Is work/life balance a cruel myth?

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buzz
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Post by buzz »

I don't post here much, so for context I'll tell you I graduated college in December and I'm jumping through the job search hoops. I recently asked a potential employer if I would still have to commit to work duties when I take PTO (it's an "on-call" type position) I thought it was a reasonable question, but he felt he needed to answer with several paragraphs about commitment and work ethic which basically stated we'll try not to bother you, but if you take this job you are required to work 24/7/365 at the drop of a hat if we need you. Is this common? I'm not even in the rat race and can't wait to get out!
Related reading:

http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/ ... l?page=all


jacob
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Post by jacob »

I always felt like it was a cost that is pushed onto the employee, i.e. telling them "not to work so hard", thus clearing the employer conscience, while still hiring and firing based on who works the hardest.
PS: In high-powered professions, what they really mean is a "work/sleep" balance ... not so much "work/life"-balance.


C-Dawg
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Post by C-Dawg »

Depends on your goals and will probably vary a lot by industry and company.
I personally am not very good at keeping a work-life balance. I like to exceed expectations and dive head first into projects. This turns into regular 50-60 hour weeks (occasionally more, occasionally less). I've also seen a 23% annual compensation growth rate since graduating 6 years ago. That would not have happened if I was not both very good at what I do and willing to give up that work-life balance (and, admittedly, somewhat lucky).
That's a big part of why I'm drawn to ERE. If I'm working, I'm going to continue sacrificing life outside of work. Solution? make working optional.


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C40
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Post by C40 »

This varies a LOT by companies and by specific position within companies.
I've worked for the same company since college. The range of hours that people work here depends quite a bit on the positions worked. Generally the lower-end salaried employees work less hours, except some who have to work weekends when the plant runs - but they get overtime. Among the managers at my workplace, hours worked and work/life balance depend on two things: the specifics of the position, and the skills & willingness of the person. I've gotten myself into a role where I can work fewer hours than other managers because I have no on-call type requirements. I used to work in production management and I'd get called by the supervisors when there were problems. It sucks getting a bunch of times throughout the night when we had big problems and staying late at work when there were issues.
Moving close to work and eliminating my commute time made a huge different in my perceived work/life balance.


buzz
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Post by buzz »

I think my frustration stems from wanting a job that will recognize I am sacrificing time at home to be there. They can do this in two ways:

1) pay overtime starting at the 41st hour worked in a week (most seem to be exempt now)

2) allow me to leave work at work from the time I leave until I return for my next shift (nonexistent in my job search so far)
Am I just looking at the wrong jobs then, C40? I am technically inclined, but lack certifications etc. because I'm just out of college. I'd like to work in a data center, but tech support seems to be what everyone is hiring for (due to high turnover no doubt)


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@buzz - I think, in general, if the work is associated with a "career", people don't care about time because it's a race going up a pyramid. Also such workers, typically professionals/highly-skilled are salaried which really means they're on a retainer, like a peon or a lawyer. They're not paid for their time but for their availability and commitment, which ironically is often expected to be expressed by face-time.
Non-careers are mostly about trading time for money. They will definitely recognize the balance---they might not even allow you to exceed 40 hrs.
Datacenter-work seems like an on-call position, though?


lilacorchid
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Post by lilacorchid »

By working in a data centre do you mean being a server guy? Cause those guys are the company's, well, bitches. Sure they make more then the Help Desk, which are also working for home after hours (for less), but they still work from home.
I fix computers, during office hours, and I'm never on call. I'm employed by the company, but we also have contractors who only come in during the day.
C40 makes a good point, living close to work helps with balance. I walk to work and get to go home for lunch. It's nice!


buzz
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Post by buzz »

Yes, it is 8+ hours a day and also on-call.

It mainly appeals to me because I am not selling, doing customer service, and does not require frequent interaction with "the public."

This sounds terrible when written out, but I am an introvert and I find work much more pleasant if it fits the criteria above.

I may have to sacrifice time in favor of the lower stress that this position brings.
It's funny that you mention the difference between a job and a career. Maybe this difference is what I am noticing as I have not held a "career" position yet. It just left me with a sour taste when I realized there is much more to these jobs than the advertised 8-5 (which is too much already, but that's why I'm on these forums)


buzz
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Post by buzz »

>By working in a data centre do you mean being a server guy?
Yes, it's entry level, but I have plans to move up quickly. Unless someone wants to suggest an alternative? I learn easily and rapidly but experience seems to be the only thing of merit to HR.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

