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February 7, 2018

Late-night calls mean UK IT pros have worst work/life balance

If a late-night call has you pushing matchsticks into your eyelids – you're not the only one.

By Sabrina Dougall

Late-night calls, last-minute changes and the ever-present possibility of an IT emergency – a shaky work/life balance seems part of the package for the modern-day tech employee.

If any of the above sounds sweat-inducingly familiar, you could be forgiven for the occasional day dream of sunnier climes in a faraway land. But would a move abroad really evaporate all your technology woes?

Not according to a recent survey from PagerDuty, it wouldn’t.

IT professionals in the UK are the best at managing stress from a slightly rubbish work/life balance, and can calm their nerves much better than counterparts in the US or Australia. Around half (52%) of IT workers in the UK said a fair or poor work/life balance affected their ability to manage stress. By comparison, 68% of US counterparts and 64% of Aussies had difficulty keeping stress under control because of their less-than-sunny work/life balance.

However, it’s not all rosy for British IT pros as they actually reported the least satisfaction with the separation (or lack thereof) of work and home life. A meagre 15% of UK IT staff said their work/life balance was “excellent”, yet this was almost the same as Australian respondents (16%). Though perhaps everything is always sunnier in Philadelphia, as more than double the proportion of Americans (36%) felt the same.

When it comes to being juddered awake by a midnight ringtone, it seems IT staff are in the same boat no matter where in the world they are. Half (51%) of IT professionals surveyed experience sleep or other personal life interruptions due to a digital service disruption or an outage more than 10 times a week.

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If a late-night call has you struggling to stay awake at your desk, it is unlikely you are the only one; almost all (95%) respondents said that personal life and sleep-interruptions when on call impacted their work productivity.

A similar proportion, 94%, of global IT workers said their responsibilities for management of digital services impacted their family lives. Sooner or later, something has got to give, and a quarter of IT professionals went as far as saying that a poor work/life balance made them more likely to search for new job opportunities.

The findings raise questions as to how aware business leaders are of their over-wearied workforce. A shocking 72% of IT professionals say their managers have little or no visibility in knowing when they are experiencing a difficult on-call period.

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On top of this, just over half (55%) of respondents who reported that their managers have slight to no visibility, also said their practices and tools are only somewhat reliable for ensuring their teams are engaged in their work and thriving in their roles.

“This always-on, always-available world has become the norm for IT professionals around the globe. But it’s taking a toll on the employees who have to drop everything to address problems,” said Steve Barrett, country manager and head of EMEA, PagerDuty. “Without a healthy work-life balance, organisations will have employees who are either unable to perform to the best of their ability or choose to walk away.  It’s time for companies to take more responsibility over the welfare of their technical and operational teams to help workers avoid burn-out.”

Yet hope may be at hand as business bosses react to workforce wellbeing stats and seek out digital tools to improve holidays, downtime and overall happiness.

“New approaches to gaining insight about the experience of IT teams should help leaders better manage incident response and ultimately reduce staff burnout,” said Nancy Gohring, senior analyst at 451 Research.

PagerDuty surveyed more than 800 IT professionals in the UK, US and Australia.

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