IT Professionals Prioritizing Work-Life Balance, Report Finds

The 24/7 on-call nature of work for many IT professionals is leading to a shift in priorities in favor of a more sustainable work-life balance, a change accentuated by the demands of the next generation of IT pros.

Nathan Eddy

April 4, 2024

7 Min Read
person balancing blocks reading "work" and "life" on a board

Establishing a healthy work-life balance is essential for every kind of employee seeking to achieve career success and longevity, and ensuring stress does not become overwhelming is fundamental to a productive, satisfied employee.

One type of professional that is particularly burdened with high levels of stress is the IT professional, as they're the ones responsible for building, testing, repairing, and maintaining the critical infrastructure and apps that organizations rely on to run all daily operations.

ITPro Today's 2023 Salary Survey of 375 full-time IT professionals in the U.S. revealed that an overall work-life balance is the most important aspect of their job — cited by 45% of respondents (Figure 1).

chart of what matters most to IT pros

As businesses navigate uncertain economic times, they are looking for ways to cut back on tech costs without causing inefficiencies, negatively impacting employee experience, exposing themselves to security risks, or impeding their ability to compete, according to Uri Haramati, co-founder and CEO of Torii.

"This has brought many changes to IT's role, especially as they are tasked to do more with less," he said. "This often results with more work on their plate, without the additional resources to support it."

Read ITPro Today's full 2023 Salary Survey Report here

If they're overstressed and putting longer hours into their workdays, their personal lives are also likely to suffer, he cautioned. 

"Since the pandemic, there's been more emphasis on work-life balance than ever before. It's a very welcome change," Haramati added. "IT pros who feel fulfilled and challenged in their jobs, without being consumed by their work, and who have time outside of work to pursue their personal interests and lives will tend to stay longer in their jobs."

He calls this is a "win-win situation" for employees and employers and notes it should be a key focus for every business.

"Torii is a largely remote work company, which helps our IT team maintain a work-life balance in several ways, including the amount of time saved on commutes," he added. "All of this positively contributes to an IT professional's work-life balance and happiness."

Blurring of Boundaries Can Affect Work-Life Balance

The survey also found that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said they are working longer hours, while 18% said they have had to reprioritize some of their IT projects due to reduced workforce coverage (Figure 2).

chart of workforce changes due to COVID-19

"The pandemic shifted the paradigm and gave some of the power back to employees," explained Brianne Lumley, managing director, human capital advisory at KPMG.

The flexibility of working from home, the fluidity of working across time zones, the ability to source talent globally — all of this was suddenly unlocked for the workforce, dramatically changing the "9 to 5" worker routine.

Related:  IT Professionals Prioritizing Work-Life Balance

Most organizations are undergoing rapid digitization dealing with an overwhelming influx of data and trying to adjust to hybrid working models while maintaining pre-pandemic levels of engagement and productivity.

"Employers adjusted to what the new normal was, during a time where there was a massive labor shortage, to compete for top talent," Lumley noted.

As remote work becomes normalized across industries, so too does the blurring of boundaries between work and life, according to Caitlin Duffy, director in the Gartner HR practice.

chart of COVID-19 economic impact

"Whereas once many IT professionals relied on their commute to help them transition formally between the two, both physically and mentally, those working remotely are now able to do work at all hours from any location," she said.

One feature of the hybrid world that is less prevalent in the on-site world — and makes it more challenging for employees to achieve work-life balance — is the "always-on" mindset created by the hybrid environment.

Duffy noted that employees in the hybrid world are 1.27 times more likely to struggle to disconnect from work than employees in the on-site world.

"Without formal signals to disconnect from work, such as the regular commute, employees struggle to determine when and how to switch off," she said.

A Generational Shift in Attitudes

Seth Robinson, CompTIA's vice president for industry research, agrees that technology jobs can be very "on demand," often requiring an immediate response when the problem occurs.

"That is a real pressure point that that some employers are starting to face," he said. "There is that 24-hour on-call mentality. Because the work hasn't changed, what do you do about that?"

Organizations, Robinson said, should start thinking about how they can leverage a diverse and global workforce to deploy different team strengths or use different time zones to get some of the coverage they need.

There is an important generational difference that employers need to consider, with Millennial and Gen Z tech professionals placing a greater emphasis on work-life balance from the very start of their careers, he said.

"As younger workers are coming in, they might have different expectations than the workers that came before them," Robinson said. "Employers are trying to figure out exactly what that means."

For example, some of those workers may be willing to accept that not being on the 24/7 grind is going to be a pathway that doesn't result in the same rate of career elevation, benefits, or pay given to those willing to make that trade-off.

chart of when IT pros will accept a lesser position

"Employers have to be willing to figure out that flexibility and figure out which employees actually do want to climb the ladder and which ones do want to put in a little bit more time," he said. "But there still has to be that accommodation for people who want a little bit more balance."

Addressing the Always-On Mindset

To overcome the hybrid working challenges that threaten employees' ability to achieve work-life balance, employers need to address the always-on mindset, according to Duffy.

"Organizations can reset expectations for work habits in a hybrid environment and design their hybrid model around the way work is done in a virtual environment," she explained.

For example, employers can implement "non-linear scheduling" that enables employees to break away from typical work hours (e.g., 9-5) and design their schedules around whenever work happens best for them.

"This gives employees the flexibility to build in personal needs, like morning childcare drop-offs or afternoon exercise, as well as preferences, like working early or late in the day," Duffy said.

chart of top reasons IT pros seek new jobs

Organizations can also communicate clear norms around elements of flexibility such as meeting-free days and frequent remote days, which further offer employees the flexibility to customize their schedules in the way that best helps them achieve work-life balance.

"The normalization of working from home has come with numerous benefits," Duffy said. "Employees have been able to save time, money, and stress on commutes; dress codes have become less formal and more comfortable."

She added that employees can also manage home and work responsibilities simultaneously (e.g., doing laundry while on a work call or emptying the dishwasher when a meeting gets canceled).

Automation's Role in Balancing Work and Life

One way to help IT pros gain a healthy work-life balance is by removing the monotonous, repetitive, time-consuming tasks from their day-to-day roles, according to Torii's Haramati.

"IT talent should not be wasted on manual processes — for example, onboarding and offboarding employees from applications — when they already have a lot on their plates," he said.

Technology can automate and alleviate burdens, while also spurring more productive ways of working — not only leaving employees feeling more satisfied with the tools they're using, but also freeing up more of their time within business hours to get everything done, Haramati said.

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITProToday and covers various IT trends and topics across wide variety of industries. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, he is also a documentary filmmaker specializing in architecture and urban planning. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

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