Work/Life Balance

Why is balance important?

  • Avoid the painful regret of missing early moments with children (you will never get these back!).
  • Overwork is not physically or mentally healthy.  Your body and mind will get worn out and your effectiveness will suffer – burnout.
  • Continuing to work after work hours is not necessarily a benefit to yourself.
    • You may develop a level of expectation from your employer that is not sustainable.
    • This dramatically inflates your level of productivity and can also set you up in a silo.
    • It doesn’t feel good to work late into the night on something and then realize your code is “throw away” the next day.
    • More hours does not equate to higher productivity!
  • Continuing to work after work hours is not necessarily a benefit to your team.
    • You may find yourself moving forward with implementations that have not been discussed with the team, leaving them in the position of always playing catch up.  If multiple team members are doing this, there is the possibility of duplicate effort or stepping on one another.  Inefficiencies abound with this way of working.
    • Because of inflated productivity, it will be difficult to estimate velocity.  If overtime work is included in velocity, the team runs the risk of not meeting delivery commitments if suddenly it isn’t feasible for team members to work after hours.
  • Just like diversifying your personal finance portfolio is important, it is also important to diversify how you invest your time.  This will help you be a happier, more well rounded person.

Struggles with balance:

  • Some work schedules include 12 hour days.
  • Working with clients in other time zones is tricky.
  • Being constantly on call can make it hard to schedule free time.
  • Having an innate desire to keep plugging away at a problem (either to just satisfy curiosity or in hopes of gaining favor with the team and/or your employer) can lead to long hours and burnout if not reigned in.
  • Some employers have expectations of employees to give above and beyond a regular work day.
  • Some developers may have fears of underperformance and so they hide extra effort in additional hours after work.
  • There are some different expectations of men vs women especially around child care responsibilities.  Different countries/companies have remarkable differences in the amount of maternal and/or paternal time offered.

Balance tips/suggestions:

  • Work from home to save commute time.
  • Don’t fall into the “hero” trap (make sure you do not create such a silo for yourself that you are the only one that can deal with any issues pertaining to your work).
  • Satisfy your desire to do more with something other than the work you do at your day job.  For example, work on an open source project, write – simply invest in something other than the job at which you already spend most of your day!.
  • When you notice a new developer spending all of their energy on work related tasks after work hours, rather than stifle these efforts, encourage them to direct their energy on something like an open source project outside of work or becoming active in their local JUG.
  • Take advantage of flex time.  Spend early morning time and breakfast with your family, work for a few hours after the kids are in bed or occasionally take a longer lunch.
  • Find your most productive times of the day and utilize them!  Understand that during your least productive times, sometimes it’s best to just take a break or do something less intellectually intensive.
  • Maintain a separate office space in your home and avoid working in common areas when you do not want to be interrupted.  This will not only help with your focus and productivity, but will help set the expectations for the rest of your family while you are working at home.  Working in common areas makes it seem like you are approachable and other members of your household may not be able to tell you are working.
  • Schedule breaks and time for other activities!  Block these times out in your calendar.  Some find it beneficial to schedule times that are absolutely technology free – no phone, no computer.  Do something outside!
  • Use BOTH maternity and paternity time if offered.