Tech Professionals Still Fighting for Work Balance

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The Dice Salary Survey, in addition to giving a rundown of what technology professionals make in various industries, also reinforces what other studies have been saying: Many people within the tech industry like their jobs, but struggle for work-life balance. This issue is particularly acute in sub-industries such as video games, where “crunch time” and long hours are the norm at many firms.

For a healthy percentage of respondents, salary also had an enormous influence on their career decisions, to the point where many would uproot their lives and move to another city or even region for a higher-paying job.

More than a quarter of surveyed professionals thought that work-life balance is a myth. That’s eclipsed by nearly half who wanted more of a work-life balance. On the flip side, a mere 5 percent said that work-life balance wasn’t a top priority for them. The key takeaway here: people don’t want to grind 100-hour weeks for the glory of their company.

While a majority of tech pros said they were happy with where they lived (and a third rated themselves as somewhat happy), significant percentages thought that housing was too expensive where they lived, and their commutes too long and rough. Only a minority of tech pros in major tech cities such as San Francisco and New York City thought there was enough housing available, and even fewer thought that good mass-transit options were available.

Although many were happy with their current location, a majority of respondents were willing to move to a new city or state; some 55 percent said they would move to another city for a job with a higher salary.

For those employers who want to draw the best talent, offering high salaries is a good first step, but probably not sufficient when tech unemployment is so fiercely low; there’s clearly a widespread desire on tech professionals’ part for more balance in their lives. Companies that offer greater flexibility in workflow—such as the option to work from home—likely have a better chance of attracting experienced workers.

Employees who want better work-life balance at their next company should take the time to research a prospective employer’s culture and work environment. Interviewers will (usually) prove only too happy to break down a firm’s programs for optimizing work-life balance. And if you’re already at a company that doesn’t do enough to ensure your life is balanced, take the initiative by outsourcing tasks, scheduling your own downtime, exercising, and removing what doesn’t matter.

4 Responses to “Tech Professionals Still Fighting for Work Balance”

  1. ReVeLaTeD

    “Interviewers will (usually) prove only too happy to break down a firm’s work-life initiatives.”

    Problem: What an interviewer/company thinks qualifies for work/life balance usually does not.

    Most will rattle off things like a 24 Hour Fitness subscription discount, or discounted daycare, or picnics/barbecues. Those cost the company nothing to provide and still usually mandate a standard 8 to 5 sitting at a desk Monday – Friday, with compulsory overtime (unpaid of course).

    Very few companies believe in the work-from-home effectiveness. They think that unless you keep an eye pierced on every worker for exactly 8 hours, there’s no way you can ensure they’re being productive.

    My current company – one of the managers will actually walk the floor and see who’s still working if it’s a day before a holiday, and tell them to just go home early. My direct manager sits far away from me and I hardly need to see him; he knows I know what I need to do and doesn’t care where or how, as long as its gets done. They’re not sticklers about showing up exactly at 8am, and there are no pointless timesheets to fill out,

    Funny story: previous companies used to dictate that you were not to submit your timesheet until at least 5pm on the last day of the cycle (“There’s no way to know you were here the full 40 hours otherwise…”). This company? As long as I don’t have any time off, they don’t care. In fact, sometimes they WANT it submitted early because it makes processing them more efficient. The way it should be.

    I moved states for this job, and it’s not far off in salary from what I had before. It’s an easy commute with 99% of the people nice and easy to get along with. Shows me that I was doing it wrong for years.

  2. J. Jefferson

    I am looking to make a career change to some area of information technology. I realize these positions are quite demanding in terms workers maintaining a consistent occupational presence. However, as long as I get 2 days off (Saturday must be one of those days, due to religious observance) my life will be balanced.

  3. James English

    Ultimately, work-life balance gets down to this: how much you are paid vs. how many hours you actually work. Everything else is just a distraction from the real issue. A 40 hour work week that typically requires 20 hours of overtime (paid or unpaid) is not a 40 hour work week.

    I left the tech industry years ago when I realized that my six-figure income was only really about a third of what it seemed at first glance when I looked at the total hours I was pressured to work.

  4. ReVeLaTeD

    James English – I think you’re crossing wires with compensation fairness. The phenomenon you’re describing is what I refer to as the “Salary Balance”. Your point is 100% spot on and yes, is a subset of work/life balance.

    But remember that life balance is more than just how much you work vs. how much you’re paid. It goes to everything in your personal life. A person could work 50 hours but in return, get unlimited sick time, guaranteed vacation time, tuition reimbursement and great health benefits. In that scenario, the company is trying to give you whatever they can to ensure you remain healthy and happy given how much you’ve worked.