A 2019 Deloitte survey revealed that only 23% of companies actively promote work-life balance. Again, organizations that encourage work-life balance record twice the productivity than those that do not.
So, where do tech giants like Microsoft lie on this spectrum?
Let us delve into how software engineers can enjoy an ideal work-life balance at Microsoft.
This article will cover:
- How does Microsoft promote work-life balance?
- How does work-life balance look like in Microsoft?
- What is the happy employee rate/percentage in Microsoft?
- Ways to improve work-life balance for software engineers – from Microsoft employees
- The secrets of work-life balance of a software engineer
- What are the factors for a good work-life balance?
How does Microsoft promote work-life balance?
Microsoft seems more like a thousand little companies from an in-depth view, where each has its modus operandi. This segregation affects how each team looks at work-life balance at Microsoft.
Therefore, the gauge for Microsoft’s work-life balance largely depends on the product a team is building and its team leaders. However, several shared core values of honesty, integrity, and cooperation exist in each of Microsoft’s departments.
Over the years, the company has initiated innovative ways to enhance and promote work-life balance at Microsoft. In August of 2019, Microsoft Japan put into test a four-day work-week called “Work Life Choice Challenge.” It involved cutting off work hours to include a three-day weekend as a part of a wider project to promote a healthier work life balance. As a result, Microsoft’s improved work-life balance fuelled a whopping 40% jump in employees’ productivity levels.
Subsequently, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, came up with an interesting approach to enhance Microsoft’s work-life balance. According to him, instead of categorizing work and life, one should strive to form “work-life harmony.” He insists that a software engineer should not perceive work-life balance as a separation of what is considered working versus relaxing. Instead, one should try to re-frame this equation by harmonizing the two and eliminating a strict trade-off.
Moreover, harmony between work and personal life results in higher job satisfaction levels, which proffers a software engineer the energy to go back to work each day. Possessing a sense of meaning in one’s work life stands as a predictor of his/her job satisfaction. In fact, a 2019 survey by CNBC and SurveyMonkey indicated that 35% of American workers believed that “meaningfulness” is the primary factor that contributes to their happiness at work.
In 2019, Microsoft, in its call for improved work-life balance across Britain, urged companies to take these key steps:
- Promote remote working.
- Empower employees to work whenever and wherever best suits them.
- Discourage presenteeism and create a more trusting and transparent workplace culture.
- Offer employees the devices and tools required to manage their workload effectively.
How does work-life balance look like in Microsoft?
The ideologies of its CEO are equally reflective of Microsoft’s work-life balance. Over the years, the company has been an active advocate of work-life harmony, leading the way among tech companies to promote work-life balance at Microsoft.
Highlighted below are some data compiled by Comparably that further indicates a healthy work-life balance at Microsoft:
- Employees, including software engineers, typically work 9.2 hours a day.
- On a typical day, employees at Microsoft have two meetings.
- 83% of its employees believe that their work environment is positive.
- 72% of Microsoft’s personnel report that they are satisfied with their work-life balance.
- Employees report that their work pace is comfortably fast.
As per data by Comparably, Microsoft employees rate its culture 4.5 out of 5 stars, grading it an A. Here is a breakdown of how each of its departments scored the company’s culture:
- Communications: 84/100
- HR: 83/100
- Customer Support: 82/100
- IT: 79/100
- Finance: 79/100
- Sales: 78/100
- Marketing: 78/100
- Legal: 78/100
- Design: 76/100
- Business Dev: 74/100
- Product: 74/100
- Admin: 74/100
- Engineering: 73/100
- Operations: 68/100
In 2020, the company bagged several notable awards that offer a glimpse into its dynamic work culture, such as:
- Best Company Perks and Benefits
- Best Company Compensation
- Best Company for Diversity
- Best Company Culture
- Best Company for Women
- Best Company Happiness
- Best CEO
- Best Professional Development
- Best Leadership Teams
What is the happy employee rate/percentage in Microsoft?
