If You’re an Overworked, Underpaid IT Pro, You’re Not Alone

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    If you’re an IT pro, chances are you’re putting in about 10 hours more per week than people in other professions do. If you’re an IT pro in North America, you’re likely spending more time at work compared to your IT colleagues elsewhere. And if you’re an IT pro working for an SMB, you’re probably working longer hours than your colleagues in larger companies work.

    Those are some of the findings of research conducted by Spiceworks, an IT management software provider in Austin that also serves as a professional networking platform for the global IT community. In a recent report stemming from that research, Peter Tsai, an IT analyst at Spiceworks, argued that IT pros in this country are overworked.

    “Our [Spiceworks] community is all about helping IT pros,” Tsai said in an interview. “We want to help them make the case to their management that they deserve more compensation, or they could use extra help.”

    I asked Tsai who within the IT organization tends to work the longest hours.

    “It’s usually the people who are expected to be on call—the sys admins, and sometimes the helpdesk technicians and the network admins,” he said. “Titles vary, but if you’re on call, and you’re expected to come in whenever there’s a disaster or any sort of problem—a server goes down, and you have to wake up in the middle of the night and come in—that surely adds to your working time. And even when you’re at home and somebody has a question, if you’re expected to be on call, then you’ve got to work.”

    As for whether compensation is keeping pace with the number of hours worked per week, Tsai said it varies a lot.

    “The reason we did the survey was because there was a lot of conversation in the Spiceworks community about this very topic—people trying to figure out either how many IT pros they need to support a certain number of users or devices; or, people in our Careers Forum just asking questions about compensation,” he said. “I think a lot of IT pros are overworked and under-compensated, especially if they are more junior—they’re expected to do some of the grunt work.”

    Tsai said more senior IT pros who have been in the industry for a while, and who have specialized knowledge, tend to be more fairly compensated. But helpdesk technicians and support personnel have a legitimate complaint.

    “Sometimes we look at government numbers on IT salaries and post them in the community, and people will say, ‘Wow, I’m really being underpaid. I need to show this to my boss, but I don’t think it’s really going to affect anything.’”

    Another concern voiced by IT pros in the Spiceworks community, Tsai said, is that full-time, salaried employees, as opposed to hourly employees who bill for the time they work, are expected to be at the company’s beck and call.

    “It’s great to be full-time, but often you do end up working 50 or 60 hours a week,” he said. “From the griping I’ve heard in the comments, a lot of people say that once they become salaried, management likes to squeeze out all the productivity they can get.”

    As for how company size relates to the number of hours that IT pros work per week, Tsai said the larger an IT department is, the higher the likelihood that there are IT pros working fewer than 40 hours; and the smaller an IT department is, the higher the likelihood that there are IT pros working 40 hours or more, on average. And those who work in small and medium businesses tend to work more hours than those in large companies. Here’s the breakdown:

    • IT pros at small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) work an average of 50.1 hours per week, with 57 percent working more than 40 hours per week.
    • IT pros at medium businesses (100-499 employees) work an average of 53.4 hours per week, with 58 percent working more than 40 hours per week.
    • IT pros at large businesses (500 or more employees) work an average of 51.3 hours per week, with 52 percent working more than 40 hours per week.

    Tsai also pointed out that IT pros tend to work considerably longer hours than people in other professions.

    “If you look at the U.S. Census numbers, people in full-time, non-farm jobs work about 42 hours per week, on average,” he said. “Our number for IT workers is close to 52. It really adds up if you aggregate it over the course of a year.”

    According to Tsai, the extra hours are taking a toll.

    “There are a lot of helpdesk technicians in our community, and they tend to be really stressed out,” he said. “So we wanted to give them ammo to say [to their managers], ‘You don’t have to hire a lot of advanced IT pros, but if you hire more helpdesk technicians, that alleviates a lot of the stress created by users.’”

    A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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