IT Employment

Work-life balance: More important than money?


It appears that way if recent surveys are correct. According to one such survey, conducted by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, 85% of recruiters have seen candidates turn jobs down because they didn't offer enough work-life balance.This need makes sense for a lot of reasons. Employees now find themselves juggling with work the pressures of long commutes, raising children, and managing their households. Many are fielding the demands of the "sandwich generation," those who are raising children while also caring for aging parents. Throw into that mix the fact that the boundaries between work and home are blurring due to ready access to work data via our BlackBerries, et al. Not to mention the frustration of feeling that you're not doing any one of those things as best as you could.

Some companies are taking this to heart and are making changes that help alleviate the pressures their employees face. Apparently, Google offers employees the use of gyms, car washes, and an onsite laundry. I think that's a great start, although washing the car would be WAY down on my priority list. The laundry thing I could get into.

Forbes magazine talked about how the gamemaker Cranium got really creative being home-life friendly.

"The company culture is intricately related to the type of products produced. Family-inclusive parties are held at every major holiday and employees take home 10 free games a year. When school is canceled because of snow, the chief executive brings his kids to work just like everyone else."

The type of company may not be the sole determining factor in the work-home balance issue. Sometimes it's what you do rather than where you do it.

Best IT careers for work/home life balance

Here's an article that lists some common IT positions and where they fall on the balance continuum.

Is you work-home life balanced?

Would you like to know if your work/home life is balanced? Here's a quiz that may tell you some things you don't already kno

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

37 comments
yooper
yooper

I suppose me, like others get a little upset at the carefree nature a lot of people approach this matter of "Work-Life ballance" I hear time after time "Life's short", "Follow your dreams" etc. These statements are true, but the prevailing attitude makes it sound all too easy. Life for most people is about work and sacrifice, and very few get to "live" their lives. I know all this sounds untra cynical, but we must admit for the majority of people this what life is all about. I work for me, I do the best I can to keep my debt under control and payoff on what little of it I have. The world doesn't care if you live or die, that's why you need to look out for yourself when it comes to your finances and family.

mark.podrazik
mark.podrazik

In 1995, I left the company I currently work for three reasons: my young kids needed more "parent time", I wanted to change directions professionally and pursue an MBA and the 2+hr daily commute from the Western subburbs to the Northern subburbs of Chicago was wearing me down--especially given the other two reasons. I had a fine job (position, respect, compensation, etc.), but the balance and direction it afforded was no longer for me. For the next two years, I tended to my son and daughter during the day and went to school at night. Because my wife and I have always lived a less extravagant lifestyle than we could afford, we were able to manage this financially. Fast forward more than 10 years. I am back at my old company for 6+ years with the same objectionable commute, BUT my son and daughter are now in high school and college, respectively. Their needs are VERY different at this age and are more easily met with fewer hours of "parent time." Moreover, they are great kids and we have a terrific family relationship. I am now working in a position I had wanted for more than 14 years. Financially, I have been blessed such that we can afford college for my daughter, save for my son's education and still have some left to enjoy what's good in this life--not the least of which is giving to others in need. So what's my point? The key to understanding work/life balance is that IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU! I've tried to make my adult life decisions based upon the needs of others (sometimes reluctantly), and having had enough time pass to be able to look back over that landscape, I can be satisfied with the decisions I've made. For anyone struggling with an apparent work/life balance issue, it begins with understanding your purpose: look around to see whose needs you meet and whose you are not meeting, but should. (Please begin with those you've committed your life to: spouses and children!) Start there and the decisions you make--however reluctantly--will be the right ones and "work/life balance" will become little more than a catch phrase.

ITforTheMasses
ITforTheMasses

What work life balance? Do you really think that adding a laundry service or car wash improves one's work/life balance? No way...these are all ploys to keep employees in the office and squeeze a tad more productivity out of them. I work on Wall Street (in IT) which is an extremely competitive place to be, mainly because of the insane bonuses that employees reap. So it goes with out saying that if you get paid the big bucks, your work-life balance leans more towards a work-work balance. The trouble is that you don't get the big bucks in IT, but you're still expected to put in the hours, just because others do. And to touch up on the point made by a member regarding living expenses. I rent a 300 sq. ft. in NYC for $1650/month...it's basically a dungeon. Even if I wanted to live 2 hrs out of the city (4 hr commute each day) I'd be looking at $500k to purchase any decent piece of real estate. It's insane. Bottom line here is that quality of life in the US is erroding. I'd don't know what to say or do, but I guess I have to spend more time in the office.

