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Businesses IT

Tech Pros' Struggle For Work-Life Balance Continues (dice.com) 195

Nerval's Lobster writes: Work-life balance among technology professionals is very much in the news following a much-discussed New York Times article about workday conditions at Amazon. That piece painted a picture of a harsh workplace where employees literally cried at their desks. While more tech companies are publicly talking about the need for work-life balance, do the pressures of delivering revenues, profits, and products make much of that chatter mere lip-service? Or are companies actually doing their best to ensure their workers are treated like human beings with lives outside of work?
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Tech Pros' Struggle For Work-Life Balance Continues

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  • This one's easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:03PM (#50911951)

    "do the pressures of delivering revenues, profits, and products make much of that chatter mere lip-service?"

    Yes.

    "Or are companies actually doing their best to ensure their workers are treated like human beings with lives outside of work?"

    No.

    Next.

    • by rioki ( 1328185 )

      Fun fact, creating a good work life balance for your employees may actually have a positive outcome to the bottom line. First, motivated workers generally have something like a 10x higher output. Second, when you have a nice place to work, employees are ready to be payed less; generally they tend to favor a better place to work over a higher salary. Third, having a nice place to work will attract talent and retain it. At least for the tech sector, creating a nice place to work is the egoistical approach.

      • by l3v1 ( 787564 )
        "creating a good work life balance for your employees"

        Well, what I expect from an employer is not to "create" a good work-life balance, but to provide an environment where a day's work can be ended (I didn't say 'finished' on purpose) at the 9 hour mark - unless the employee explicitely wishes to make longer hours for whatever reason - and not have any influence on the out-of-work time at all aside from making it possible to actually have out-of-work time.

        "when you have a nice place to work, employees a
        • Some people will be willing to give up some compensation to get better working conditions, and some won't. In cases where money isn't that strong a motivator within a certain range, employees may well decide where to work based on working conditions.

          You might put it that, if you have a crap working environment, people had better be paid a lot better than other places or you'll lose them.

      • Sign on the message board at work: "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"
  • by i work on computers ( 3793299 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:11PM (#50911985)

    I've had three employers: one Fortune 500 company and two 50 employee consulting companies. At the big company, I worked 50-60 hours/week in a high stress environment, but the work was exciting and I really enjoyed it.

    At the two smaller companies, it is rare that I would work over 41 hours/week. I've never done it in 6 months at my current company. I think it is easier for small consulting companies to offer a balance like this because our clients won't pay for more than 40 hours/week except under exceptional circumstances, and our company does a great job being realistic about timelines so we almost always deliver on time.

    You can find work-life balance, but you have to look for it and prioritize it in you job search. I would probably make 10-20% more had I stayed at the large company, but the relaxed hours are worth it to me.

    I'll also note that this is in the Midwest, where all you tech people from the coasts complaining about not finding jobs should move.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      I also live in the midwest. 40 hour weeks are the norm. I've only recently started to have to work weekends. About 2 hours on Saturday or Sunday, then I get a full day floating paid vacation time. I have to work another 2 hours next Saturday, so I'm taking a work day off before the Christmas holiday.
    • I'll also note that this is in the Midwest, where all you tech people from the coasts complaining about not finding jobs should move.

      I think you're an H1-B Visa loving CEO of a midwest company looking to reduce your payroll expenses, because you've just invited a whole bunch of tech people to flood the midwest. If that were to happen, midwest tech wages would plummet.

      If you're really who you claim to be in this posting, then you are actively sabotaging your ability to have a work/life balance.

      • Nawh. He knows they won't move here, the salaries aren't as high as on the coasts. People on the coasts just look at the number, not the overall cost of living.

      • If you're really who you claim to be in this posting, then you are actively sabotaging your ability to have a work/life balance.

        It's kind of sad that you believe everyone is so viciously self-interested as you make out. Most people actually aren't and will happily do things for the greater good even if the eventual outcome is worse for themselves.

