Preserving Work-Life Balance in an Overworked Country

On Monday, the United States celebrated the “working man” with a national holiday meant to be one day of the year dedicated to not working. The real question is, how many people actually went all of Labor Day without working?

Preserving Work-Life Balance in an Overworked Country

The U.S. ranks 29th out of 36 countries when it comes to work-life balance, according to the June 2015 Better Life Index from OECD.

How to Preserve Work-Life Balance in a Country that Doesn’t

Backing up this report is the statistic that more than 4 in 10 workers do not use their vacation days, and in 2013, 169 million vacation days went unused. In 2000, U.S. workers were taking an average of 20.3 days of vacation, but in 2013 that number was down to 16. This not only affects the wellbeing of the individual employee – it also has a major effect on the economy. The same survey calculated that this waste of 169 million vacation days forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits in 2013. This trend is only expected to get worse – 35% of millennials admit to working at some point every day of their vacations – more than any other generation.

According to a recent report from LinkedIn, work-life balance is the most important factor after compensation to candidates when looking for a job. Separating your work life from your personal life looks different for everyone. For some, it means leaving your work behind the minute you clock out. For others, maybe you don’t mind working outside business hours, but your social time should always be free from work duties. If your current job doesn’t allow you to do this, it might be time to look for another job.

There are several key things to determine when trying to figure out a company’s work-life balance. Make sure to ask these questions in your job search:

  • What does their Facebook say?

    The nice thing about looking for a job today is that most companies have pictures of their culture on their social media profiles. Take time to look through their social pages to get a good idea of what it would be like to work there. It’s also important to see what their employees are saying online. Check out Glassdoor reviews to see what employees have to say about the companies you’re interested in. They even have a category specific to work-life balance, so you should be able to get a helpful perspective.

  • How do internal employees describe the work-life balance?

    When you go to a company to interview, ask every employee you meet this one vital question: “How would you describe the work-life balance here?” Find out if they feel any flexibility or freedom with their schedules or if they have trouble disconnecting from work. Of course, you must take these answers with a grain of salt, but if every employee has the same response, it’s something to consider.

  • Discuss expectations before leaving the interview.

    A survey from Workfront found that bad bosses are the leading cause of bad work-life balance. Know before you take a job who your boss will be and ask for their expectations in the interview. Use good judgment on timing these questions – don’t get too specific unless you have an offer or it’s been made clear that you’re getting one. Good questions to ask: how many hours are expected of me, what kind of flexibility do you offer, what kind of PTO is included, etc. One thing to keep in mind when asking about personal time off/vacation days is if it’s negotiable. Many companies aren’t willing to negotiate salary, but perks like PTO are much easier to bargain. If time off with your family is more important than salary, try to work out extra days up front when the offer is on the table.

Maintaining a healthy balance between your work life and personal life will improve your productivity and creativity, as well as keep your morale up at the office. Don’t let being overworked affect your home life. If you would like to find out which open jobs could give you a better work-life balance, update your status with us to connect with a recruiter.

About the Author: 

Jennifer Bradley is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Job Seeker

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Mary Lou Evans

This month’s MATRIX Employee Spotlight is on Mary Lou Evans, a tenacious recruiter and arguably the most loved person in our Dallas office. Each of our 50 Dallas employees receive a voicemail on their birthday every year from Mary Lou, who writes a personalized song based on her coworkers’ passions and quirks to celebrate them. Her heart for others comes out in every aspect of her work and we are honored to have her on our team.

Tell me about yourself.

I was born and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas with my five sisters. After high school, I wanted to go into PR for the airlines. On the day I received my acceptance letter from an airline, I also received acceptance to tour with the international cast of Up With People (UWP). After making it through the singing and dancing auditions and an extensive rehearsal/training process, I toured with UWP for one year. After that, I worked in marketing at SeaWorld of Ohio before getting into recruiting. With the popularity of the movie, “Jaws,” a frozen great white shark was shipped in and displayed in a -4-degree glass display case and I was asked to go inside to model with it for media purposes. AP picked the photo up and it was advertised nationally.