The article is correct (from what I skimmed). There is no work/life balance, only work/life choices. My choices always favor life over work, and in so doing I accept that I will be passed over for promotions, management positions, increased responsibility, etc. I am quite happy with that.
But my "career" jobs have been in government contracting and in government, so YMMV. They could always fire you if you don't cow-tow to their whims and 24/7 slavery.
EDIT: But if the job suits you otherwise, you could give it a try. Just set boundaries you're comfortable with early on. Make excuses. I used to lie constantly as a contractor to get out of working beyond 8 hours--sorry, have to pick up my sister. Have to take care of my sick parent. Have to go to a class. Etc. I've noticed management is much more sympathetic in these matters to people with children, if that would work for you.


lilacorchid
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Post by lilacorchid »

Ha, ha, Buzz! That's just about what I like about my job! I did work for the Help Desk before I moved to second level support, but it was internal support so not "the public". As a server person, either your servers will ping you to tell you something is wrong or your Help Desk or something similar will call you. So some people, but the same people so not too bad.
To answer your original question, I think work/life balance is a myth, in that balance means so different things to different people and at different times in their life. It's up to you to find something that is balance to you. It gets easier once your skills are at a level people will fight for.


lilacorchid
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Post by lilacorchid »

And like Spartan, I work for the government and don't give a crap about promotions, so I don't feel the need to work like a dog so I get promotions. (I actually strive to be average... No reason to fire or promote me. Just leave me alone to do my job!)


lilacorchid
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Post by lilacorchid »

(Double post)


jacob
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Post by jacob »

Interestingly enough, to me life IS work(*)---or problem-solving anyway, so I never felt like needing to balance what's the same thing to me (yeah, I have no life ;-P ). If my job wasn't equal to what I'd prefer to work on, I'd rather not have that job. That's why I quit physics and why I stopped blogging regularly. The difference in productivity is enormous (for me).
(*) work is not necessarily the same as a job.
So consider a third option---instead of looking for job that can be balanced, find something you'd like to do that also gets paid no matter how little or how much. ERE makes it possible to do well on all incomes and/or take significant time to search for optimal solutions.


dot_com_vet
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Post by dot_com_vet »

One thing I've found is you have to be smart with your time, push back when needed. If you readily agree to lots of OT, you will be taken advantage of indefinitely.
Work smart, work hard, but not ridiculous hours.


buzz
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Post by buzz »

@jacob:

ERE does make this possible, but I am not FI. Wouldn't the most efficient method be to earn as much as you can at my stage, and then consider a position one is passionate about only when one can afford the luxury?
There is also the problem of enjoying something and having that enjoyment destroyed as a result of doing it daily in a work environment (I imagine you would feel this way about carpentry)


m741
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Post by m741 »

Not a response to the original question, but more advice for buzz:
First off, if you have a degree, you don't need any more certification. All those certs are a waste of money. Do a lot of development in your spare time, contribute to open source projects, maneuver to be assigned interesting work, etc. Additionally, if you're interested in something technical, tech support will *kill* your interest. Better to start off with a terrible development job.
Certifications are only useful if you want to stay in the "minimum wage plus" category (for developers/sysadmins, 40k-55k). I think that a well-crafted resume will be worth more than certifications, and on a time-weighted bases, would be worth 100x more than certification.
As for hours, it depends on what you want to do. Me, I want to write software and be near the front line (being a 'core' guy is never good - business will forget about you). Sure, I have to talk to 'clients,' but I got used to it. The price is that I do have to support my software, meaning occasional awkward hours, but it's a price I'm willing to pay. If something with my code goes wrong, I want to be the one to identify the problem and fix it. If I wanted to work 9-5 (and I may, in the future), there are lot of jobs for technical people in non-software companies that fit those parameters (I've heard, for instance, that at CAT everyone clocks out at 5pm exactly).


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C40
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Post by C40 »

Also, 40 hours per week is only a dream for most Salaried career type jobs where it is common to try to climb the ladder. Average is probably closer to 50 than 40


buzz
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Post by buzz »

>Certifications are only useful if you want to stay in the "minimum wage plus" category
I'm more of a hardware guy than software and have actually been asked quite often what CompTIA/Microsoft network certifications I posses. How would you suggest answering them?


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Sclass
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Post by Sclass »

Hi Buzz,
Every job where they used the term work/life balance was a place where there was no balance.
I remember chatting with the hourly (I was a salaried worker) and listening to them talk about overtime. It became painfully clear we have reached a tipping point where it was no longer better to be a white collar salaried worker. The boss called us in nights, weekends and several all nighters that had dubious results. They wouldn't have done it if I'd been hourly. A few of the hourly techs worked less hours than I did and still made 90% my pay.
It really depends on what you're doing. Some things cannot wait. Some things can. What is bad is when you have a boss force you to do something now that can wait till Monday.
The advice here to push back is good. Some management are bullies...if you give them your lunch money they'll soon ask for your allowance. The trick is knowing your value to them and walking the line. If you don't fight back they own you. If you fight too much that's the end.


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