    • I work for a company with about 250 employees, and it is rare that I work more than 45 hours a week. Our managers will tell people, "Go home, you've worked enough today," and when you go on vacation, "Don't check your mail or anything, you're on vacation, the rest of us are here and can handle any emergencies while you're gone."

      My company has a TON of problems: Product owners make promises to clients we can't keep, our release process changes from product to product, logging is inadequate at best, requireme

      • Most of those problems are not your fault. Having you go home early is to make sure you don't get stressed out due to poor efforts of others.

    • This is basically my experience, but after my fortune 500 experience the two consulting companies were 150+ (one was smaller when I started). 40 hours a week or more was expected - at least 80% billable -- but that was countered by higher pay, more WFH flexibility, and more widespread responsibilities.
    • I have just the opposite experience. I moved from the Midwest to the cost (Seattle). The famous 'work ethic' of the midwest means that to get ahead I regularly worked 70+ hours per week. Sure, I got ahead, was paid REALLY well - but it cost me my first marriage and most of the friends of my youth. The good old boys club and women glass ceiling are very much alive and well in the Midwest. I have had several IT jobs from public, private, manufacturing, consulting, and even took public company private....
      • I've worked in the Midwest all my life, working 40-hour weeks. Well, there was that testing gig where I worked long hours, but it wasn't as intense as software development and I was getting paid hourly, and really needed the money. I minded long hours a lot less when the meter was still running.

  • by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <tukaroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:13PM (#50911999) Homepage Journal

    Just a friendly reminder that Nerval's Lobster is a Dice shill account, and posts articles for Dice.com. Oh, and that editors either refuse to, or are banned from, putting a disclaimer that Dice.com is owned by Dice Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Slashdot, as they once would when posting a link to "sister" sites prior to being purchased by Dice.

    • Kindda makes you wonder who the financial genius at Dice was that decided to buy Slashdot just for the privilege of posting ads for free. Unless, of course, these things are really just a gimmick to move all those unforeseen Slashdot losses into a different accounting category: "Eureka! We'll just write the losses off as advertising!"

      • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

        I think Beta was actually their attempt to monetize Slashdot, but the community reaction was so horrendous (and rightfully so, IMO) that they had to cancel it, which is why they're looking to sell off Slashdot. These Dicevertisements are just a little side action for them, for whatever ads I'm sure they have plastered over their own page.

    • editors either refuse to, or are banned from, putting a disclaimer that Dice.com is owned by Dice Holdings, Inc.

      Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't that pretty self evident because of the names? If Dice Holding Inc was called Randomnoun Inc, then fair enough.

      • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

        Yeah, I was just making sure the relationship was clear (that /. is owned by DHI, not by Dice.com)

  • by khelms ( 772692 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:15PM (#50912011)
    I wonder if someday "going Amazon" will be part of our vocabulary.
  • 1) Hire new STEM worker, reset pay scale to minimum.

    2) Drive worker to burnout in two years or so, worker leaves/commits suicide/has heart attack.

    3) PROFIT!!

    4) Start process again at 1)

    Keeping employees around that expect periodic raises and sensible work-life balance will never increase profit margins in the short term. Only companies concerned about the long term and brain drain (and few are) will do anything to change this. Most just want billable hours.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:37PM (#50912113)

      That works as long as you don't need to train your staff. But, well, you know how managers are. "Burger joint, IT security consulting, I can manage anything, what's the difference anyway?"

      • That works as long as you don't need to train your staff. But, well, you know how managers are. "Burger joint, IT security consulting, I can manage anything, what's the difference anyway?"

        That should be marked insightful or informative.

        Modern business and elsewhere now wants MBA's as managers. No experience needed in the working field. My last manager had absolutely no idea about what I did, and very little about my co-workers. During one of our meetings I told him that I could bullshit him into anything, and he'd have no idea ifI was being truthful or not.

        He was a nice enough guy, but having no idea about how or what we did was a disaster.

        • I worked for a Director once who didn't understand the first thing about software, and it worked well. He knew what he didn't know, and trusted us to know that instead of him.

