There’s nothing like announcing a new project in the works to guarantee that you won’t get a chance to work on it anymore. Li’l Johnny’s been stuck in the aquarium for more than four months now, page and still we have yet to present the sequel to this game. Truth is, this site for the past month, oncologist I haven’t even THOUGHT about finishing the new adventure.
My own whining aside, this brings me to the point of this post (something had to eventually):
Is it just me, or have tech workers, formerly the rock stars of the dot-com era, finally become slaves to the machine? It seems everybody I know these days is either unemployed (with nothing to do) or “overly employed,” working longer hours for bigger dollars. They’re “professionals” after all, and they either get paid very well for working constantly… or not at all for not working. The middle ground doesn’t seem to exist anymore, and rather than risk unemployment, many techies seem to be doubling up whether they want to or not.
Don’t get me wrong: Techies still get paid well, but the ones I know are also working their butts off these days — 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. has become the norm rather than the exception for many contractors. And it’s not because they WANT or NEED the money: they simply don’t have a choice. It’s a new class of “working rich” — too busy to stop and spend their winnings; right up until they’re fired for falling asleep on the job.
“It’s ridiculous,” a Research Triangle Park UNIX programmer told me today. “I’ve got more money in my account than I’ve ever had, but I haven’t had a vacation since the late 90s.”
This victim of his own success was standing beside me at an auto shop this afternoon after his car had been towed there with a blown motor. The reason? “I haven’t been away from the office during daylight hours in two months,” he said. “My car’s temperature gauge has been climbing for two weeks now, but who’s had time to take it in?”
After paying for a rental and picking up his keys, he was heading back to the office for a couple more hours of catch-up work.
This all-work-and-no-play lifestyle seems to be spreading. In fact, I’ve spoken with several techies who would gladly accept “regular” jobs — including a little vacation time and a good 40-hour week (perhaps giving their other 40 hours to one of the unemployed masses?)– but they simply can’t find them. Instead, they are offered nothing but (sometimes) absurdly high-paying jobs that demand 80-hour weeks and near-gargoyle like attendance. Most agree that their employers don’t actually expect them to work such long hours — they just expect two weeks worth of work to be done before Friday.
So what happened to all the “regular” jobs? And what are your secrets for avoiding burn out? Leave your comments here, and let us know!
If I were awake anough to remember why I’m writing this, I’d tell you mine…