Posey's Tips & Tricks
It's Time for IT Pros To Reclaim Their Work-Life Balance
IT pros are working long hours right now to keep their organizations afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. But that shouldn't be the expectation once the crisis passes.
For IT pros who are lucky enough to still be working, the last several months have been nothing short of an "all hands on deck" effort. Nearly every IT pro that I have spoken to since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been operating in crisis mode for most of the year.
Of course, this is hardly surprising. Most organizations' IT resources were never designed to handle a situation in which nearly every employee was suddenly forced to work remotely and for an extended period of time. IT pros around the world have been hard at work procuring the resources necessary to add remote access capacity, moving mission-critical resources to the cloud and figuring out how to better support remote users.
Although I'm sure that there are plenty who would disagree with me, I believe that the day will come when things start to go back to normal. History has shown that even the worst plagues eventually run their course.
My concern is that when it does, the issue of precedence will come into play. Precedence is the idea that once you have done something once, it becomes easier to do it again. Daily life illustrates this simple concept in countless ways. Once you cheat on a diet or skip a day of exercising, for example, it's easier to do it again the next time.
The lockdowns themselves set a precedent, and I am admittedly a bit concerned that we could see future lockdowns over something less serious, like the flu. Even so, the precedent that I am more concerned about is that of working an unrealistic schedule.
Let me just clarify that this particular issue doesn't affect me personally -- I'm a freelancer, which means that I get to set my own schedule. Even so, I have a lot of friends who are IT pros and I have heard the stories about their lack of work-life balance.
With that said, let me go back to the issue of precedence. As I think about the way IT pros have been working during the pandemic, I'm reminded of when I worked at a grocery store as a teenager. For about the first year, I worked four-hour shifts after school. One day, the boss said that he needed several of us to work a 12-hour, all-night shift the following weekend. It seemed like an insane request at the time, but he told us that he was in a jam and that it would never happen again. Unfortunately, he wasn't true to his word. Working all night on the weekends became the norm.
I can't help but wonder what post-pandemic life will be like for IT pros. While I have nothing against hard work, I think the last several months may have set some unrealistic expectations for the level of productivity that employers can expect out of their IT departments after the pandemic passes. It's one thing to work 18-hour days in the midst of a crisis. It's quite another thing to work those kind of hours on an indefinite basis, with no relief in sight. This is especially concerning because the IT industry has a long-held reputation for turning techies into workaholics.
The big question now is what you can do to prevent the frantic pace of the last few months from becoming the new normal once all of this is over.
I don't claim to have a good answer to this question, especially given that everyone's situation is unique. However, I am a big believer in the value of open and honest dialogue. If you are concerned that your current schedule is unhealthy and unsustainable, try having a polite but frank conversation with your manager. A good manager should recognize the inevitable consequences of being overloaded and may be able to help make things easier on you.
I realize that this is easier said and done. There has long been a belief among IT pros that working an insane number of hours is just part of the job. The key to success might be to frame the conversation in a positive way, illustrating that a healthier work-life balance may help you to be more focused and effective at your job.
Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.