          • That can work if, and only if, the manager knows that he doesn't know the subject and concentrates on his strengths, i.e. getting the stuff his people need.

            If such a person insists in micro managing his people, it's time to start reading job ads.

          • I worked for a Director once who didn't understand the first thing about software, and it worked well. He knew what he didn't know, and trusted us to know that instead of him.

            Well now, that's a different kettle o'fish. If a person knows what they don't know - that's a basis for a constructive work relationship. I had a similar relationship with my director(s), and the folks directly below him and the department heads.

            It's when you get an MBA who is clueless, but doesn't think they are - that the problems develop.

      • That works as long as you don't need to train your staff.

        Yes. However, in a lot of places, "training" is a terse statement to the worker to "figure it out [dumbass, or get fired]*" All that "self-motivated, quick learner" BS in the job description, remember? "Training" == "stressed out monkeys Googling shit like their next meal depended on it."

        *The bit in square brackets is rarely said aloud, because HR, but there is a special low frequency managerial growl that gets this across quite succinctly.

        • The bit in square brackets is rarely said aloud, because HR, but there is a special low frequency managerial growl that gets this across quite succinctly.

          If you know this quote, you know what it's talking about:

          Third prize is you're fired

    • And Mr. I ate an Engineer do you hate gotos so much that you forget we really start counting at 1 (one). See your step 4 to get more confused.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @10:47AM (#50914803)

      This is what I was taught in Business School.
      Employee turnover cost 150% more to replace then to keep. So you will break even if you replace a $125k with a $50k assuming that the new guy is capable of doing the work. The period of burnout means you will not be able to recoup your costs, as you are just paying the employee to be trained to work for your competitor.

      I don't know where a lot of companies went to business schools to get their MBA. But I went to an accredited one that focused a lot on ethics, and long term planning.

      • There's a book called Peopleware, by DeMarco and Lister. In one chapter, they had a quiz for managers: what is your turnover, and how much does it cost you to replace someone? At the end of the chapter, they said that if the manager actually answers both questions, they pass.

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:19PM (#50912033) Homepage
    As an I.T. support contractor for the last ten years, my contracts prohibits me from working overtime. I'm only allowed to work from Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. Which is fine with me.
    • I've been around IT a bit, and found the demands vary greatly between industries. I don't like working much, so over time have maneuvered myself into what I consider the one of best work-life balance roles, in one of the least demanding industries.
      I now work Mon-Fri, two days from home each week. Supposed to be 9-5 but quite often start late and finish early, and have long lunches.
      Fuck working, it's for chumps.
    • As an I.T. support contractor for the last ten years, my contracts prohibits me from working overtime. I'm only allowed to work from Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. Which is fine with me.

      We have that too, except we're only allowed to charge for 40 hours. How much we work is a "gray" area.

      • I billed the number of hours I worked. I never had to work over forty hours. "You realize that will be time and a half." always stopped any request for more.
      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        My contract is black-and-white with no grey areas. If I worked overtime without authorization, I will get fired.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:37PM (#50912109)

    If I'm hired to work days, which is all I will take, I work from the minute I start until the minute it's time to leave. I don't work for free. I'd rather be an hourly worker because they will not be so quick to take advantage of you. Currently I'm salaried, but my boss knows I'm 8-5, no nights, no weekends. I might work a special event if I get a comp day. My time is valuable, I'm in my 40s so I know how the game is played, and I do push back when pushed. I do my job, they like the results, so no one messes with me when it's time to find warm bodies to work odd events. My time at home is more valuable. I cannot hit the rewind button. The time I have with my children can never be given back to me.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's interesting that this post is currently at +4 Insightful. Here is a guy who puts his family first and refuses to do overtime, yet still expects to be paid properly for his time and won't take any crap. All well and good, except that people complain that women who want to avoid overtime so they can see their families are not working as hard and thus don't deserve to be paid as well.