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Mary Lou Evans

What were your favorite experiences while touring with Up With People?

I loved getting to travel all around the United States, as well as Canada, Bermuda, Belgium, Italy, and Germany. I also met my husband while on tour – he was a bass player. He actually performed at the 1972 Olympics with UWP in Munich following the Munich massacre in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer were killed.

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Mary Lou Evans

I think my favorite experience was when we hiked a mountain in Molokai, Hawaii and spent the day with the people in the leper colony there. Thousands of people in Hawaii living with leprosy had been exiled to this colony and left to die. Getting to talk to the people there was an incredibly humbling experience that I will never forget.

In addition to our two hour musical show, we performed on radio and TV and in a national commercial for Expo ’74. We also performed in schools, prisons, hospitals, and factories and even performed in a brewery on a stage constructed of beer barrels in Belgium. Another great part of the tour was the celebrities I got to meet. I first met Bob Hope when he invited us to perform at Pebble Beach. Another time we performed for him in Palm Springs and I shared a dressing room with Charo. I got to meet Ginger Rogers, Glen Campbell, Vic Damone, Jack Benny, and Guy & Ralna from the Lawrence Welk Show that day as well. Willie Knowles (whose cousin is Beyoncé) was the emcee of our show and remains one of my close friends today. The most important thing I learned through my UWP experience is that music transcends everything. It didn’t matter what language you spoke or how “famous” you were – music brought us all together.

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Mary Lou Evans

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome?

I was in a car accident 27 years ago and in a coma for three weeks with post traumatic amnesia for several months. I suffered traumatic brain injury and my husband was told I would need 24 hour care. Doctors encouraged my husband to put me in a nursing home because they didn’t think I would make it. Fortunately, my husband and 12-year-old daughter didn’t give up on me. I went to rehabilitation for years and had to completely start over - I had to re-learn how to walk, talk, write - everything. The doctors called me their “miracle” patient because of my unexpected recovery.

Today I walk four miles a day, six days a week to maintain my physical abilities. Working as a Recruiter definitely exercises my brain. Through years of adversity, I have learned from faith and perseverance, you can overcome more than you can imagine.

What are you most proud of?

Everything my family and I have accomplished despite years of obstacles. My daughter has a PhD and works for Harvard Medical School part-time in addition to taking care of my three beautiful granddaughters. Several years ago I encouraged my husband to go back to school and follow his dream of becoming an RN. He is practicing at a hospital now and is my biggest inspiration.


I am so thankful for the challenging work I get to do at MATRIX because it keeps my mind sharp. The best part of recruiting is getting to help people. When I meet a candidate, I want to understand their family and their life in general. Then I can determine which opportunity to connect them to that will ultimately help them and their families grow.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone?

Follow your dreams – it’s never, ever too late.

MATRIX Employee Spotlight: Mary Lou Evans

About the Author: 

Jennifer Bradley is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Doctor, Realtor...Recruiter? Time to Use an Expert

When you think of the reason that you hire an expert in any given field, what are the main reasons? Is it a matter of saving you time and frustration? Or making sure that you are being as thorough as you possibly can? Most people use a realtor to buy a house and an insurance broker to find the best coverage for their homes, cars and life insurance. Why wouldn’t you want a recruiter to help you through one of the most stressful life decisions to be made? And don’t forget that recruiters are beneficial at any stage in your career – not just during an active job search.

