By Cheryl Caponigro

Working bizarre hours keeps my job from becoming ordinary and boring. In fact, the stress and madness of being in the IT Department is what makes the job appealing to me.

As the Manager of Technical Services, I am responsible for four departments: Operations, Mailroom, Phones, and Help Desk. I have four people reporting to me; one person per function. When one person is out of the office, our department is short-staffed and I often fill the void, resulting in long hours. At home, I sometimes dial back into work for a while. Typically, I work a minimum of 50 hours a week, but that doesn’t include many of the tasks I complete at home.

Of course, there are going to be times when a job demands extra hours, especially in IT. The very nature of the department demands that certain tasks be performed outside of normal working hours. As a manager of IT, I expect the people who report to me to work outside of normal business hours as required. And when they do, it is my responsibility as their manager to be certain they get extra time off, so they don’t get burned out. Managers are being very foolish if they don’t realize a burnt-out employee has little or no value.

Management should protect workers from unreasonable requests. We had a case of an employee who worked 30+ straight hours restoring our system after a crash. Our CIO was smart enough to insist the employee be sent home in a cab, and management also vowed we would not let anyone work those kind of hours again.

You do have the power to say no

Putting in additional hours may be easier for me compared with other IT pros because I don’t have any children, and my husband works evenings. Even so, my husband and I have made sacrifices for my job. On several occasions, the two of us have gotten out of bed and driven to my workplace in the middle of the night, because the backups failed.

These are sacrifices that I’ve chosen to make. My husband has always supported me. He recognizes that what benefits me in my job ultimately benefits him as well.

Though I work hard, I also set reasonable limits. I am scheduled to have shoulder surgery soon. I guarantee you that even though I’m a workaholic, I am preparing my department to move along without me. If I feel up to it, I may do some work at home following the surgery.

In the article, “Confessions of IT workaholics,” TechRepublic member Alex Carson said he worked from the hospital shortly after receiving a liver transplant. I respectfully question Mr. Carson’s motives. Is it his own ego that makes him feel his job is more important than his health?

The article also quoted other IT pros who described abusive working conditions and outrageous hours. Who is to blame in those situations? Isn’t it the worker’s responsibility to speak out or take action—especially if their health or safety is in jeopardy? Anyone who works bizarre hours on a continual basis has only themselves to blame and not their employer. If they allow themselves to be used as doormats, they choose to be doormats. If they allow their marriage to fall apart because of a job, they choose to let the marriage fall apart.

It’s your life, so call the shots

In today’s corporate world, employers don’t seem to think very long before laying off employees if the bottom line demands it. Why would any employee be willing to throw away their personal life for a prospect that’s so uncertain? Could it be their personal life isn’t worth hanging on to?

It’s time people stop blaming everyone and everything else and be accountable for the decisions they make in life. The ultimate goal is to find balance between our professional and personal lives. In the end, it is hoped you’ll find a pretty darn close balance. And it is each person’s own responsibility to make certain it is!

Cheryl Caponigro is the Manager of Technical Services for the A.B.Dick Company in Niles, IL.