For an engineer, work-life balance can be challenging to achieve, although it isn’t entirely impossible. The profession has always been associated with hectic schedules. However, technological advancements and studies showing the negative effects of too much work have helped create better working conditions in this highly technical line of work.
If you’re looking to enjoy a healthy work-life balance as an engineer or just curious about the field, this is the guide you need. Here, you’ll understand work-life balance and get answers to common questions, such as what their duties are or whether engineers work on weekends.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance refers to a lifestyle that satisfies both an individual’s professional life and personal life. It requires setting priorities so that they meet responsibilities without sacrificing opportunities for leisure and quality time with friends and family.
In today’s work settings, work-life balance can often be attained through clear communication with managers, realistic schedules, and clearly established employee benefits. Realistically speaking, engineering is not among the best careers for work-life balance, but there are things you can do to strike a balance, have time for family or leisure activities, and reduce your stress level.
What Does It Mean to Have Work-Life Balance?
Having a healthy work-life balance as an engineer means being capable of meeting deadlines and deliverables without having to suffer excessive work-related stress. Without a consistently stressful and overbearing workload, you’ll be able to pursue your other interests.
Sustainable working practices have become increasingly popular among both employers and jobseekers, mainly because it helps people retain focus on work and maintain a healthy quality of life. In fact, according to Statista, 72 percent of employees look for work-life balance in their prospective jobs.
Why Is Work-Life Balance Important for an Engineer?
For an engineer, work-life balance is important because it allows them to retain focus and find inspiration in performing their jobs. Whether you design and oversee construction projects or keep data servers online and secure, there’s usually a lot at stake for an engineer. This is why taking care of your mental and emotional health is vital in ensuring you continue performing well.
Engineer Job Responsibilities
The engineering profession revolves around designing, implementing, and maintaining systems. This field relies heavily on science and mathematics. Today, most engineers perform critical processes. Below are some of the tasks and responsibilities for engineers.
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Most engineering jobs involve the design of a product or system. Plans are usually done through the use of specialized drafting software, which spans everything from building blueprints to microchip layouts.
Prepare Costing and Tradeoff Studies
Engineers are usually tasked with the preparation of cost estimates and budgets for approval by business owners. Additionally, they can also be assigned to find economic tradeoffs against other factors and find the most beneficial option for their company.
Create Simulations and Experimental Designs
New products are repeatedly verified and tested before being released commercially. This can range from computer simulations based on available data to the development of actual prototypes subjected to rigorous quality control tests.
Develop Technical Reports
Comprehensive documentation is vital for compliance and posterity purposes. Detailed explanations of the design, ideas, and inputs that went into a particular project are usually compiled by an engineer for their reports.
Meet With Clients and Stakeholders
On behalf of the technical team, it usually falls to the engineer to communicate the ideas and progress of any project to clients and other stakeholders. It is crucial to present technical concepts in ways non-technical people can understand.
Providing Maintenance and Support
Monitoring and maintenance are essential once a project has been implemented or is already operational. These tasks are usually geared toward sustaining a process or finding new opportunities for improvement.
How Many Hours Do Engineers Work?
Engineers work a typical number of hours each week. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that civil engineers, one of the most common engineering professions, work full-time jobs with more than 40 hours per week. Engineers who work highly project-dependent jobs, however, often see additional hours to ensure that they deliver projects as promised.
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Do Engineers Work on Weekends?
Engineers can work on weekends, depending on the profession. A standard nine-to-five job is only common for certain fields of engineering. This usually includes top companies hiring industrial engineers who work on research and analysis, and other similar jobs for computer and chemical engineers.
Others, such as electrical and mechanical engineers for larger companies in the manufacturing sector, usually work changing shifts that keep machines running 24/7. Civil engineers in the construction field may also be asked to work on weekends depending on the workload and schedule.
How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as an Engineer
- Schedule a time to disconnect from work: This is the most difficult step and is the starting point in achieving an excellent work-life balance as an engineer. Let your teammates and partners know that you won’t be available after a certain time.
