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CIO Jury: Unsocial and long hours are a "fact of life"

No sympathy for well-paid IT pros who should just get on with it…

The UK's IT bosses have hit back at claims that the IT profession suffers from a long hours culture that results in staff working thousands of pounds worth of unpaid overtime every year.

Friday has been dubbed "Work Your Proper Hours Day" by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which is calling for all UK workers to only put in their contracted hours and take a proper lunch break for one day to highlight the issue of unpaid overtime.

But silicon.com's CIO Jury user panel responded almost unanimously by saying that the long and unsocial hours simply come with the territory for anyone who works in IT, whether CIO or a helpdesk support operator. Only one of the 12 CIOs disagreed.

Most pointed out that many IT professionals are also more than handsomely rewarded for their out-of-hours efforts.

Les Boggia, head of IT at insurance firm Carole Nash, said: "It is the nature of the beast that IT will always have to work unsociable out of hours. Certainly it is true the majority of IT staff work more than their standard hours, some of which will not be paid overtime. Of course, the salaries do usually reflect this."

Hugo Smith, IT director at Sporting Index, said the nature of IT work means that it is based around completing projects rather than set working hours anyway.

"If long and unsociable hours are required to deliver a good service and keep the company or department profitable and continuously improving, then they are a fact of life. Rather than a set number of hours, it is usually expected that a senior manager should work the hours required to accomplish the job," he said.

Long hours are a fact of life for both support workers and project workers, according to Ric Francis, operations director at the Post Office.

"Most organisations will compensate the individuals with a combination of standby/callout payments together with overtime rates and/or time off in lieu of hours worked," he said.

Frank Coyle, IT director at John Menzies Distribution, also argued that salaries more than reflect the burdens placed on IT staff.

"IT personnel are anything but underpaid when compared with other employees and we have along history of working 'as required' to ensure that projects are delivered or problems are dealt with. Most senior personnel will remember working through the night on numerous occasions when something had gone badly wrong," he said.

But one of the IT bosses said that it is often pride and dedication to the job, rather than just money, which drives many hard-working IT staff.

Gavin Whatrup, IT director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, said it is partly the nature of "zero downtime" businesses today and partly "a result of the passion some have for the industry who just want to get the job done".

Today's CIO Jury was…

Steve Anderson, European IT partner, Davis Langdon
Les Boggia, head of IT, Carole Nash
Frank Coyle, IT director, John Menzies Distribution
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
Ric Francis, operations director, Post Office
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis Partnership
Kevin Lloyd, CTO, Barclays
Colin Moore, head of information services, Department for Education and Skills
Rory O'Boyle, head of IT, The Football Association
Crispin O'Connell, chief ICT officer, Cardiff City Council
Hugo Smith, IT director, Sporting Index
Gavin Whatrup, IT director, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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