their lunches and what they need for school etc so it's reasonable quality time with them).  Back by 8am (we live v. close to the school). Either do some exercise or have breakfast/sort of a bit of life admin with Mrs CC.  Leave the house at 9am. Home around 10pm.  Hour or so of telly or reading and maybe a glass of wine then bed or straight to bed if I am knackered.  I can often find an hour in the day for the gym as well provided things aren't crazy.

It's basically living in London or the south east of England (which means commutes, less support, probably both parents working full time, more complex school/child care arrangements) that make it really tough for people. Not the hours per se.  12 hours per day working from home (and earning enough money for a regular cleaner) would be absolutely fine (if you don't mind working from home that is, I don't much like it personally as it's too isolating)

Erm, you keep telling yourself that mate, but even with your team of staff doing all the drudge work at home that life sounds pretty terrible.

Ebitda - well I have no idea, it was new to me but the fridges were stocked with loads of food, bowls of fruit all around t he office cans of nice drinks like that posh semi sparkling orange stuff, different kinds of breads and crackers, cereals, you name it.

 Fortunately it was my PA who did the twice weekly Ocado order so anything I especially wanted (smoked salmon, coco pops etc) she would just put on the list.

Was the best thing about that place tbf.

I quit my job fairly recently, and I have to say, the best thing about doing so is not having to do any work.

If life was like that all the time then I'd largely agree with you. I am fortunate that there are also quieter periods.  In the end it's a time vs money trade off and you find a balance that's OKish for you.

It's definitely a much easier and more enjoyable life than the one I see a lot of friends living in London and the South East where both parents are doing 9.30am to 7pm with a sh1tty commute of over an hour, child care schedules so complicated they need a spreadsheet to manage them and needing a minimum of 30 days notice to organize meeting friends for dinner on a Saturday night.

I built an LBO model once. It wasn’t very difficult. I have a friend who does nothing but that. He is a financial modelling consultant whose client base consists mainly of small PE funds. All mature business, no VC. He earns good money but it sounds even duller than being a lawyer.

My bright line was further back than that, Wang. Happily had firm-funded sushi for dinner, but decided sleeping in the pods was the point of surrender.

An LBO model that isn’t very difficult is, I’m on solid ground here, a bad LBO model.

No, it doesn’t, that’s the thing.  None of it is especially an intellectual exercise but a lot of it requires a huge amount of knowledge and experience within each section.

What kind what kind of entry assumptions would you make?  Multiples? Debt? Earnings metrics?

What will be the overall debt capital structure? Where will it be sourced?

Where is the growth? What stage of the growth will the exit trajectory be aiming for?  What kind of management incentives or equity rollovers are we looking at?

Thats just off the top of my head, hours and hours of work from specialists one lawyer, clever as he may be, will not be able to put a strong LBO model together. Sorry pal.

Btw I’m not saying lolololol ur thik.  As I mentioned earlier, there’s elements of that where I have dabbled but I just don’t know enough about it.  Understanding one’s limitations and approaching them honestly is much better than swinging an internet dick around and shouting “I am the cleverererest!”


It’s too much if you don’t have control over how those hours are distributed and/or you have lots of other stuff in your life. And if you have a long commute then forget it. 

Personally I find a 50 hour core working week plus 4-5 hours of random faff at odd hours (couple of hours on a weekend, doing a few late night emails etc) to be the upper limit of what I care to do as a baseline these days. 

Madders your kids go to school at 730am? And then you don’t see them at all on weekdays? See that to me is a poor trade off. But if it works for you then I suppose fine. 

If the only time I saw my son was at 7.30 in the morning, I would want to throttle him. He's a right cranky so and so at that time of day.

The whole point of working from home is to work less because you're not interrupted all day so definitely no way I'd do a twelve hour day working from home.

[email protected] Laz, you built an LBO model once! And it was bound to be poor indeed, someLBO models are relatively simple , like the ones you are given as part of an interview process at a PE fund. However ones where it matters, and the consequences for it being a pile of shite are catastrophic for the acquiring PE fund and the portfolio company, are a different ball game altogether.

Hence models are checked and revised by different people multiple times, but to say it is not intellectually stimulating is plainly wrong mate.