mysticpain
mysticpain

The options Google and Cranium are disturbing! They are tricking you into living at work! I mean... "When school is canceled because of snow, the chief executive brings his kids to work just like everyone else." That is saaaaad! Go home! Have a fun time that day with your children! Don't take them to your lousy job where you will ignore them half the day! Your children don't want to go to your office and stare at your lame cube! They want to be home making hot chocolate and watching movies with mom or dad! Building forts in the basement... whatever... NOT GOING TO WORK! That is just disgusting! There is absolutely NO job in this world more important than staying home with your kids... that is what sux about society... they want you to take your kids to work?? To much life centers around our meaningless employment. The numbers can wait a day. The email doesn't have to be checked... we are all just a number in a cube ... the machine rolls on!

sghalsasi
sghalsasi

Yeah sometimes money gets a secondary importance especially when you have ample money and no time or no one to share time and joy with you

prplshroud
prplshroud

This is becoming the opposite in the Boston area. Google aside. Everyone wants to be in Boston now that the Big Dig is finished. The problem with that is I live 25 miles outside of the city and it takes 90+ minutes to get there. Even if I use public transportation. That's 3 hours of every day I lose just going to and from work. Over the course of the year that adds up to a working business quarter. That's a lot of time wasted to me. Work/Life balance should include the time wasted commuting. Companies should look into coming back into suburbia. I hear constantly that companies can not find good technology workers. Gee, maybe that's because we're all out in suburbia and don't want to work in Boston and waste 3 hours of our day. I think we the employee value our personal time more today than we did 10 years ago. Come back out here companies and you will find the quality people you're seeking.

doc.two
doc.two

I agree with everything you stated except: "The key to understanding work/life balance is that IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU!" If a person does not make sure he/she is taken care of, that person cannot help/take care of others. Case in point: "For the next two years, I tended to my son and daughter during the day and went to school at night." Because the children were young, you decided in order to better serve them you needed to leave your job, take night classes for your MBA and be a stay at home parent now and get yourself something that later on would be much more beneficial to you, your wife and children. We humans tend to feel that we should give the lion's share of the spoils to our young. The reality is: -If I am not well fed, I will not be strong -If I am not strong, I will become weak & sick -If I am weak and sick, I cannot hunt or gather -If cannot hunt or gather, my offspring will not eat -If my offspring does not eat, THEY WILL DIE! In today's complicated world, the basics still can apply, and parents need to be strong for their children. But, we parents do need to balance worklife & home life to show our kids how to be strong adults themseves one day.

bnewsom
bnewsom

For what you're paying in NYC, you could get a house in anywhere in the Midwest with 8-10 times the square footage. Used to live in CA, then in NY. Never again. (Unless someone quadrupled my current salary. Not likely). --Cincinnati Suburbanite

brenda.collum
brenda.collum

I work in Chicago and live in NW Indiana. My commute is around 1 hour, give or take 15 minutes. I just can't make Chicago money in Indiana. I am able to own a house and can actually afford it. The sacrifice of time away from my kids allows the time that we do have to be much more interesting. So, to me, the commute IS worth it.

brenda.collum
brenda.collum

I work in Chicago and live in NW Indiana. My commute is around 1 hour, give or take 15 minutes. I just can't make Chicago money in Indiana. I am able to own a house and can actually afford it. The sacrifice of time away from my kids allows the time that we do have to be much more interesting. So, to me, the commute IS worth it.

rsoly777
rsoly777

Hey Somebody has to pay for all the activities the young ones want to participate in ie: Sports, Dance, day camps, etc. not to mention all the things the kids schools like to nickle and dime you for. Don't get me wrong I love my kids but they need to do things other than with Mom and Dad and unfortunately there are very few of these things that are free!

Listen65
Listen65

Mysticpain is so right. Your family is the most important thing in your life (at least it should be). people should work to live not live to work.

TtFH
TtFH

90 minutes for 25 miles? Crikey! That's about the same distance I travel. 35-40 minutes by motorbike, 70 minutes by *pushbike* - and I'm not even a fast rider! Gets you fit as well as being much more fun than sittting in a box on wheels. Tony F

techmail
techmail

If you're doing PC support for a company, you will need to be physically present for some things (been there, done that - there's no remote access to replace a hard drive). If you do network configuration and testing, you generally have to be where the hardware is (a lab with $8 million in Cisco gear probably won't fit in your basement ;-) If you're in sales, you probably need to make some face-to-face calls, although that varies by industry. If you do project management, you may need some on-site time, but much can be done from anywhere. One of my daughters (working from home) has managed a group in India for almost a year and will make the first trip there in the fall. If your job is software development, 95% of the time you only need connectivity (it's worked for me for about 5 years, in both PDA and database-driven web site development). Some organizations have security issues (finance, banking, medical, government) that limit the ability for anyone to work off-site. If there are a number of employees in an area, a remote office may be an alternative to commuting into the city. A remote site with a dedicated communications line to the main site can have very good security - almost every bank has branches. It's possible for a number of organizations to share a single remote site and reduce the expenses. Telecommuting isn't for everyone. Some bosses can't deal with "invisible" employees - "If I can't see him, he's not working" - and it can impact advancement in some organizations. Some people need the social context of an office (remote office arangements work well in this regard). Some would-be telecommuters find that they get distracted too easily - or that the refrigerator (or cookie jar) is just too convenient. John