Since people love lists, here is a list of reasons to work unassisted when trying to find a job:

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Great! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s understand the benefits of working with a local recruiter who specializes in your area of expertise:

  • Market Knowledge Doctor, Realtor...Recruiter? Time to Use an Expert

    The majority of tenured recruiters can offer insight into the hiring market around you. What skills are hottest? What do pay rates look like for my skill set? What is trending for growth? This information will help you position yourself to start your search and map out a plan. Are you looking to modify your skillset or get your hands into a new technology? Ask us how often we see those skills in our market. It may be what you want to hear or be the advice that saves you valuable time on a skill that isn’t worthwhile. Speaking of time…

  • Time

    We save you loads of it! Looking for a job is the equivalent of working a full-time job, and no one wants to do both at the same time. To truly maximize time savings in your job search, it’s helpful if you limit the number of recruiters you work with. Try to have two or three to go to when you are ready to see what’s out there.  

  • Networking

    Sad, but true…no recruiter has every job that is open in their area. But, what we do have in spades are excellent networks. Do you have a dream company you are targeting? If we don’t have it, we may have an introduction to someone who does. Curious about specialized local groups, but don’t know where to start? Chances are, we can introduce you to the groups or members involved.

  • Company Insight

    Want to wear shorts to work? Are you a Type A who only wants to work for a manager and team that gets things done in the most efficient way? We know companies that could fit either need. Our value includes sharing with you what isn’t written in the job description. That could encompass anything from culture and dress code to team size and where the manager went to college. These are the details that you will not know sending your resume into a black hole of applying to a company directly.

If you do choose to work with a recruiter, it is imperative that you are comfortable with the person you are working with. Keep in mind, this person’s reputation will have an impact on your job search. What does their social media makeup look like? Do they have stable tenure in the market you are targeting? Are they recommended by people in your field? And at any point if you don’t feel comfortable with the person you are dealing with, make a change! Your job search is stressful enough without dealing with someone who you don’t connect with. You don’t have to be best friends, though I’ll tell you, you might start to like us.

So, whether you are actively wanting to make a change or you just want to take the temperature of the market, you can update your job status with us to start the process of connecting with a recruiter. 

About the Author: 

Jamie Martin is the Recruiting Team Lead for the MATRIX Dallas office. She has 10+ years of IT staffing experience in the Dallas Market, specializing in application and software development placements. She is also skilled as a transportation engineer and conflict management specialist to her two young sons.

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Job Seeker

Being Prepared as a Software Craftsman

It happens every once in a while.

I waltz into the classroom looking forward to a new lesson and suddenly realize that today is the final exam. Everything I should have been preparing for is finally due. And I haven’t done anything — no flash cards, no notes, no readings, no late night, caffeine-infested sessions the night before. In fact, I can’t remember if I have attended any of the prior classes.Being Prepared

As I begin to panic and look for an excuse to leave and make up the exam later, I wake up. It was all a dream – or a nightmare! It takes a few seconds, but I finally realize that nothing that I was experiencing is actually true. What a relief!

How About You?

But how many of us come to work unprepared each day?

I mean — how well do we know our tools?

Do we know all of the ins and outs of our particular language, platform, tools, and techniques?

Or do we only know those parts that we had to use for our latest project?

Or do we only understand the basic “Hello, world” features that we learned from reading a blog, listening to a podcast, or attending a conference session?

Being a Passionate Programmer

This question came up in a book, The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development (Pragmatic Life) by Chad Fowler.

In it, he suggests that,

"Our industry tends to practice on the job."

He then relates our craft to the art of playing music, and,

"Musicians are paid to perform in public—not to practice."

So why would we expect to do it differently in our profession?

It takes hours of practice in order to learn our craft and, unfortunately, too many are practicing on the job these days, because it is acceptable. You cannot learn everything that you ought to know as a software craftsman by merely writing code for production software. Focusing on certain aspects is needed in order to increase the quality and resilience of what we produce.

One of the areas that musicians focus on developing is physical/coordination or focusing on fundamental technical aspects of playing an instrument. They do this by playing scales in all of the range of the instrument, building the muscles in their lips or gaining callouses in their fingers, practicing dynamics with their diaphragms, etc. They cannot always be playing nice sounding music – they have to play simple, focused, seemingly monotonous exercises to focus on these fundamentals.

How To Practice

How can a software craftsman do the same?

