Achieving Work-Life Balance in the Technology Industry
The balance between work and life within the technology industry oftentimes falls heavily toward more work than life. This leads to burnout, decreased productivity, and oftentimes a complete departure from the industry as a whole. The technology industry would benefit from striving to do better at retaining quality talent, achieving a better balance between billable hours vs. investing in employees, and finding value in employee growth and development. Achieving work-life balance in the technology industry has fallen short in recent years resulting in an overall decline in work satisfaction among contractors and employees.
Echobind is on a mission to create a remote work environment that invests in its employees and contractors through investment time. The purpose of investment time is to allow work-related growth through personal interest projects, topical research, and educational opportunities related to industry topics. This devoted time each week allows for refreshment, interest-led projects, and a break from work-related tasks to facilitate personal and professional growth opportunities. Unfortunately, investment time is available at very few technology companies.
Matt Thompson, a lead engineer at Echobind reflects upon his experience with investment time: “Investment time for a lot of companies tends to be an idea if anything. I was surprised to find Echobind taking personal investment seriously when I joined. As a remote consultant, in the tech industry, it is easy to burn out. Having dedicated hours each week for internal meetings and research sets strong boundaries with both your clients and personal life. The saying ‘You can’t help others until you help yourself’ comes to mind. Work isn’t defined by the number of hours, but rather the value. I tend to think of Echobind and my career goals as another client project that needs my attention each week. During this time, I’ve helped refine our processes as a company, contributed to open-source software, mentored, lead a cohort, developed course material, and much more. All of this without feeling guilty of the hours spent to do so. It is a part of my job to self-invest and in turn invest in others around me. This stacks throughout the company and our culture. At Echobind we strive for a solid work-life balance. Having investment time ensures that folks aren’t feeling the need to ‘take work home’. We provide the value for our clients, then take those learnings offline as multipliers for the next project coming in. This is a top-down initiative at Echobind. Our own CEO talks about the ideal 40-hour workweek. The end goal is to keep our team encouraged and happy about their career. No one benefits from burnout and high turnover. I’ve seen plenty of folks completely change their careers due to imbalance. While nothing is perfect, I’m glad to be a part of a company striving to make a conscious effort.”
The conscious effort to maintain work-life balance at Echobind permeates all aspects of the company culture. Celebrations of a published ebook that came out of personal investment time, a new app that was developed from a personal interest project, or even a new code shortcut presented during a lighthearted weekly team meeting create an environment within Echobind that encourages and promotes personal growth.
Echobind UX/UI designer, Kaila VanSumer shares, “I’ve used my investment time at Echobind for everything from reading textbooks on information architecture to exploring how to pair fonts well to writing blog posts on usability testing. As a product designer working in an agency setting, I’m often on projects where one day I’ll be working closely with the C-Suite of a company to put together a strategic UX vision for an app, and the next day I’ll be designing interactive button components for a pattern library in Figma. The work is quite varied, and my investment time allows me to explore more broadly and learn skills that make me a better designer for our clients. I never feel like I have to ‘stay in my lane’ as a designer because I don’t know how to do something. Instead, I feel free to look for ways to add more value, knowing I have time and bandwidth to learn the necessary skills to do so. I don’t come from a traditional design background, so I have some gaps in my knowledge of design practices and principles. I’ve been able to fill those gaps quickly and become more confident in my visual design skillset because I have dedicated time every week to invest in myself.”
Time every week to invest in yourself, just imagine the possibilities!
Zack Marty, Product Manager at Echobind shares, “The first thing I worked on with my investment time was investigating some of my hunches about some client work I had. It gave me time to step back and analyze the situation, which allowed me to create The Spaceship of Theseus blog post. I think some of the value of investment time for the strategy team is to hone and develop our arguments for certain initiatives as well as analyze the situations we are entering as contractors. As a strategist though, the most important thing I think I can develop are my soft skills.”
Developing new personal skills and growing in knowledge-based skill sets are just a few ways that investment time at Echobind allows contractors and employees to achieve work-life balance.
Jennifer Robison, Director of Engineering shares, “As an engineer, professional development and continual learning is imperative. If you aren’t learning you are falling behind as technology changes so rapidly. There are new frameworks, libraries, languages, and more. It can be a bit overwhelming if you are already working 40+ hours per week on a specific project, and then you are trying to use more cognitive space to learn something new or even to work towards improving, or automating, something you do on a regular basis. At Echobind, we give our employees investment time every week, which falls WITHIN their 40 hours. In my career this is only the second team where this was an opportunity, most companies expect you to continue to grow but on your own time. During our investment time, you can explore areas that you are not familiar with, maybe you are primarily a front-end developer, you could focus on getting up to speed with backend development, maybe with a goal of GraphQL for example. An example of investment time for myself was getting very deep with E2E (End to End) testing with Detox for React Native which led to several conference talks and a webinar presentation. Not only did that help my technical skills, but also my communication and presentation skills. The outreach and interaction with the community is a huge plus.”
Weekly investment time for all of our employees facilitates not only employee growth and development but also company growth as a whole. Technology agencies succeed when the team as a whole is succeeding. Investment time is just one of the ways that Echobind ensures employee and agency-wide growth over both the short and long term.
Mike Cavaliere, Senior Engineering Strategist adds, “Investment time allows us to get better at what we do, outside of the constraints of what projects we’re able to work on day to day. We also get to work on what we want to learn, as opposed to what we get to learn over the course of a project. Investment time is more targeted than learning via projects (which is still great); meaning I might be great at React since I use it on client projects, but I can get better at a specific aspect of React that may not have happened on a previous client project (BUT it might come up in a future one). Investment time gives us the ability to work on skills that aren’t part of our core job description, but are great for our careers such as presenting, writing, or skillsets for completely different directions.” Cavaliere’s investment time accomplishments include his Cut into the Jamstack book, blog posts, an emoji battle game, and various book analyses.
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