mishanv
mishanv

It seems many think this is about work vs. life and that's why it must be balanced. Work is only an aspect of life, a subdirectory. We have a job that someone pays us to do because we don't have the private means to always do what we want, whatever that might be: running our own buisness, doing good deeds, walking around the world, whatever. Since perfection is not part of the human condition, we are subject to deciding on the tradeoffs. You are not forced to take any job - you decide to take it. If you take this job you will have to commute or move? If you commute what route will you take, etc. If you move, how close will that be, what can you afford, what will you deem acceptable conditions? And so it goes. Life is the parent directory, everything else is a subdirectory.

ProfTech
ProfTech

I once lived in Houston, TX; Katy actually(West of Houston). I worked on the west side of Houston. Commute time was 30-45 minuites. Not bad - but that was in the 80's. Now the same commute would take over 60 minutes. Due to failing oil industries in the 80's, I moved to Corpus Christi. Yes, I took a huge pay cut but I live 2 miles from where I work and commute on a bad day time is 10-15 minutes. So what have I gained. More free time, less miles on vehicle thus more for retirement saving. Net result? I am better off financially because I have less travel expenses and am healthier due to less stress. I love living in Corpus Christ where the worst traffic I've seen in 10 years is better the the best trafic I've ever experienced in Houston. For me it was worth the cut in pay. Companies should consider setting up shop here. There is a good employee base for technology and great schools.

marym
marym

A 3 hour commute is unthinkable for me. What happened to working at home? I think IT workers in particular are the ideal candidates for skipping the commute and working at home. A fresh start in the morning minus a long commute equals 8 productive hours a day.

Web-Guy
Web-Guy

For me it is. I took a job with the government at a low salary but really enjoy the free time I have. I only work 37.5 hours a week and get 6 weeks vacation a year. The stress of my (programmer) job varies but is generally low in my area. During crunch times they pay time and a half for overtime. But for years my salary was 20 - 30 % below my peers in the private industry. Is that worth it to you? To get promoted I had to take multiple 8 hour exams and hope the government was in a spending mood. Now my salary is only about 10% below my peers, but it is worth it to me. I have done my time in private industry, but the pressure sucked.

dogknees
dogknees

Or alternatively, people who don't want to commute should move back into the city centers. Choosing to live in the suburbs, like all choices, has consequences, one of which is a longer commute if you work in the city. You choose, you deal with the consequences. Regards

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

The commute has always been terrible and I live in the immediate bay area, those in outlying areas really need to rethink where they live and work. Home prices are driving everyone out of the metroploitan areas as few can afford to live here and have to move to where they can afford it, even with the increased cost of commuting, either by car or mass transit. Time becomes secondary and is virtually lost time. I find that living close to the office is a boon as the real commuting is done on the time clock and thus more bearable.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

If I made half of what I make here in Colorado, I'd have twice the standard of living.

rsoly777
rsoly777

I totally agree with everything you said. The Time away can make the times together much more enjoyable

rsoly777
rsoly777

I agree with this but the subject started out as work life balance. Not everyone can afford to live in the metropolitan areas where their high paying job is, usually you get way too little for a huge pricetag.I grew up 2 miles from where the Redmond Microsoft campus is, My parents bought their house (2100 Sq ft 4 bdrm 2.5 bath) for $14,000.00. If they put it on the market right now the market value is $750,000.00. Houses hald that size are selling for around a half a million. Most people that value family and take a lot of time off to be at home with their kids can't afford to live in a place like that. Heck your house payment alone would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000.00 a month minimum. So where is your work life balance, being strapped every month cause you want to stay home all the time with your 4 kids eating pork n beans? with hot dog wheels on a special occasion? Sounds like you have a 2 person income, my wife has not had to work in 20 years, we have 4 cars a 3400 sq foot home and we take a trip to hawaii every year, all 6 of us. Oh and the only bills we have are our mortgage payment and a small car loan for our newest car. I think that is worth commuting and spending the extra time to make a premium buck.

