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Are employee perks really fueling good work-life balance at tech companies?

Netflix
But this week both Netflix and Microsoft made headlines for a different type of perk – time off. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

TORONTO – Some may call them the lucky ones – engineers, software designers and the like who work for Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook and Netflix.

It’s no secret that working for a big tech firm comes with many perks. Google, for example, is known for its impressive offices complete with massage rooms, in-house dry cleaning, free cafeteria meals (and we are talking gourmet food, not your average cafeteria) and nap pods.

But this week both Netflix and Microsoft made headlines for a different type of perk – time off.

On Tuesday, Netflix announced it would offer new parents on its payroll up to a year paid leave in order to focus on their families. The next day, Microsoft followed suit revealing it will offer more paid leave to new parents and increase other benefits for U.S. employees.

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Netflix also already allows employee to take an unlimited amount of vacation each year, as long as they get their assignments done and fulfil other requirements of their jobs.

READ MORE: Are unlimited holidays the key to work-life balance?

These so-called perks may sound like enough to inspire a career change. But it got us thinking – is there an expectation for these employees to work more because of those perks?

“I think the tech industry absolutely lends itself to employees working beyond the standard 40 hour work week,” said Jason Johnson, who works in the information security industry for a large enterprise.

“Working from home, it’s hard to get that work/home life separation. But even when I worked in an office, most tech personnel these days seem to have remote access, so it wasn’t uncommon for me and those I work with to log back in from home and continue working nights and weekends.”

Like Johnson, many who work for large tech firms are offered the ability to telecommute, or work from home – an option many might see as a perk, but one that can lead to employees working a lot more overtime.

Johnson said working from home allows him to have a great flexibility in his schedule. He said he doesn’t have to feel guilty about having to take off midday to take his daughter to an appointment, because he can choose to make up the time in the evening.

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“In my mind, I’m paid well to do my job no matter the time it takes, and I’ve always viewed the perks (such as remote access, vacation time, travel to conferences) as enablers that allow me to do my job at a high level and avoid burn out,” he told Global News.

“I suppose in that sense I view them more as a reward as opposed to a way to entice longer work days out of employees.”

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Michael Murphy, vice president and country manager for desktop virtualization firm Citrix Canada, believes the expectation to work overtime comes from employees rather than employers.

In fact, Murphy believes that technology is allowing those in the industry to have a better work-life balance.

“I don’t believe it’s expectation of the employer, that people in tech work more hours — I think technology has allowed us to work different hours to balance work, life, family paradigm that exists,” he said.

READ MORE: Canadian companies still back telecommuting despite controversy

However, Murphy himself is no stranger how work life and family life can bleed together.

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He candidly admitted that when discussing the issue with his family, he asked how many hours a week they think he really works.

According to his middle daughter, Murphy is “always working.” His wife estimated that he works 80 hours per week, if you include all of the time he spends travelling.

“I managed to talk her down to 50 [hours],” he laughed.

While Murphy said he believes people can be more productive when working from home, he added those who do must remember to disconnect.

“Remote workers still need a routine to manage how they work from home,” he said. “You need to operate under the premise that you are still working out of an office even though it’s at home.”

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