Thomas Hughes was a 29 year old investment banker at the prestige firm of Moelis & Company when he missed a family Easter brunch at the Yale Club in New York. Two months later, he was found on the sidewalk beneath his 24th-floor apartment in Manhattan, having apparently jumped to his death.

He wasn't alone. In April, a 22 year old analyst at Goldman Sachs named Sarvshreshth Gupta was found dead in a parking lot near his apartment building, a death that was ruled a suicide by jumping.

Investment banks have long been infamous for the grueling hours they impose on young employees and the eye-popping salaries they are rewarded in return. The average total base pay for a first-year analyst in 2013, for example, was over $85,000 with a bonus of almost $30,0000, according to Forbes.  

But, as Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn asks, at what cost?

Koehn notes that some firms have begun installing guardrails, limiting employees to working two weekends per month or imposing other hourly limits. Goldman Sachs, for example, requires all analysts and associates to be out of the office between 9pm on Friday to 9am on Sunday. 

But there are bigger issues to tackle, Koehn says.

"Let's not forget, ever forget, the ineluctable logic of business," Koehn said. "You could hire more people and pay them a little less. People would still get paid lots of money, and you wouldn't have any need for a guardrail to say, 'we're closing the doors at nine o'clock at night."

Another factor, she notes, is the culture of work. Managers and executives who came up through similar grueling initiations are less likely to be sympathetic to younge employees and are more likely to see overwork as a necessary tenet of the job. Or, as author James Surowiecki wrote in the New Yorker last year: "Overwork has now become a credential of prosperity."  

"There's a culture of harshness," Koehn said."Here's how hard I work, here's how little vacation time, here's how much coffee I drank."

To hear more from Nancy Koehn, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.