rsoly777
rsoly777

I have a similar situation where I was commuting 70 mi to Microsoft in Redmond from Olympia in washington. I made $10.00 more an hour working at MS than my current position. My commute to Microsoft only took an hour and 15 minutes because I worked the Grave Yard and I was travelling the opposite way of traffic on my commute times. If I was working during the day I could expect up to a 3 hour commute each way. I am happy to be where I am now I work 2.5 miles from work, ride my bike many days,(when it is not raining). I have more time but I still would like to have the higher pay. You see I want to have my cake and eat it too. The Benefits I am seeing from my company change: I do not have to worry about getting stuck in traffic; My Health is better; I see my family more; I am saving money on gas; I had to sell my new Pontiac Solstice; I feel like I am living paycheck to paycheck and having to watch my spending is the biggest downfall of the whole deal. I suppose the benefits outweigh the downfall. Once people stop thinking as a job as the way to happiness, they will realize that no job provides true happiness. Getting the money is the key. When you get the money and focus on getting the money, everything else becomes irrelevant. You shouldn't focus on doing a good job and having a rewarding career. You should only focus on getting as much money as you can. If that doesn't make you happy, happiness is not for you!

Infotactix
Infotactix

I've said for a long time that if even a fraction of the workers who could work from home actually did, society could reap huge benefits. Think about it: Far fewer cars on the road means less pollution, reduced use of fossil fuels, less stress, more time and probably a happier and more productive work force. Given the benefits, why isn't this a national (or international) priority?

isapp
isapp

When I moved a few years ago, I found a condo within walking distance of my job. I'm in better physical shape because I get some exercise. I find that I'm using my car so little, that I only use one tank of gas every six weeks or so. It would be impossible for a company to find a site that would suit all employees. It's easier for the employee to find an apartment/condo/home more convenient to the job.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I live & work in central Phoenix. Housing here is still (relatively) cheap. Other places like San Francisco & New York the inner city is more expensive than suburbia.

lauren.malhoit.ctr
lauren.malhoit.ctr

Cheers to that response. The problem so many cities are having is that the downtown seems to deteriorate and then the entire city will do so well.

Nadia.Swaby
Nadia.Swaby

Here in Toronto, EVERYBODY moves out the the 'burbs because you MUST have a 2000+ sq. ft house. Then they complain when it takes them forever to get to work! Basically you have to choose: either you have a huge house and suck up the commute, or you learn to live in a smaller space and never think about traffic again. As an aside: house prices I skyrocketing in downtown TO because people are tired of commuting.

lew
lew

I live and work in Santa Cruz county. Sure, I could make a lot more money if I wanted to drive to Silicon Valley every day, but why? I would have to drive on Hwy 17 to get there, which is a sketchy road on a nice day, but in a winter storm, it can be nasty. Yesterday traffic was snarled by a truck jack-knife, and that was on a beautiful summer day. Instead, I work at my home or mobile office, and I can go surfing on most days, or take a mountain bike ride in the hills. Sure, the finances have been a challenge at times, but overall life is good.

EM1109
EM1109

It's about reasonable work hours so you can be with family and have a life outside of work. I see this all the time in the 20 somethings. Busting their tail and in the end, they are going to be burned out and ask where their youth went. It was spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons coding a piece of software with unrealistic deadlines and expectations so some software CEO can get the big fat check. Sometimes you just have to leave a job and find something more friendlier to that balance. I know I have before. I survived.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I live in the Bay Area now and I have to say that housing prices are insane here. For a 750sqft apt I'm paying $1600/month and that's actually one of the CHEAPER apartments in the area.... Sure I could live in downtown Oakland, but my commute would be horrible and my wife's would be short...but as it stands we live in the middle...she's about 15 miles from her office and I'm about 15 miles from mine. It works out, although I have to say the traffic on 680 sucks.

ProfTech
ProfTech

First - Avoid the debt trap. Second - Find a job in an area where you can afford the cost of living. Three - if soultion 2 is not an option, go back and work on solution 1. Other than the house, I am 98% debt free. I will be completly debt free in less than 5 years.

Lumbergh77
Lumbergh77

It makes the people who are unable to commute jealous.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I lived in the city (Toronto), as a renter, for many years. When I landed a job in the burbs, I moved out there. I don't have a 2000 sq ft house, sorry to shatter your theory. My wife, three kids and I inhabit 1200 sq ft, smaller than some downtown condos. I took a job in the city after a restructuring layoff. The commute when I started was tolerable, but it is getting worse. I'd be happy to take transit if i could. Before my current position, I had a contract in the financial district and could take a 35 min commuter train and then walk for 5 mins to the office - it was heaven compared to the hour and 15 I now spend each way. Just this week, a traffic accident caused it to be a 2 hour trip home. There is nothing I can afford in Toronto period, unless I divorce my wife and remarry someone with a career(and no its not by choice that she doesn't work). James

jrensink78
jrensink78

I do agree with you about the trade-off between being being able to get a bigger/nicer house out in the suburbs but having to deal with the longer commute. But crime, school systems, and other factors can be much more important than just size when deciding on where to live. It's all about looking at the total picture and deciding what's the best fit for your life.