Mental Health and Software Engineers: Remote Work
The recent trend of software developers holding multiple remote jobs and its effect on mental health
When the pandemic freed employees from having to report to the office, some saw an opportunity to double their salary on the sly. Why be good at one job, they thought, when they could be mediocre at two?
2020 added its own flavour to the stress recipe, dealing with a pandemic and working remotely became the new normal. Using myself as an instance, in the last year, although being a college student, I was chanced to serve as a Data Science/ Machine Learning intern with three different set of engineering teams (at different times) and it would interest you that all three teams opted for the work-from-home option. In this era, work-from-home (WFH) became commonplace and most engineers moved toward full-time remote work positions.
Sometime around August 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported on an interesting remote-work trend. It appears that “white-collar workers, in the tech industry, say they have found a way to double their pay.” The key is to work two full-time remote jobs. The “rule of the game” for these folks is “don’t tell anyone” and “don’t do too much work, either.” Outside of the office and watchful eyes of supervisors and nosey co-workers, the multi-jobbers “toggle between two laptops” and calendars. At times, they need to log into two meetings at once, use time off from one job to work on projects for the other role, navigate the never-ending Zoom meeting, remember who they are sending emails and texts to, so as not to mix up people and send an important document to the wrong company executive and on top of that, still keep track of their LinkedIn profile.
Back home, there is a trend of Nigerians in technology leveraging remote work-friendly policies to work multiple jobs especially without disclosure and for them, it is an opportunity to earn $$ and expand their experience.
“You see really good developers holding three steady jobs, and they can do it because they already know what the companies want. But even at that, things will suffer, especially relationships.”
“I currently have two jobs and at some point I also had side gigs; it was hell. There are a lot of sleepless nights.”
he core of the matter: Several experienced developers say they work anywhere between 2–4 jobs. On the surface, it is a win-win situation for everyone involved. However, it sounds to me like the recipe for burnout, delivering shoddy work and not living up to the demands of the job. Developers I spoke to say they have seen this happen; yet, they continue to put their bodies and brains on the line because it comes down to money for them.
Truth be told, I do not totally disagree with them. There is a pressing need to ‘secure the bag’. However, the more pressing question is;
Is your mental health a price worth paying for earning a little more money?
Studies suggest that multiple job holding is associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing depression and somewhat associated with greater life dissatisfaction. I can testify to the fact that software engineering jobs can be stressful, full of pressure to deliver tough tech challenges by the project deadlines. Furthermore, finding solutions to ghastly issues drains our brain’s energy day after day. As such, our soft skills and interpersonal skills must remain sharp because collaborating effectively brings about better results.
In fewer words, being a Software Engineer can be exhausting, especially for our minds. It’s easy to see based on that conclusion the importance of mental health. Taking time for self-care to recharge and enjoy life outside of our work makes us better engineers. It rejuvenates us. It makes us more productive. And it makes work more fun. All of which makes developers happier.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence enthusiast