      It's just just an anecdote. there is data showing that after having children men's income tends to rise and women's tends t

      • by Lorens ( 597774 )

        Here is a guy who puts his family first

        Hmmm . . . you may be right, of course, but actually I cannot see anything the GP post that indicates the author's gender!

    • by radish ( 98371 )

      I actually wouldn't want to be hourly. The reason is, my work (and that of my employees) is measured by success, by what we do and what we produce - not by how long it takes to do so. Paying by the hour is, in my view, rewarding slowness. My workplace gives me the flexibility to work when/wherever I need to - yesterday for example I took the morning to go to an event at my kids school. Had I been on some 9-5 hourly rate that would have cost me $$$, as it was, no big deal.

      I literally Do. Not. Care what hours

  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @08:39PM (#50912123)

    Yes, companies sometimes push employees too hard. Lately in engineering though, you can punch the CEO in the face and he/she'll say "Sorry, please don't quit", with the current market. Obviously not true of all IT positions, but in engineering, it almost is.

    So there's really no reason to screw over your work life balance, aside for maybe a pager rotation for emergencies (but the company should have a level 2 or 3 support to handle he common cases...I guess those guys work/life balance is fucked. Sorry)

    Engineers however, are arrogant as fuck, and want to be at the top of the food chain, so a couple of them will willingly fuck over their work life balance. Then they'll get promoted for it (which is a problem with the company...but its hard to say no to someone who delivered twice as much for the same pay, even if he/she screwed over their life over it).

    Then, people will feel they have to do this to compete. And thus, the New York Times Pseudo-Amazon is born.

    Employers should not reward those people, and other engineers should NOT worship them. You don't need a union to make things reasonable, but please for god's sake, don't encourage your peers who do that shit.

    • It's not just engineers. I work in education and there are two of those people I can think of off the top of my head. Both of them gave tons of free time to the company to get promoted and now everyone else is held to their standard.

      Already have my resume out.

    • Engineers however, are arrogant as fuck, and want to be at the top of the food chain, so a couple of them will willingly fuck over their work life balance. Then they'll get promoted for it (which is a problem with the company...but its hard to say no to someone who delivered twice as much for the same pay, even if he/she screwed over their life over it).

      I suppose I resemble that remark, probably including the arrogance, though I don't care about being at the top of the food chain. I just like what I do, and really feel it's important and makes the world a better place, so I sometimes work extra hours to get stuff done. On the other hand, I sometimes work a bit less, and I usually feel no compunction about dropping what I'm doing for a while for family-related activities, or to go out for a hike in the summer or skiing in the winter.

      I'm posting mainly to

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @10:19PM (#50912479)

    Quote from TFA

    If we can make sure projects are planned and time is allocated for the right tasks, we can really improve balance.

    Good joke!

  • It is really easy to solve this problem. Hire more tech workers.

  • the only way to get ahead is to kill yourself. That's cause nobody trains, and if you want a new, better paying job you have to either get another degree (good luck while your working a full time job, in real life (tm) nobody does that unless their ftj is a cake walk) or get hands on experience. Nobody will hire to train or even to polish. They can just go crying to congress for more fully trained H1-Bs... So you work two jobs hoping to get the next one and hoping the raise you get makes up for the 20 years
  • Little boxes made of ticky-tacky.

    (Yes, it's actually relevant. Google it.)

  • My context is widely different from a US-living IT worker: I live in Finland and am a post-doc researcher in a field related to chemistry. I work very close to exactly 40 hours/week, even though sometimes I could get away with less. It's just that I really enjoy what I do. But even so, I never let myself work more than 40 hrs/week because family.

  • In the US, back in the old days, folks who worked on-call got a fixed amount for that time - I think 10% was common - and the on-call hours were fixed, and you were off call the rest of the time.

    Oh, sorry, that was when unions were strong, and about 25% of the working population were in them.

    But we're techies, we don't need unions, we *love* being on call 24x7x365.25 from work, and love dropping whatever we're doing to respond, and not getting anything more for all of this, and not having any off-time. We *

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