Work-Life Balance in the Tech Industry: Possible and Necessary
Burnout is expensive. In fact, it accounts for up to $190 billion in healthcare costs every year. Mental health issues, and physical problems can leave workers miserable, sick, and struggling to succeed both personally and professionally.
Burnout and chronic stress have a high cost.
Consider these effects of burnout and chronic stress:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Mood swings
- Chronic headaches
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of productivity
- Stomach issues
- Lack of concentration
- Negative feelings toward work
- And more
As you may have noticed while reading that list, burnout and chronic stress can impact just about every area of your life.
The tech industry in particular can breed burnout.
The tech field in particular is prone to burnout and chronic stress. In fact, two-thirds of tech workers in a UK study indicated a willingness to switch jobs in order to get a better work/life balance. In the U.S., the tech sector has the highest turnover rate of any business field: 13.2 percent as of 2018.
It makes sense that striking a work/life balance, and avoiding burnout, are difficult in the tech sector. Project resolution can quickly become time consuming if you are faced with a complex or elusive problem.
With tech available 24/7, people also expect rapid resolution to any tech problems they have. That can lead to middle of the night phone calls and long hours, not to mention high pressure, for tech support personnel. The drive, and pressure, to finish a project can also lead tech workers to neglect everything but that project until it is finished.
Work/life balance can help combat burnout.
Despite the nature of the tech field to drive burnout and chronic stress, it is paramount that tech workers find ways to achieve a work/life balance. Their mental and physical health depend on it.
You may have heard about work/life balance, but what exactly is this elusive creature? Simply put, work/life balance is a combination of work, non-work responsibilities, and enjoyable pursuits that is sustainable over the long term.
And, despite what some may say, work/life balance is not dead. It may take some creativity, and it definitely requires some commitment, but it is possible to maintain a workable balance in your life. Consider taking a few of these steps to achieve a better work/life balance:
- Take breaks.
It may seem pretty obvious that the way to achieve work/life balance is to take breaks, but actually doing so can be difficult. However, true breaks are critical.
A true break allows you to completely switch from work mode to something else. For example, turn off your phone (or at least turn off your notifications). Physically leave work. And make sure your break is spent doing something entirely unrelated to work.
These breaks don’t always have to be long. Even taking a 15 minute break regularly at work can help, as long as you are able to completely check out of your work mentality during the break. For example, grab a coffee from across the street instead of from the cafeteria, or take a walk outside instead of sitting at your desk scrolling through your phone.
Doing so will help your brain to reset and feel recharged the next time you do have to take work up again.
- Prioritize ruthlessly.
If you are like most people, you have constant demands on your time and attention. The reality is that you can’t meet all of these demands every day. You are going to have to pick and choose.
As a result, achieving a work/life balance requires ruthless prioritization. You need to choose things that make you happy and energized. Work will always call your name, but work/life balance is achieved when you can embrace the things that lead to a well-rounded life.
Don’t be afraid to say no to ideas that actually sound good, either. For example, a movie with friends might be awesome, but not if your priority that night is to go to bed early after spending all night meeting a software development deadline.
- Embrace autonomous job options.
Taking true breaks and choosing the things that make you happy is more challenging in a big corporation. Big businesses often lack the flexibility to encourage work/life balance in their employees, plus their tech needs are often much larger and more consuming than those of smaller companies.
This is why you may want to consider a tech career that is a bit more autonomous. With a flexible career, you can maintain more control over your hours and more easily achieve a work/life balance that is helpful for you.
For example, consider career options like working for a smaller company. Small businesses often have a more flexible atmosphere that can be less stressful and allow for more balance.
You could also consider working for yourself. Many people make a living in the tech industry as full-time freelancers or entrepreneurs. These options allow you to set your own hours, meaning you get to develop the work/life balance you want.
The key to these self-driven tech career options is to develop a wide network of contacts. That network will deliver the contacts, references, and business you need to thrive as a freelancer or as an entrepreneur.
If you want to achieve work/life balance, you may need to get creative. But don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of changing positions or building networks. Start small.
Begin today with a 15-minute break to unplug and unwind. Put feelers out for positions in smaller companies. Take on one tech client and see how it goes. Little by little, choose the life and career that will help you to thrive.