Need new job but worried abt work-life balance

My partner and I have come to the conclusion that he needs to look for a new job. He's a software developer. To put it bluntly, he hates his job, has for some time, and it's now affecting his mental and physical health as well as our family's overall wellbeing. The additional stressors of COVID/quarantine have just brought the situation to a head.

The only reason he's stayed with this company so long is that the job has been, frankly, pretty great for a family w/small kids (we have a preschooler + toddler), especially compared to stories we've heard from other 'tech families.' Physical office is in Alameda County instead of the city or South Bay (we live in Richmond); he's been with them long enough to have accrued a lot of flexibility about telecommuting, kids' events, etc. even before COVID, and a lot of vacation time (more than a month annually). We know that any new job would torpedo some of those perks, but he's been paralyzed for a long time by the fear that his choice is a) continue with this soul-sucking lousy job or b) basically give up on seeing our kids during the week.

How do other tech workers out there make this work with young kids? We usually have dinner at 5 and kids are asleep by 7. We know that wouldn't be possible if Dad were commuting from the city every day. Is there some magic option out there that would allow us to salvage both our family life and our health/sanity? Any suggestions welcome <3.

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My husband is a VP of engineering at AbleTo. He got there through an acquisition of his previous company, Joyable, which used to be SF based until the NY based AbleTo bought them. The company was mostly remote anyway before covid and they’ve now closed the SF office. 

He works hard but since it’s a remote position there’s no commute and we often have our family dinner at 6:00.

The stories you've heard from other "tech families" are true for lots of people, for sure, but not all. My job in the city (which I left before covid) was flexible enough that I worked from home 2-3 days a week and could leave early/arrive late to deal with daycare pickup and dropoff. Lots of companies offer this flexibility, especially for developers (who are known for unorthodox schedules). In our current environment, many companies are realizing that more remote work isn't a bad thing, and "work-life balance" is more than lip service in many companies. The "magic option" is telecommuting, at least 50%, and of course a company that is reasonable about work-life balance. 

I think it is possible to find a tech company that respects work/life balance but I'm not sure how to find them. Glassdoor reviews maybe?

We got lucky and my husband was hired by a small company that had it part of their company culture that people needed time to do other things besides work- whether that is family, hobbies, community engagement, whatever. So, expectations around work hours are closer to a 9-5, 5 days a week. We chose to live in Oakland so that he had a shorter commute into the city- about 45 minutes on the BART end to end. This meant that pre-covid he was usually home at 6 for dinner and bedtime for our young kids. He would sometimes put in time after bedtime working but not frequently. He could easily work from home during the day when needed too.

His company did get bought recently by a bigger one that does not seem to have quite this same respect for work/life balance, but we're hoping that it will take some time for the company culture to change enough for it to be harder for him to leave work in the evening. And with work-from-home looking like the norm for the near future, who even knows.

Life is too short to be stuck in a job your husband hates. I think he should definitely look for a better job. My husband works in tech and he used to commute to the city daily for work. We were living in North Oakland and the commute was 30-45 minutes each way, he didn't always get home before the kids bedtime. We decided to move to Walnut Creek before Shelter in Place and accepted the fact that his commute would take longer for better schools and more space. We have friends in Oakland who work down in the South Bay, so yes, they didn't see their kids during the week at all. I have a more flexible work schedule so I do all the kids stuff during the week. As luck would have it, we moved during Shelter in Place, so my husband hasn't had to deal with the commute yet. And even when his office opens again next year, he will most likely be able to work from home at least 2 days a week. I think most tech companies will allow partial or full remote work going forward, so don't let the commute stop him from getting a better job. 

Depending on your partner’s specific skill sets (current or acquirable) and how much pay is needed, consider a government job.  Generally family friendly-hours, strong benefits, and job security. You would have to start by looking at each entity’s own process for locating and applying, and it can take a while, but don’t assume that there’s nothing out there for the tech-savvy.  Look at the State of California, San Francisco (a city and county), Alameda County, Contra Costa County, cities of Oakland, Richmond, Walnut Creek, and don’t forget East Bay MUD and local school districts.  Also the feds and PG&E - you never know.  Good luck!

