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Survey: Tech Pros Ignoring Work-Life Balance Is a Myth ( 242

Nerval's Lobster writes: Are tech professionals really willing to live on energy drinks, and sleep on office couches, in order to get the job done? For many, the answer is "no." In response to a new Dice survey (Dice link, obviously), only 5 percent of employees at technology companies said that work-life balance wasn't a top priority for them. Contrast that with nearly 45 percent of respondents who said they wanted more of a work-life balance, even if their current position made that difficult. More than 27 percent of those surveyed also characterized work-life balance in the tech industry as a "myth." It seems that, despite all those companies talking publicly about wanting to give employees a better work-life balance (complete with on-site gyms and unlimited vacation time and... stuff...), it's not really working out for a lot of people. (And that's something that people have been calling out for some time.)
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Survey: Tech Pros Ignoring Work-Life Balance Is a Myth

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  • balance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 )
    The ideal work/life ratio is 0.

    (You can still work, but work on things you care about, not what someone will pay you for).
    • Re:balance (Score:5, Funny)

      by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @04:36PM (#50965211)

      The ideal work/life ratio is 0.

      Unless you're a zombie, in which case it's NaN.

    • I've been at both ends of the spectrum and my conclusion is about 20 hours of work a week is a ideal.
      40 hours/week or more makes me tired, and 0 makes me bored, causing general malaise and lethargy.
      3 x 8 hours or 4 x 6 hours is about perfect. Just enough to get interesting, but not enough to be fatigued.
      • You should do something, but it doesn't have to be working for other people. You can work on your own projects.
      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        I do about 20 hours of work every week, but I'm at work about 40 hours. I have to interleave a lot of mental breaks between actual work. I many times find myself getting stuck on a problem, coming back to it 10 minutes later, still stuck, so I go talk to someone for an hour, come back, and the problem is obvious. Over time I have gotten better at recognizing how much of a break I need to solve a problem.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      (You can still work, but work on things you care about, not what someone will pay you for).

      That's the point of the paycheck. To pay me to care enough about what my employer wants that I'll work for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 19, 2015 @02:34PM (#50964095)

    Free lunch, on site gyms... are all about keeping you at work longer, not going out to lunch, meeting a woman...

    • A friend is trying to recruit me to join her company. One of the "benefits" was 24-hour hackathons. I don't get it at all. I so, so, so don't want to pull all-nighters unless it were necessary, and if I want to work on a side-project, I would normally expect to keep the rights, not turn them over for a free dinner.

      • ... One of the "benefits" was 24-hour hackathons. ...

        I have no idea why employers think that messing with the body's natural melatonin and serotonin cycles, and the resulting impact on health, concentration, memory and just general well-being, is a good idea.

        Makes me think of a previous employer that had go-lives every two weeks, which started around midnight and would need to be babysat by everyone having code going into it, often until normal employees came in the next morning.... That was after already working a full day (so those switchovers were already

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @02:38PM (#50964141)

    I've always cared about work life balance - the thing is, that was as true when I used to work 80-100 hour weeks, than it is now when I work 40-50 hours a week. It's just that early on I was happy to have the work side be much heavier.

    People see technical workers working hellish hours and think they have no work-life balance because non-techs cannot understand how that might bring its own kind of pleasure.

    • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
      40 to 50 hours is still hellish, I see it sneaking into conversations as if it's the expected norm. I get everything done in 40 hours or less.
  • ...that there is a balance. Work almost always wins.

    Companies want 24x7 support but don't want to pay for it. So in the mean time, they abuse there IT workers. So IT infrastructure and support departments are usually understaffed.

    What's the IT working doing to do when people start scream at him to fix things he/she is responsible during the day. While it may not come to bite them in the ass the immediately, it will look bad on him/her. When raises / firings come around, that person will get the bad end the

    • I completely agree. If IT has to work through the night to fix an issue, they're still expected to be there the next morning for their regular work hours. This has happened to me several times, but it's the way of things. I hate it, but I get paid well enough to just grin and bear it.
      • When I was a lead video game tester, I worked 40 hours straight before a code release meeting and went home to sleep for three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). My boss was livid that I wasn't at work at 9:00AM on Friday, as Sony could reject the submission and I wouldn't be around to lead the follow up. I blew him off. Sony wouldn't respond for another three business days. All was forgiven when Sony accepted the submission five business days later, even though they did catch the rare crash bug that devel
    • The larger problem is distorted thinking. People are angry, claiming they don't get paid enough, that corporations and rich people have too much, and that we need to "make them pay" somehow--you'll notice no solutions, just vengeance. They ignore real solutions because they don't tickle their genetalia the right way.

      The minimum wage push is a big one right now. That was a decent strategy in the 1900s, with good return for its costs; but now it's crap. What we need, today, is *cheap* labor. We need to

      • What we need, today, is *cheap* labor. We need to reduce labor costs,

        We need to increase productivity. When each worker can produce twice as much, the economy will be twice as large (and on average, we'll all have twice as much).

