UX designer Angelina Montanez was exhausted.
Before entering the tech industry and moving to North Carolina three months ago, she had been working 50 hours a week between two jobs just “to survive” living in New York City.
“Overwork to me is when you have no time for yourself and you need time to decompress,” she told Technical.ly.
Amid the “Wild West” that is the 2021 tech labor market, we’ve heard about some already well-paid technologists taking on second (or more) full-time jobs during the pandemic. It’s doable, they say, because of the flexibility afforded by remote work — and in some reported cases, less oversight from desperate tech managers who need to hire anyone, and quickly, during the Great Resignation. (We’re not talking about crunch time here, though that’s a problem for software developers on its own.)
But everyone else isn’t so lucky to get to choose to work multiple jobs for any reason other than necessity, even within the tech industry. And overworking — which we’ll define here as working more than 40 hours a week — can potentially have dire effects on one’s health. Remote work has blurred the lines between home and the office, too, leading to many professionals working even more than they would if they worked in person, whether for one or multiple roles.
Technical.ly spoke to several professionals about their experiences with overworking, and what work-life balance could look like for them.
Aygun A., 85 hours per week
Following her 2007 college graduation in Ukraine and a second degree in computer science from the University of Washington Tacoma, Aygun A., who lives in Washington state, said her first tech role came as a technical consultant in 2017. At the same time, she said, she was also working as a customer service representative, nanny, daycare provider and Amazon delivery person.
Aygun said she is currently unemployed as she looks for an engineering role. But when she was working and had a full-time role alongside part-time jobs, her working hours could total 85 hours per week.
She said her previous employers didn’t seem to care about her other jobs because she worked hard and avoided making mistakes. Paying back student loans, paying down her mortgage and taking care of her parents’ bills have taken precedence to having more free time.
“If I could work as an engineer and have to have a second job why should I have to keep it as a secret?” she asked. “I am a U.S. citizen, I pay taxes and I work hard, I live in an expensive state. If I have two jobs that means I need to pay my bills, I need to take care of my family and by doing it, I don’t ask [for money from someone else]. If I want to have my comfortable life and my health is letting me have two jobs, I would never keep it a secret.”
Jennifer Yi, 70 hours per week
Also based in Washington, Jennifer Yi’s overemployment stems from her bootstrapping a startup as its founder. Alongside experience that includes a decade working at one of the Big Five tech companies in positions ranging from marketing to serving as the director an esports program, Yi’s startup aims to help employees manage and recover from workplace abuse.
“The only way I can support my startup is to work multiple jobs to pay my bills and cover costs to keep making progress,” she said of her company.
Yi works an estimated 70 hours a week in different roles in what amounts to a seven-day work week. Finding balance is an ongoing mission for her and she has found that it’s easier to achieve by booking three- to four-hour breaks at various points during her week that include unplugging from digital tools and hiking.
One of Yi’s short-term goals is to reduce her 70 hours of work per week to 55, which could possibly allow her to also take a full weekend day off — something that she said seems like a luxury with her current work schedule.
Melita Carter, up to 50 hours per week
Melita Carter of Indiana works multiple part-time jobs to earn what she considers a “somewhat full-time salary” because her work is still not commensurate with what she said a full-time salary would look like, considering all that she does. She works in tech as a product manager mentor and as a contracted project manager for a Salesforce consulting firm.
“I think having multiple roles in a world with inflation and other unknown uncertainties in my case is a necessity not a luxury,” she said.
Carter recently resigned from a full-time role after two months because of its vaccination mandate and added that even after obtaining another role, she believes she will have to keep her other part-time jobs. Working in her multiple roles is as much about earning a sufficient level of income as her building her resume as a tech professional.
“When I do obtain another role I will have to hold on to my other roles while working for not only income,” she said, but to be able to “play an intricate part in both of the roles that I am [currently] associated with.”
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-