Your husband should definitely look for another job. He can negotiate for some of the perks he has now when he finds a new job he likes. People in tech are constantly changing jobs; flexibility with hours, ability to work at home, and vacation are desired by many and right up there with salary negotiation. In terms of commuting, there are big and small tech companies in Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda - check Glassdoor or google. San Rafael too, which might be close depending on where in Richmond you live. My husband and I are both techies and many of our friends are senior software engineers at no-name and big-name tech companies. Pretty much everyone is being told right now that work will be online for at least another year and that it's expected that half the engineers will be working remotely after that. I believe the tech workplace will be much more flexible post-Covid.

I worked as a software developer for research groups at UC Berkeley and I really liked it - not top pay but not a lot of stress either, very family-friendly and some really interesting, fun projects. Look at UCB and LBL job listings. My husband has worked as an engineer for a variety of companies, from a 3-person start-up in Berkeley (fun but brutal!), to remote programming for an out-of-town business, to established companies with several hundred employees in Oakland and Alameda. He was offered jobs in the South Bay that were lucrative, but we live in Berkeley and didn't want to pay the commuting price.  Based on our experience, look for these qualities: 1) The bigger and/or more established the company is, the more likely it is to be flexible. Not always true - depends on the company culture - but many established tech businesses are amazingly family-friendly.  Very small businesses and start-ups often rely on workers being available 24/7 who can handle more than one job as they rush products out the door under crazy deadlines.  2) Financial software, gaming, and mission-critical businesses tend to have more of a macho culture and want all hands on deck at all times. Actually, the more women engineers at a company, the more likely it is to have flexible schedules. 3) Businesses that have more than one office in other states or countries will already be accustomed to telecommuting and working remotely with engineers, and are more likely to be open to flexible schedule arrangements and remote work.

Good luck!!

Our kids are now teens but when they were younger, every extra half hour at work, commuting, etc. had a big impact on my overall happiness. So, while he may hate his job, before plunging into a job that requires a commute, I'd seriously consider whether having a more fulfilling job but 2-4 hours away from home will boost overall happiness.  I'd hold out for something that isn't going to take too much additional time away from the kids.  It's a cliche that they grow fast but, now that I have one almost in college, I can say that I'm glad I sometimes stayed in less ideal jobs in order to keep a minimal commute and more job flexibility. 

So many tech companies are transitioning to 100% remote. As an attorney with 95% of my clients being tech startups in the Bay Area, I am currently advising at least a client a week on their decision to let go of their physical office space or downsizing the office and going remote. Even the companies who are keeping their office lease, they are telling me that there will be a very liberal work from home policy in the post-pandemic future.

It won’t hurt to look for new jobs. I have plenty of tech clients based in east bay.

However, whether the new job will be as family friendly will depend on the company’s culture and the personality of the manager.

My husband (in pseudo tech) and I both work from home due to the pandemic and end up spending hours upon hours on video conference calls and often they are back to back. Kids often get ignored and plugged to a screen. 

If the new job is the type where there is a daily morning standup meeting And weekly team meeting and everything else is done through slack, Jira, or whatever platform the company uses, your husband will probably be able to make daily dinner at 5.

if the company requires daily meetings morning and late afternoon, family dinner might not be possible.

Also where the other team is located affects the schedule. We work a lot with people in Asia, so 4-6 is prime work time (morning for Asia) which is why we eat dinner at 6:30. This schedule will not work for your family. 

Good luck! SIP is hard as it is. We all need to do everything we can do not fall into depression.

We’re a two-tech worker household. However, the pandemic hit before I returned to work from maternity leave. The few months my husband commutes from SF after our child was born, he barely saw her during the week. I mean, he raced home, and put down his bag, washed his hands and hopped into bed with us to do bedtime. That said, at the time, bedtime was about 6:30.

I think working normal hours (not shifted early or late), and commuting to the city, and seeing your kids during the week is basically impossible.

However, I do think it’s worth considering what work looks like now, and what it will look like post-covid-crisis. My company, like many major tech companies, does not plan to bring everyone back to the office, ever. It will be our choice if and when we go back, and they don’t expect more than 20-50% of people will ever go back full time.

Now, this does mean that SF remote workers will be competing more with remote workers in cheaper parts of the world, but, it means remote work, where one is done AND home at 5 for dinner, is more and more possible.

I've heard most tech companies are working remotely until at least June of next year, with options to continue to work from home after that. If I were in your husband's position, I would start looking for another job and ask potential employers what their policy is on working from home in the long run. I would be surprised if any did not continue to offer telecomuting as an option.