They can practice the full range of functionality available to them within a certain language, platform, tool, or technique, using them in private exercises known as code katas or building a demo project.

And even though they may not prove expertise in a particular technology, I have found certification exams to be invaluable in forcing me to look at the full scope of functionality that a platform provides.

For even more accountability and support, you could start/join a coding dojo, getting involved with a community of like-minded people wanting to grow in their knowledge and skills as well.

So spend some time thinking about what tools you already know something about and start practicing coding in areas of that tool or technique that you are not familiar with. Get to know what is available and practice the full range of motion. You will be much more prepared the next time you need to use that toolset.

Feel free to comment below on other suggestions you have for practicing our craft.

This blog was originally published here - visit Todd's blog for more posts.

About the Author: 

Todd Meinershagen is an accomplished architect with 18+ years of in-depth, hands-on experience designing and developing service-oriented, n-tier applications to solve business problems. He loves collaborating with teams, improving process, working with new technologies, techniques, and ideas while striving for excellence in everything that he does. He is currently a Senior Software Architect with MedAssets, a healthcare SaaS company, working with the Patient Access Solutions team. He is also husband to Tammy and father to three daughters, Ellie, Chloe and Sophie. You can find links to his blogs, social media profiles, and open source projects here.

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MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: William Takacs

This month’s MATRIX spotlight is on William Takacs, an Instructional Design Consultant working for one of our clients in Arizona.

MATRIX Consultant Spotlight: William Takacs

Tell me a little about yourself.
I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Northern and Southern California. When I graduated high school, my family moved to Phoenix, and I attended Arizona State University where I met my wife and started my family. My father was a hardworking Financial Executive in the retail world and my mother was a dedicated teacher in the local public school system. Funny enough, that combination has been part of where my career has placed me today. I taught in public schools as a computer teacher for five years and transitioned into Instructional Design work for corporate America in retail and technology for 10+ years. My wife has enjoyed her career teaching special education in public schools and we talk about teaching and instruction often. We have a teenage son and we talk about his education often, too!

What does your life look like outside of work?
Outside of work, I am involved in my son’s Boy Scout Troop as an Outdoor Event Coordinator on the Troop Committee. I enjoy supporting and watching my son grow in skills and character as he advances in Rank and Merit Badges. Our family enjoys the outdoors on day trips and overnight camping when possible. When we are not exploring nature, we have two dogs that hang out with us in our home office while we work. At night, my wife is grading papers and pursuing a Master’s Degree, and I have taken up being the family cook, learning which meals taste good and which ones I should never cook again. When I am not cooking family dinners, I join my wife in the office to work hard meeting project deadlines in my contract work. When spare time becomes available, my next creative outlet is to write a “great American novel”, or some kind of science fiction story.

How did you get your start in IT?
My start in IT came from my love of teaching computers, and I was lucky enough to find my first Instructional Design job when an E-learning company hired me because of my background in teaching. I will admit that the Learning Development niche is a very small and unique job market. When MATRIX found me, I was heading out on a camping trip with my son. When we returned, there was an interview set up which brought me to where I am today. I am grateful that MATRIX was able to align my skills and abilities with employment without taking away my camping time with my son.

What’s your favorite or most rewarding part of your career?
In my career, I am able to use all the skills I learned in college, while developing creative skills that make my work interesting and engaging. I have been fortunate to work with a mix of employees and contractors within the company, and every project shows the quality standards and commitment to valuable deliverables that I strive for in my work. I enjoy the creative development process, the teamwork with people, and the completion of high-quality documentation and e-learning courses at the end of any project.

If you could give any piece of advice to other IT consultants, what would it be?
The advice I would give to other IT consultants is to be confident in what you can offer the company or management you are working for. I have found that when I can share insight to a project process or workflow and where my skills will be part of the project success, it becomes easier for co-workers and management to trust me to follow through on that action and project work. When I show confidence in what I can do, and follow through with project success in the completion, I build trust for future work.

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