Finding the Secret to the Work-Life Balance

Software engineering is a demanding job. These local leaders are helping their teams find success at work and at home.

Written by Built In Staff
Published on Sep. 06, 2023
Finding the Secret to the Work-Life Balance
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Burnout. It’s a common pitfall in the fast-paced world of programming. No one is immune — from the rookie software developer to the mid-level web developer to the senior iOS lead. Once burnout sets in, suggested fixes often include asking affected team members to take a sabbatical, giving them less work or offering opportunities to develop new skills. But managers who take preemptive steps to model and promote a healthy work-life balance can keep employees engaged and address burnout before it takes over.   

First, those managers must know how to identify burnout’s causes and symptoms. As we’ve previously defined, factors such as a lack of managerial support, remote work isolation, excessive job demands and poor work relationships often lead to burnout. Its symptoms include frequent absenteeism, lack of participation in social activities and reduced productivity. 

Dmytro Seredenko is a vice president at EPAM Systems, Inc., and says he and his peers work to provide all team members with the necessary tools while enabling autonomous decision-making and reducing the number of required meetings. In doing so, they are creating an environment where employees can thrive both at work and at home. Built In met with Seredenko and his counterpart at Xealth to hear more. 

 

Dmytro Seredenko
VP & Co-Head of North America/West • EPAM Systems

EPAM Systems, Inc. provides software product engineering, technology consulting and digital services to clients in software, financial service, media, hospitality, government and other industries. 

 

How have you set up your team to encourage a good work-life balance for individual contributors? Please share specifics around staffing, workflows, meetings, etc. that encourage this.

My approach to promoting work-life balance for individual contributors revolves around flexibility, trust and empowerment. As a global company, my team at EPAM Systems, Inc. often works with a diverse range of customers across multiple time zones. We understand the challenges that come from this and have taken several measures to create an environment that fosters a healthy work-life balance.  

This starts with flexible schedules and a remote work environment. Recognizing the need for flexibility, we give our team members the freedom to plan their own workday and work remotely. A strict 9-to-5 schedule isn’t always feasible due to the various time zones and client needs. By allowing our teams to adapt their schedules, we help ensure that they can not only accommodate clients but also achieve a balance between work responsibilities and personal activities. Because we don’t require team members to work from the office, we take measures to maintain a sense of connection and belonging through regular team-building opportunities, encouraging frequent peer-to-peer communication and an open-door policy by the management team.

 

Recognizing the need for flexibility, we give our team members the freedom to plan their own workday and work remotely.”

 

Next, we leverage technology for communication and self-service with few mandatory meetings. As a manager, I value my team’s time and understand that excessive meetings can disrupt productivity and work-life balance. We use Microsoft Teams, knowledge bases and self-service tools and platforms to facilitate communication and collaboration. These tools also empower our teams to make informed decisions and take ownership of their schedules while ensuring they meet their goals and deliver results. 

By keeping the number of required meetings to a minimum, we’re able to focus on providing more value for our clients while also giving our team more flexibility. When meetings do occur, I communicate their importance, share an agenda and ask team members to prioritize them over less critical tasks. However, we recognize that unexpected situations may arise, and we understand when team members need to address urgent matters in their professional or personal lives. 

Lastly, we take a results-oriented approach. Rather than micromanaging how EPAMers spend their days, we focus on delivering results. When hiring, I look for individuals who can work both independently and as part of a team, allowing them the autonomy to self-regulate their work processes. We trust our team members to manage their time effectively and meet their goals.

 

What role does an open-door policy play in making sure team members can speak candidly about their work-life balance — and position you to respond accordingly?

An open-door policy plays a crucial role in ensuring that team members can speak candidly about their work-life balance. At EPAM, we cultivate a culture where kindness and candor are valued, enabling team members to express their concerns without fear of judgment or repercussions. Our open-door policy is a natural outcome of ongoing communication and transparency.

As a leader, I strive to be authentic and straightforward, setting an example for open communication and fostering a feedback loop. Regular conversations and open communication lines across all channels help establish an environment where issues are addressed proactively, preventing them from building up and impacting work-life balance. When a team member approaches me with a work-life balance concern, my initial response is to understand the underlying reasons behind it. By engaging in open and empathetic conversations, we can identify the root causes and explore potential adjustments to support them better. This commitment to open communication and authentic management builds trust, encourages feedback and supports team members in achieving a healthy work-life balance. 

 

How do you protect your engineers' time to ensure they accommodate — but aren't overwhelmed — by the needs of cross-functional collaborators?

It’s an ongoing balance to ensure that team members can accommodate the needs of cross-functional collaborations. Each person has unique skills and capabilities, so we take a personalized approach to managing their workload. By maintaining open, ongoing communication, I’m able to evaluate how much someone can effectively handle and make adjustments considering their involvement in strategic initiatives, customer work and personal commitments. This also helps to proactively identify any potential challenges or areas where support may be required before it becomes overwhelming. From here, we’re able to identify areas where they’re making the biggest impact and determine which tasks can be removed or delegated. 

As a company, we also have a flat structure that encourages all voices at every level to be heard, giving an opportunity for the best ideas to thrive. This open and collaborative environment enables engineers to reach out to cross-functional collaborators regardless of their level and have meaningful conversations without unnecessary barriers. By fostering a supportive environment, we’re able to create a culture where all can grow and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

 

 

Annlin Sheih
Manager of Software Engineering • Xealth

The digital platform Xealth enables clinicians to find and order the right digital health tools and programs for patients directly from the EHR workflow.
 

How have you set up your team to encourage a good work-life balance for individual contributors? Please share specifics around staffing, workflows, meetings, etc. that encourage this.

Within Engineering @ Xealth, the directive comes from the CTO and development managers down to protect engineers' time. This means that engineers are encouraged to block off time during the workday to focus on their sprint tasks. The engineering team also limits meetings on Mondays and Fridays to give back time for engineers to focus on their sprint work.

 

Engineers are encouraged to block off time during the workday to focus on their sprint tasks.”

 

What role does an open-door policy play in making sure team members can speak candidly about their work-life balance — and position you to respond accordingly?

An open-door policy promotes a quick feedback loop between managers and team members. As we are still a relatively young and small team. That means we have the flexibility to listen to team members and adjust Engineering @ Xealth's work culture as necessary, from the scrum team level to the whole department.
 

How do you protect your engineers' time to ensure they accommodate — but aren't overwhelmed — by the needs of cross-functional collaborators?

Engineers are protected by the product managers who ensure focus on the product roadmap and that the engineers' progress is not derailed by ad-hoc requests. They help prioritize the incoming requests from other feature teams or production issues depending on urgency. Engineers are also encouraged to speak up to their product owner or manager if they are ever feeling overloaded, as Xealth cares deeply about their engineers getting to work on interesting projects while preventing burnout.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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