Work-Home-Life Balance (Balance in the IT World)

Go to work…

Work…

Get home, work some more…

Try to sleep, worry about work…

Wake up…

Repeat…

Sound like you?

We all attempt to achieve the allusive work-life balance, and in some professions balance is especially difficult. Working in IT is a demanding profession. Mostly, you’ll find it’s demanding of your time, all of the time, anytime. An IT professional is expected to work at home, at night, and on weekends. These hours are considered (by sane people) as home time, therefore it should (and in many cases is) acceptable to handle some personal tasks during what is generally considered work time.

To be fair, the odd hours we keep are necessary, and in most cases unavoidable. The users and companies we work for get twitchy if the system(s) are maintained during the day. The good news is that most IT managers recognize that the job forces us to keep an unorthodox schedule.

This schedule is, however, less accepted at home. Be prepared to field comments such as; “Are you working again!” or “Why are they calling you on your day off”. Children are particularly sensitive this odd work schedule. “Daddy, are working today?”

Officially we work nine to five, forty hours a week. Most of us know this is a fantasy, we work 9-5, then logon from home and work again from 8-11. This is assuming everything is stable. User requests can (and do) come at any time, requiring prompt attention. During an upgrade, or outage all bets are off. We will be working (as we should) around the clock until the issue is resolved. Employers don’t usually have an officially policy to handle these odd working requirements. The “policy” is to turn a blind eye and let the department deal with it internally.

This schedule can cause undue stress at home. Spouses become frustrated with the excessive attention devoted to work, and lack of attention directed to home and your relationship. Children don’t understand why daddy’s always busy. Lastly let’s not forget about the toll it takes on you. It’s unhealthy to live a monolithic life focused solely on your job. Are you living to work, or working to live? Don’t let your career consume you. While your job is certainly a part of who you are, it should not be your defining property.

The only way (I see) to balance work, home and life is by disregarding the traditional work / home boundaries. What does this mean? It essentially means to try working a very flexible schedule. If know you’re going to be working at home tonight, go home early, and pick up the kids at school. If you’ll be working late tonight, meet your spouse someplace nice for a two hour lunch.

Now for the hard part, following my own advice.

Editor’s note: Mark, when he worked for me, worked insane hours.  He pulled all-nighters multiple times, and we would spell each other when we were into a long slog (he’d take the midnight hours, usually), including that one time I pulled 5 all-nighters in 8 days.  I’ve never encountered such a dedicated work ethic, and I’d LOVE to see him take his own advice!