        • Productivity moving forward is a constant; it just has to happen at an unfortunately slow rate.

          Every time you increase productivity, you decrease labor time required to do something, and thus create unemployment. That's fine: we stop paying those people--*we*, as in consumers, since the very basic component of price is the cost of all labor (labor price times labor hours makes labor cost), and no economic factor will push prices down below that level--and have more money to spend on new things; thus so

          • Still, what if people want to pay $60 for Crocs, but they cost $85 to make?

            Some people would be willing to pay the $85 price (or ~$100 price, since of course there are more costs than just making them). Fewer Crocs would be sold at the higher price, but people would still buy them.

            • Not if their budget included $400 of free spending and they suddenly became infatuated with tablets which cost $340.

              Besides, "Fewer" implies "less labor required," which implies unemployment. Combine that with consumers not having the dollars to spend on new products, and you have no way to create new jobs to use these unemployed--not until we find a way to use less labor to make tablets, unemploying some of those people, in which case now you have the two groups competing for what meager employment remai

      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        Labor is cheap, what we need is a legal framework that values labor as much as it values capital. Things don't get done just because they are owned. They get done because someone puts in work. A paycheck to paycheck laborer is just as much at risk as a vaunted business owner if the business goes under.
        • Bulk labor is trying to get $15/hr; machines cost $12. We tax the middle-class worker a third of his paycheck.

          What if we resolved the taxes in such a way that we didn't need to raise taxes on anyone (least not by more than, say, 3%, worst case, maybe less), and the $45k worker effectively brought home about $40k? We could stop paying people $60k and start paying them $15k less, and they'd come home with $500/year more. For every 4 employees at that income level, you could hire 5 and still spend the sa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I worked at a company that did not have any set policy as to how many days you may take off for personal reasons (sickness, having major appliances replaced at home, just felt too tired, whatever).

    This policy is not only better for the individual (since they will then stop keeping track of how many days they take off, but rather have them when necessary) it is also better for the company. On average, this policy reduced the number of personal/sick days off an employee took. The old policy, which, IIRC, wa

  • As an I.T. Support Contractor for the last ten years, my contracts specifically prohibits me from working more than 40 hours and/or outside normal business hours.
  • It's dice (Score:5, Funny)

    by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @02:49PM (#50964243)

    which means you can't take anything said here at face value. They purposefully write shitty sensationalist content in order to drive traffic.

  • My manager told me that I was expected to work at least 12 hours each weekday and 8 hours one of the two weekend days. Plus I had to keep my company cell phone with me when I went on vacation.

    There is no such thing as work-life balance, or maybe there is and some managers call it "slacking:" like mine did.

    • Well, if you're offering triple market rates we can discuss it, otherwise not interested.
    • If they're setting your hours by explict (verbal) instruction, don't some states allow you to bring it up with the labor board to get back pay (as long as you have some record of the hours you worked)?

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @02:52PM (#50964281) Homepage Journal

    Where I work keeps promoting this Work/Life balance thing. But it's complete horseshit. Our staff has been cut to the bone and then some, so there isn't enough coverage for our 24x7 operations.

    I for example, am a 1-man department, I can't take a sick day or a vacation day, and if I were to take a day off, what I come back to the next day is double the work.

    Basically there is no life beyond work, and if you complain, the company is more than happy to lay you off and replace you with a H1-B visa dude.

    My guess is that work/life balance isn't for us in the trenches, it's for the guys in the corner offices who make more than a $Million per year, own 6 fancy cars, and talk about their "Vacation Home" in Hawaii.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you are a one-man department, you have a ton of leverage that was literally handed to you by laying off all your co-workers. Use it to get a better deal. If the company starts acting like a dick, fire up the search engines and polish your resumes. You don't want to give your life to an ungrateful employer. It's not something you want to remember on your deathbed.

    • Time to find another job. Ever since I've left IBM, my work/life balance has been excellent. The first post blue job was in a two man department with myself and a director. His philosophy was get things done, use all your PTO, and if you need to do something during the day as long as you weren't scheduled to meet with a partner or client (which was rare for us) do the non-work thing. Now I'm at a fortune 250 company and they have the same style except there are 5 and soon to be 6 of us.
    • My guess is that work/life balance isn't for us in the trenches, it's for the guys

      It's for guys who know how to take a day off without working twice as hard the next day. That's ridiculous, you shouldn't need to do that.

      • Exactly! Just take Friday off and come in on Saturday. That way, you should only have to work, I dunno, maybe one and a half times as hard.

    • by Pontiac ( 135778 )

      Fixing the H1B visa issue is as simple as finally updating the 1998 law that set the minimum H1B salary at $60,000. Adjusted to the 2015 dollar they should be paid $90,000. That right there would return the H1B to the intended highly skilled professional rather than the current cheep 60k replacement worker.

