Cost of IT's long hours culture

Research showing that IT professionals work more unpaid overtime than any other group of employees in the UK (see Perks are on the rise as employers fight to attract and retain staff with top IT skills) will not surprise many of our readers.

Research showing that IT professionals work more unpaid overtime than any other group of employees in the UK (see Perks are on the rise as employers fight to attract and retain staff with top IT skills) will not surprise many of our readers.

Too many of them are familiar with burning the candle at both ends for little in the way of thanks and not a bean in the way of extra cash.

For those already in the industry, long hours may be an accepted way of life. It is certainly almost impossible to change once the individual employee has given way to working unpaid overtime - either for love of the job or for fear of losing it.

But whatever the feelings of existing IT professionals, the perception of IT as a "long hours industry" could have disastrous effects on attracting new entrants into the industry.

The relative lack of women in the industry has been bemoaned for years, although there has been little real progress in finding ways to create a more equal gender balance.

As women, rightly or wrongly, still tend to be the ones who play the fullest role in childcare among couples, the hours worked - paid or unpaid - easily becomes the deciding factor in selecting a job or profession. And for most single mothers long hours are simply a non-starter.

But young men too are likely to steer away from IT for similar reasons. There has been a sea change in social attitudes towards work in the last 10 to 20 years.

Even if they have never heard the phrase "work-life balance", more and more young people see their social and relationship commitments as equally important as work.

Not surprisingly, some IT directors have told Computer Weekly that they find it increasingly difficult to see where their successors are to come from.

Too many of their staff compare the rewards of high office with the demands made in return, and decide that having greater control over their time wins hands-down over status, salary and responsibility.

None of this means that people do not want to do a good job and enjoy the pleasures of pulling their weight as part of a team working on demanding projects.

For some individuals, the need to work long hours for no extra money may simply be a case of poor time management. For many others, it simply seems an unavoidable part of the job.

However, more and more people are starting to feel that if a job is worth doing, it is not only worth doing well, but worth doing in a reasonable time.

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