Microsoft’s employee happiness quotient is among the top 5% of 1,225 similar-sized companies in the US and 3rd among its competitors. The departments that rank Microsoft’s happiness quotient the highest are the following:
- Communications: 92/100
- Human Resources: 90/100
- Finance: 80/100
This happiness score is an indication of work-life balance at Microsoft. It also describes employees’ well-being based on several metrics, such as opportunities for personal growth, positivity at the workplace, satisfaction with compensation and benefits, etc.
Moreover, when it comes to overworking, 60% of its employees reported that they do not experience burnout. Additionally, 75% of employees were satisfied with their pay scale, and 84% were happy with their benefits. 83% of employees at Microsoft reported that their work environment is positive. All these factors indicate that Microsoft is a happy place to work for a software engineer.
Ways to improve work-life balance for software engineers
Use paid time off
Microsoft offers its employees 2-weeks of sick time, 4 weeks of vacation, and 10 holidays in a year.
That’s nearly two months off a year, so make sure you use this time to unplug from work. You must disconnect for some time, take a holiday, or spend it with your loved ones. If you need to recharge physically or mentally, feel free to use your sick-time. Software engineering is a taxing job, and this time off allows the much-needed break from work.
Block your calendar
Remember this as a mantra – weekends are sacred. For software engineers, it is natural to spend a few Saturdays at the office due to unforeseen issues or critical deadlines.
However, ensure that this does not become a habit, and you do not constantly invest your weekends in work and work alone. Instead, take this time to reconnect with yourself, your lost hobbies, friends, or family.
Do not overwork for extended periods
As discussed earlier, you cannot be effective if you are burned out. After a certain point in time, your productivity will decline and your performance will dwindle. So, ask yourself - will you rather put in 8 hours of focused engineering work a day or spend 14 hours of work and not achieve anything?
Start small and build from there
Setting up unrealistic and unattainable goals does not do much to help and eventually fizzle out. The same is applicable for work-life balance at Microsoft or any other organization. When you commit to drastic changes, you take on too much too quickly, which is a recipe for failure.
The secrets of work-life balance of a software engineer
Striking a balance between work and personal life can be a tricky task, irrespective of one’s line of work. Despite a high ranking for wealth, income, and housing quality, the United States’ standing in the work-life balance league has scope for improvement (as per OECD’s Better Life Index). In fact, according to a White House Report, about 40% of Americans reported that their job interfered with their family life. Needless to say, employees wish to have a career that allows them enough leisure time so that their life is not confined to their job.
So, as a software engineer, it is highly likely you face difficulties to balance your career and home life. That being said, more of a work-life balance is still possible in this line of work. The reason for an imbalance is, more often than not, not the pressure from your employer but the pressure you place on yourself. Therefore, it is imperative that you know when you unplug and switch off.
Change of perspective
Most software engineers continue to invest a majority of their time at the workplace, hoping that someday they will live their “life”. As a result, this approach leads to them not enjoying their job. Instead, they mostly tolerate it and quite often dread it. Naturally, this is not a sustainable lifestyle and paves the way to burnout.
Therefore, consider taking a bird’s-eye-view of your life. Then, ask yourself: What can I change to make life easier?
Working long hours leads to nowhere
On average, software engineers work 40 hours a week (as per data by careerprofiles.info). However, nearly 17% of them work for 50 hours a week or more. Moreover, the job often requires them to work during the weekend to meet critical deadlines or solve unforeseen issues.
So, if you are exceeding this timeframe and logging extra hours at work, we suggest you take a step back.
Research indicates that towards the end of a 12-hour day, one’s mind begins to drift, and productivity starts to dwindle (as per data by Forbes). Therefore, one can only be 10-50% as effective during these hours. Furthermore, the same research suggests that one spends 50% more time to get 5% more productivity.
The bottom line here is that the decline in productivity may vary with each software engineer, but working additional hours inevitably leads to diminishing returns.
Know when to unplug
There is no denying technology facilitates remote working, which contributes to a healthier work-life balance. However, it has also created an “always-on” workspace by way of constant accessibility.
According to Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, notifications interrupt one’s time off, injecting an undercurrent of stress in his/her system.
Therefore, it is imperative that you know when to go offline and in your personal space. Additionally, he adds that when you do not react to untimely updates from work, you develop a habit of resilience. And, resilient people tend to have a higher sense of control in their lives, contrary to reactive people who are prone to stress.