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      My guess is that work/life balance isn't for us in the trenches, it's for the guys in the corner offices who make more than a $Million per year, own 6 fancy cars, and talk about their "Vacation Home" in Hawaii.

      I'm in the trenches too. I realized that my company will happily drain everything out of me, every possible waking hour. But on the other hand, it will also be happy with merely taking 35-40 hours per week out of me.

      The company has no insight into my personal work/life balance. Only I do. It's up to me to set limits. The company won't set limits itself, has no way of setting limits itself, but it will happily respect the limits I set.

      Example: last year I told my manager "Every Thursday I will work from home

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is the problem part the nature of the field? Many of my colleges are like me, we work in bursts that can be anywhere from a few days to a few years. Then we take a break and have down time to recover.

    I literally can not work effectively any other way because of the shear amount of information I need to keep in my mind, it will get lost if I get distracted. By "information" I don't just mean design plans and such, at can be handled with better planning and organization. I'm talking about the creative side wh

    • Your mindset improves efficiency and makes project execution more effective, but it likely isn't in your own best interests (and arguably not in the company's best interest either).

      In my field, young engineers often avoid delegating-- thinking that they can do the task faster-- often rightly. The problem is that the strategy doesn't scale, nor does it make effective use of resources. It is much more effective for thre people to put in an extra 5 hours each in a week than one person do 10.

      Where you run into

  • Anyone who did ignore it is now firmly in burnout and no longer considered a tech pro.

  • by Hylandr ( 813770 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @04:07PM (#50964999)

    The Myth is that you have a choice in the matter.

    It's what the industry practically demands of everyone across the board now.

  • Am I the only one who cheats at this?

    Project comes a long with a whole bunch of "after hours" tasks which, as it turns out, you really can get done in normal hours without any noticeable disruption.

    Or when it's really necessary, structuring the project so that the "after hours" work gets done on MY schedule, rather than arbitrarily.

    Or making sure that "after hours" work is something that can be done from my house, rather than on site.

    • Am I the only one who cheats at this?

      Like most games, the game of life is won by those who learn the shortcuts.
      I worked out early on that I could do things faster then some others. So did I advertise this fact? Hello no. Allocate 3 weeks, do it in 3 days and bludge the rest of the time.
      I've been in my career over 20 years and this trick still works.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @05:41PM (#50965745)

    IT has several factors that encourage poor work/life balance:
    - The IT landscape is littered with awful companies to work for, who treat their IT people like the janitorial service. The ratio of good to bad employers is very low.
    - Companies that are considered "fun to work for" encourage people to constantly be at work by providing free food, free personal services, etc. I just got back from a meeting at Microsoft, and even after Nadella took over and the reduction in their monopoly power, the place is still like a college campus and employees are encouraged to basically live there.
    - There's pressure on older workers, who have been around the block and know the game, because there are always younger workers who will willingly work 100 hour weeks because they have nothing else going on in their lives.
    - There's also H-1B and offshoring pressure. It's not uncommon to hear CIOs remark that their offshore teams never complain about hours worked. And, outsourcing the entire IT department means the company pays a monthly bill and gets even more compliant H-1B workers.

    Outside of crazy industries like video games, or investment banking where you can make massive bonuses that make working the extra hours worth it, I think most employees would prefer to be given a 40 hour week, decent pay, and a good work/life balance. The good companies who provide these things tend to have longer staff tenure, but you don't hear about them as much. This is for 2 reasons -- (1) they're not sexy SV startups writing phone apps, and (2) there aren't very many open positions because employees tend to stay where they're happier.

    Employers who treat their employees well will be rewarded in the long term.

  • > "companies talking publicly about wanting to give employees a better work-life balance (complete with on-site gyms and unlimited vacation time and... stuff...)"

    If I saw a company providing an on-site gym, I'd be worried that their goal was the *elimination* of work-life balance. Same with unlimited vacation time. On-site gym means "we want you to be at work as much as possible". Unlimited vacation time means "we will guilt you into not taking very much vacation, because there are no strict rules". I much prefer working for a place where the amount of vacation is explicitly stated (though I wish that number were higher, of course), because that means you know exactly how much it is expected that you will be able to take, and as long as you stay under that number, nobody in the company has any reason or excuse to complain if you take it.

  • by ememisya ( 1548255 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @09:48PM (#50967035) Homepage
    What life? Oh you mean those few hours you spend watching T.V. until it's time to work? Pffft, overrated.
  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Thursday November 19, 2015 @09:54PM (#50967065) Homepage

    If 27% "characterized work-life balance in the tech industry as a myth"...doesn't it follow that 73% don't think it's a myth?

    Maybe it's in Silicon Valley that nobody has a life? I've worked as a software developer in Texas for 25 years, in 6 companies, and I've always had reasonable expectations on my time.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.