But yes it is as you say mainly dull as dishwater .

Absolutely no disastrous outcomes for PE funds, ever, have resulted from poor financial modelling.

Many have resulted from buying shit companies or not running them properly.

dudes do u srsly think I have any interest in arguing with you guys about your fake private equity "expertise"?

I have academic work of real importance to do.

I got ur back m88 but I have doctoral research to pursue

The whole point of working from home is to work less because you're not interrupted all day so definitely no way I'd do a twelve hour day working from home.

I've had a couple of bosses that tried trotting out the line that people could WFH as long as they spent half their usual commuting time doing work instead, as the 'compromise' for them not being in the office.

Sod that for a game of soldiers.

What academic work is that Laz, why is it important?  I don't want to argue, I am interested in your views. No fake expertise here mate, remember when you asked a few years ago as to how to get in to PE, I gave you my nonny email and work email, and invited you to contact me so I could give you a few pointers? You went silent despite a few gentle reminders, I then gave up.

I think you did the no show thing with a Bazza here who sorted you a mini pupillage.

Don’t worry about it ebitda, he’s just not capable of realising how wrong he is on subjects which he would love to have had a career in.  He has my business card from when I was in PE somewhere I’m sure, we’ve met for coffee near my former office, etc etc.


no chippy shit pls I have ceaselessly had ur back on here

I would only do 12 hour days for any length of time for top dolla and I certainly wouldn't be doing it if the government then took 40%+ of said dolla off me.  

I agree with wang about rinsing company perks - some people really take the piss.

i would definitely take dinner though. When some of our lot start expensing all their foreign boozing is where it gets a bit WTAF?

Interesting to see people saying that regular 12 hour days aren’t that bad and don’t impact on your ability to have a life that much. If you are working in professional services with that attitude, you are utterly indoctrinated.

Its something about transactional work that attracts a huge amount of time wasting with conf calls etc. Even the two regional commercial firms I’ve worked for, the Corporate teams have been filled with people who flap around until about 11, have too many long calls and meetings (internal and external), and then end up working up 9pm or later if they’re anywhere near a deal. 

I tend to start about 845 and work until 540 - 6, earlier on a Friday. If I’m busy, I’ll just knuckle down more and work through lunch or nip out for 5 minutes, if I’m quieter I will lark about a bit more and maybe get out for 45 minutes at lunch. Preciously little non-chargeable shit to deal with and wasteful internal meetings, WFH once a week and enough getting out to see clients and variety to keep things interesting. Generally exceed targets by about 20%. It’s a nice balance which not everybody has the opportunity for, but actually if you quite enjoy your practice area and don’t mind knuckling down when needed then a lot of those working long hours aren’t doing so out of necessity, they’re doing it out of inefficiency or bravado. 

When just about any firm in any sector wants to manage you out, they will look at two things:


Your browsing history

Your expenses on the company credit card 

A few mates at the Big 4, take the piss, buying mates beers on a night out, on account" they don't care" mmm I'm sure they do

Yeah school starts early out here TC which does make it harder.  Even now at age 7 my eldest is asleep by 8pm as he gets up at 6am and my little one is asleep by 7.30.  That does make it hard to be home to see them meaningfully before bed time and if I get home after 6.30pm (but before bedtime) it sort of causes chaos as then they don't want to go to bed.

I normally go home early at least once a week (and then log in after they have gone to bed) but I do struggle with the logging back in thing. I find it really depressing and our IT is a bit sh1t so real document work from home is difficult.

The real p1sser with private practice is that (for me at least) starting early simply doesn't mean finishing early.  Clients will always only get around to sending emails towards the end of their day and expect a same day response.

I can’t be sacked with this trying to earn big money lark. Once you’ve got enough money to buy a decent gaff in an area with ok schools - not that difficult outside London if you have professional-grade skills, especially if you’ve done a few years’ hard graft in London first, and been sensible - then just sack it and get a job you enjoy, I reckon.

It’s not so much “who wants to be rich?” as “who wants to be rich if it means paying the price of being rich?”.

Laz, easy for you to say when earning substantially in to 6 figures god knows how many years