So, we suggest that you go offline and in your personal space during non-working hours.
Time constraints enable better time management
When a software engineer puts a cap on the time invested in work, he/she is, essentially, forced to make better decisions about how and where to spend time. Let’s say a software engineer spends an 80-hour week on fixing three bugs. Now, with a 40-hour week, he/she can only fix two. So, in all likelihood, he/she will choose to fix the most important bugs. As a result, a majority of the value is achieved with only half the time.
Setting time constraints will help you to be more efficient and focused. Additionally, it requires you to allocate your time for each task, which helps you recognize potential issues before they arise. This eliminates an inability to plan, which leads to poor efficiency and disrupts your work life.
Burnout can torpedo productivity
Some individuals can work 60+ hours for extended periods of time. Having said that, it is also true that most people will eventually become demotivated, disheartened, and less effective at their job after working long hours consistently.
Consequently, they experience burnout. When burned-out, a software developer is less productive during his/her overtime hours and core hours. Therefore, burnouts result in an overall reduction in one’s output.
What are the factors for a good work-life balance?
A number of factors have a direct effect on creating a work-life balance or disrupting one. A few of these are elaborated below:
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” – Albert Einstein.
This quote stands especially true for today’s working individuals. Every workplace already has its fair share of stress. However, an added pressure to manage work and personal life induce extreme levels of stress in employees.
As per figures by stress.org, the following factors contribute to workplace stress:
- Excessive workload – 46%
- Employees’ issues with the management – 28%
- Constant work-life conflict – 20%
- Lack of job security – 6%
Eventually, chronic stress impacts your physical well-being as well as mental health. And, keeping an eye out for your health is vital to be more productive, take less sick time, and have higher morale. However, the bright side here is that one can effectively handle such stress by way of proper organizational commitment and individualistic efforts.
The term “job satisfaction” has a different connotation for each of us. However, it is generically defined as an employee’s level of satisfaction with his/her job role and organization. Factors like work responsibilities, recognition, rewards, interpersonal relationships, and job environment play a significant role in determining one’s job satisfaction.
Moreover, higher job satisfaction results in an improved quality of work as well as home life. A software engineer who is satisfied with his/her job is more likely to work harder in the job role and further propel his/her career. As a result, this ultimately leads to a happier personal life as well. On the other hand, job dissatisfaction lowers employee engagement and results in higher turnover rates.
Pay, rewards, and benefits enhance an organization’s quality of work life (QWL). With fair compensation, a workforce is more involved in its roles and responsibilities. In fact, employees are less likely to fulfill their defined job requirements unless their employer offers extrinsic motivation in the form of enhanced financial gain.
A work schedule that eliminates stringent working hours allows employees to work during hours when they are most comfortable and productive. Additionally, a flexible work schedule through remote working can help resolve work-life conflicts.
In a 2020 survey by Flexjobs of over 4,000 respondents working remotely, 73% of them believed that working a flexible schedule from home improved their work-life balance. Further, it allowed them to spend more time with family, partner, or pets, all of which play a significant part in one’s personal life.
Apart from the job scope itself, another factor that immensely influences an employee’s outlook towards his/her work is the environment.
It involves your relationship with co-workers and supervisors, organizational structure, recognition for hard work, room for growth and development, transparent and open communication, and a strong team spirit, among several other aspects.
A positive work environment is more welcoming for employees and provides the much-needed motivation to sustain them throughout the day.
Although balancing work life and personal life can be a tough task, it is not impossible. So, take a moment to step back in life, analyze your priorities and find a way to create a sense of harmony between them.
Moreover, prestigious FAANG companies and other tech giants like Microsoft value their employees’ work-life balance and promote it via different means.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Are Microsoft’s employees happy with its work-life balance?
As per Comparably, the majority of Microsoft’s employees are happy with the work-life balance. Approximately 54% of the employees work for 8 hours or less, whereas 7% work longer than 12 hours.
- Is it difficult to get a job at Microsoft?
Landing a job at Microsoft is pretty challenging but certainly worth the efforts. Also, the interview process is lengthy and usually includes an HR screen and a technical phone interview as well. Opting for a technical interview prep course might help one out.