- Set your gadgets: With mobile and browser-based apps, it’s easy to stay on top of projects anytime, anywhere. However, it can get quite addictive so ensure to practice keeping yourself from checking your messages every five minutes.
- Restructure your work schedule: By setting a clear vision of when you should be off work, you can start realigning your daily goals and schedule to make this vision more attainable.
- Make other commitments: Create a gym schedule you can stick to or a hobby that requires you to be present at a certain time. Making commitments give you reasons and incentives to allow time for your leisure or physical health.
- Make conscious decisions for lifestyle changes: For an engineer, work-life balance might be virtually unheard-of, especially for those whose life revolves around their projects and tasks. Reaffirm your decision toward balance and assess your wants and needs.
Engineering Companies With the Best Work-Life Balance
Your working environment is a huge factor when you’re trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance as an engineer. Below are some of the best companies regarding their support for engineers’ work-life balance:
ACCO Engineered Systems
- Headquarters: Glendale, California
- Locations: San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; San Diego, California; Sparks, Nevada; Garden City, Idaho
One of the longest-running engineering firms in the country, ACCO Engineered Systems has been serving clients since 1934. They cover construction and various services, hosting a range of mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering positions. Its experience and expertise make for a well-rounded team that handles its workload very well.
- Headquarters: Austin, Texas
- Locations: Macquarie Park, Australia; São Paulo, Brazil; Shanghai, China
Best known for automated test equipment and instrumentation software, National Instruments is headquartered in the Austin, TX area. It also operates internationally, with offices across the US, Europe, and the Singapore Area. Most of the manufacturing process is automated or outsourced and professionals in the company enjoy flexible time arrangements and a generally relaxed environment.
- Headquarters: Norwalk, Connecticut
- Locations: San Francisco, California; Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois
Financial data software developer FactSet, based in the CT area, is also a promising company, especially for facilities maintenance and software engineers. They mostly adhere to a basic five-day, eight-hour working schedule. However, those in product development might be requested to turn in additional hours depending on the load.
- Headquarters: Mountain View, California
- Locations: San Francisco, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Boulder, Colorado
Among tech companies in Silicon Valley, Google leads the way in pursuing a developer and engineer work-life balance. They have an impressive vacation policy and once famously conducted the long-term gDNA study among their employees to assess their needs better.
- Headquarters: McLean, Virginia
- Locations: Albany, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Chattanooga, Tennessee
For women in the chemical, electrical, mechanical, and industrial engineering fields, food production company Mars Incorporated offers excellent benefits and vacation days. They are pursuing initiatives for workplace equality for every sexual orientation and provide flexible hours to specific positions.
Turner Construction Company
- Headquarters: New York City, New York
- Locations: San Francisco, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Kansas City, Missouri
Engineer work-life balance is not just possible with Turner Construction, they actively pursue it in most locations. Most of their employees work eight hours or less per day, with extra hours only requested when necessary.
Is Work-Life Balance Possible for an Engineer?
Yes, work-life balance is possible for an engineering professional. However, there are a lot of factors at play, so not everyone can readily pursue and enjoy this sustainable lifestyle.
Generally, work-life balance is easier to attain for positions that do not require directing a particular project. If you’re a civil engineer assigned to a particular construction project or an electrical or mechanical engineer working on an ongoing installation or product development, expect to put in extra hours to meet those deadlines.
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Engineer Work-Life Balance FAQ
Yes, with the pandemic, most engineers have found opportunities to work from home. For example, design engineers and those learning how to become software engineers can remotely do their work. However, ocular inspection and product testing duties have to be physically done from time to time.
Yes, most engineers do manage to maintain a work-life balance despite keeping a full-time working schedule. Their 9-to-5 working hours make it relatively easy to have a sustainable lifestyle. Still, overtime work is not entirely unheard of in the field.
Ideally, an engineering professional should be working below 40 hours, five days per week, to enjoy the right mix of productive work and personal quality time.
Yes, engineering is a stressful job. The engineering profession is one of the most challenging career options available, owing to its highly technical nature. Entry-level jobs are exceptionally high-stress, with experience making the daily jobs more manageable.
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