Are CIOs doing a great job not overworking their subordinates, or are government numbers merely camouflaging the truth?
The typical full-time computer professional last year averaged 42 hours, 24 minutes per week on the job—at the office, on the road and at home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When I recently posted that number on my blog, Parallax View, dozens of incredulous readers wrote that the figure just couldn't be true. "After working in IT for 20 years, I can't remember the last time I had a 42-hour, 24-minute work week," a typical respondent wrote. "I am lucky if I get away with less than 50 hours."
A few readers doubted the data's accuracy because they don't trust anything the government says. Others felt employers intentionally underreported the hours their IT pros worked. But that wasn't the case. The reported hours came from the employees themselves or a family member interviewed by trained government survey takers.
I believe the government numbers reflect reality, though they could be off a few hours a week. Concluding what happens to you and those around you doesn't mean that mirrors the entire IT universe. As BLS economist Karen Kosanovich points out, people tend to associate with others in similar circumstances. In addition, not all IT work requires the same number of hours. We can safely assume that software engineers work longer hours than do support specialists.
What prompted my curiosity about the hours IT pros work was another statistic that troubled me: the loss of 75,000 women in the IT ranks from 2000 to 2006, according to a CIO Insight analysis of BLS numbers. Some people suggest women no longer find IT an attractive career because long hours on the job takes them away from their families.
But government stats, if they're to be believed, put the kibosh on that. To my surprise, all other professions, save one, work longer hours on average each week than IT workers. Legal tops all professions, averaging 44 hours, 54 minutes a week. The category that includes educators, trainers and librarians average the fewest hours on the job, at 41 hours, 18 minutes. And among the workaholics who put in a 60-plus week, IT has the fewest: 7 percent of its full-time workers. Legal again has the most pros—15 percent—working those long hours.
Perhaps the government numbers are spot on. If so, maybe that just means computer pros work smarter than others.