There seems to be early burn-out in IT professionals. Doctors are appalled at the heart-risks and related ailments; whenever a young person wheeled into the emergency ward, the first question invariably is “are you working in IT?” why is it so? Job pressure, peer pressure, management pressure – the stress is too much. A number of factors collide and contribute to this havoc wreaked on youngsters. Heart attack in the forties or fifties doesn’t shock or surprise but in late twenties and early thirties psyches the physicians, who are perplexed dealing with the predicament. Such is the severity, and cut-throat the companies, employees either by choice or force end up staying late at their desk ‘burning the midnight oil’. Does the number of hours clocked or the contributions count? The misconception in the market is that one who spends long hours in the office is deemed ‘hard working’. Anything less and your talent is questionable or the workload is not just enough to justify your paycheck. So some just pretend to stretch or ‘kill’ time by indulging in other activity instead of freeing up bandwidth to take up additional tasks. “If I do this task or accommodate more chores in addition, will the amount in the salary credited change?” this reflects not just the individual lack of commitment, but reflects poorly on the leadership as well. Devotion to work should be wilful, lest it leaves one dissatisfied and disgruntled. Once resourceful, now turned rebels are primarily due to poor people management. Long and late nights are part of the daily rigor of an IT Professional. Time consumed at office leaves with less for family. Everything ought to be balanced – including work. A project manager, whom I used to report, will sit beside me and plan the ‘tasks for the week’ taking my inputs for the ‘hours allocated’ and sometime let me estimate the ‘number of hours’. Effort estimation is both critical and crucial. Bagging the project by heck or crook, and later slogging the days, night and weekend are typical signs of burnout. It’s like cutting the foot to match the boot. That’s not project management. Weekends usually act as buffer and my manager managed on the maxim of “if you can’t get the work done in eight hour, either you are inefficient or incompetent." People also tend to procrastinate – another malaise with no medicine in sight. Hence there is no blaming the managers alone. Both sides suffer from their own shortcoming and apparently there has to be a middle ground.
The 40 hour week
Any project manager with appreciable knowledge and experience will not estimate more than 8-hours as man day in the project plan. How many hours does the team work is another question but for the record its 8 hours, and usually the weekends are not factored – and mostly serve as buffers. Remember time is money and hence any inflation in your estimation will have an adverse implication on your cost estimation. If the budget balloons, the project will slip out of your hands. It’s a typical trapeze act or skating on thin ice. So balancing the 40-hour and keeping the project within cost calls for a skilled and smart time management.
Performance and productivity
No matter how many hours you clock, you are most productive for the first 4 hours. The body might be willing but the mind simply is not up to it. Exhaustion,and fatigue hampers performance. Your ability to concentrate ebbs with passage of time. There should be a reason why Henry For came out with the brilliant strategy of ‘weekend’ so as to boost morale, improve productivity and increase time spent with family. Sources from public domain cite that working fewer hours increase productivity and thereafter tend to wane.
“I am too busy at work” is the usual refrain. You start before the kids awake and return after the fast asleep. Many professionals itinerary falls in to this pattern. Genuine cases of work chewing and even gobbling time is a possibility but that can’t become the norm. Its not family first or work at any cost. One has to strike a balance to do justice to both – stakeholder management. Your internal and external client included, family too is part of stakeholders. And its important to attend on everyone, and if possible satisfy. A gallup study revealed that we work 47 hours – which is 7 hours more. What will all the dollars, incentive, promotions and perks amount when you compromise your health for career. Think about it.
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