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A quarter of IT professionals are working 50 or more hours a week, according to research, but the large majority work a lower number of hours than most other professionals in other industries.

A quarter of IT professionals are working 50 or more hours a week, according to research, but the large majority work a lower number of hours than most other professionals in other industries.

The Career Lifestyle Survey from recruitment agency Robert Walters also found that IT professionals consider themselves more "career mobile" than other professions. Over half say it is important to change employer every three years or sooner, compared to 30 percent in the legal profession, 36 percent in financial services and 40 percent in sales.

However, despite the rise in the number working longer weeks, only a quarter of IT professionals report putting in regular overtime, less than those in HR (46 percent), sales (45 percent), and legal or financial services (both 30 percent).

Furthermore, nearly 60 percent of IT specialists rate work-life balance as "very important" to career satisfaction, topping remuneration (52 percent), interest in the work (46 percent) or flexible working hours (30 percent). This is reflected in the industry’s average working week – at 43.4 hours, one of the lowest of all professions, and considerably shorter than the national average of 44.6 hours.

Remote working is also more widely valued in IT than in other professions. One quarter of IT specialists judge remote access as "very important", against 15 percent in accountancy or financial services, 17 percent in marketing and 20 percent in HR.

When asked for their reasons for leaving a job, the survey shows that opportunities for career progression are more highly prized among IT professionals than any other factor - 34 percent of IT professionals would seek new employment because of a lack of career opportunities.

This compared to 18 percent because of an unsupportive boss, 16 percent as a result of a negative salary review, and 14 percent due to poor company culture. Just five percent are looking to move on because of a lack of flexible working hours.

Natasha Brooks, head of IT recruitment at Robert Walters, said: “A rise in the number of IT professionals working at least 50 hours each week is a reflection of the extra demands being placed on these teams, underpinned by strong economic growth and business sign-off on new or previously mothballed technology projects.

“That said, among many in the profession, work-life balance remains by far the most important consideration in achieving career satisfaction. Ultimately, as demand for experienced IT professionals grows, recruitment strategies need to appeal to what candidates find most attractive about their job."

She added: "Many say they are willing to leave their current role in order to get a foot on the next rung up the career ladder, for instance, so companies have to make sure they can offer opportunities before their competitors can swoop.”

The Robert Walters Career Lifestyle Survey questioned 755 professionals across different professions on a range of career lifestyle questions, including attitudes to career progression, work-life balance, working overseas and their contribution towards the success of the business.