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Sep 13, 2008

Work-life balance

This month I ended one job and started another. My decision was based in part on the fact that a portion of my old company (including me) was sold to another company. This resulted in me being abruptly pulled away from my team and my boss, both of which I liked a lot, and from the cool rearchitecture we were working on; That, as well as all of the uncertainty of transitions like this, made it an ideal time to make a break.

So, having made the decision to move on, what was the most important criteria in my job search? Outside the usual things (tools, environment, professional-growth) I added a new criteria to the top of my list; as the old real-estate saying goes: location, location, location.

My previous commute was 50 minutes each way; my goal was to get my commute down to a maximum of 25 minutes each way, preferably less. Actually I was able to get it to quite a bit less; my new commute is just 10 minutes, which gives me a whopping 1 hour 30 minutes of my life back per day.

So what does this move get me? more family-time(hey kids, my you've grown) and free-time(blogging! exercise?), less money spent on gas, less wear and tear on my car, and less traffic related stress. And with a 5 minute drive home for lunch it means eating healthier and more time with my wife without the kids. It also means I can be there for parent teacher conferences and similar things without taking half a day off from work.

As much as many of us long for work-life balance, it's been my experience that it still falls to the bottom of the list in light of more practical concerns. The real question about work life balance is how can more of us have it and have it more often?

With telecommuting being nearly unheard of in I.T. (unless you know something I don't) the best we can do is either take a job closer to home (not easy but not impossible) or move closer to work (seldom practical and certainly not popular with my wife). Oddly enough it's customer service jobs that seem to be taking the lead in telecommuting and then only when the companies can work it decidedly to their advantage. My hope is that more companies will open campuses or small branch offices near the suburbs where developers actually live; well that and that more companies will see that I.T. staff are exactly the kind of people who could excel in a teleworking environment (even if for only a few days a week).

There are probably longer commutes somewhere in my future (hopefully far far away) but I am enjoying a more balanced life now and I plan to make the most of it. I hope that you have the opportunity to do the same.