What does the work-life balance of a Software Engineer look like?

We compare the work-life balance of FAANG employees at Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft comparing their vacation, remote work policy as well as openness to side projects.

According to a recent survey, 52% of people have felt burn-out at work during COVID. It’s important try to achieve a good work-life balance; something many of us have lacked during lockdown.

“We’re not working from home, we’re sleeping in the office.”

Fortunately attitudes to work-life balance have been improving in Europe over the last 50 years, where the number of hours worked by each person on average has decreased from ~1,000hrs in 1960 to ~700 in 2010.

For the rest of the world however, the average number of hours worked per person has continued to increase, with some of the sharpest rises seen in the USA. For example, in 1960 the average American worked around 700 hours per year, rosing to 840 in 2010.

A 4 day work week offers some hope however, where interest has grown steadily over the past 10 years, reflected in search volume data from Google trends. More companies than ever now offer a 4 day work week, predominately benefited by those who have skills which are heavily in demand (i.e. software engineers).

Despite this, the vast majority of companies still work 9–5, five days per week. So instead analysing the number of hours worked by engineers, what does the work-life balance look like for a software engineer?

A Comparison of Work-Life balance at FAANG Companies

Glassdoor reviews ask employees to rate their work-life balance on a scale from 0 to 5. We filtered these reviews to include software engineers only.

Here are the results:

  1. Google: 4.4 (best)
  2. Microsoft: 4.3
  3. Apple: 4.0
  4. Facebook: 3.5
  5. Amazon: 3.1 (worst)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google engineers said they had the best work-life balance with Amazon having the worst. In fact, Amazon had a significantly lower score than all of the other FAANG companies, only Facebook came close.

Let’s dig into the numbers by considering different factors which comprise a healthy work-life balance for each company.

Software Developer’s Work-life Balance at Google

Based on reviews from Glassdoor, Software Engineers rated working at Google as:

  • Overall: 4.5
  • Culture: 4.5
  • Work-life balance: 4.4
  • Compensation and benefits: 4.6
  • Career opportunities: 4.4

Comparably rated the work-life balance as a B for engineers.

Vacation policy

According to Glassdoor reviews, “Nooglers” (an affectionate term for a new hire) get three paid weeks vacation per year in the US. After five years, vacation increases to five weeks — which is well above the US average of 10. You also get three months of unpaid sabbatical.

Remote work policy

As of September 2021, Google will follow a “hybrid” remote working model. Employees must work at least three days a week at the office. The new rules state that 20% of the company can work remotely.

If you choose to work completely from home however, Google will now reduce your salary to reflect your cost of living.

Google has a healthy remote culture, but requires more time on-site in comparison to other FAANG companies.

The company says it expects around 60% to work a few days per week from home, with 20% moving office and 20% working entirely from home.

Culture

Google has won many awards in the past for it’s corporate culture. For example, Comparably rates it’s culture as A+.

In general, Google promotes transparency, creativity, outspoken communication and forward thinking ideas.

Google famously funds “moonshot” projects within the company. These are projects are heavily research driven, where the outcome / success of the project is unknown.

For example, some active projects include:

  • Self driving cars
  • Giving access to the internet to all, using a network of hot air balloons
  • Renewable energy storage using tanks of molten salt
  • Augmented reality, head mounted displays
  • And many more

Google tries to make work as fun as possible.

Openness to side projects

When you work at Google, 20% of your time can be spent working on any projects you like, as long as “you think they will benefit Google”. Additionally, Google runs many hackathons throughout the year.

If you want to build your own project outside of company hours, however, the rules aren’t so clear. According to Google’s Code of Conduct, you should avoid conflict of interest situations. Like, starting a competing business, investing in a competitor company, and personal gain from business relationships. When in doubt, notify Ethics & Compliance.

It should also be noted that Google has made copyright claims on employee side projects in the past.

Pay and benefits

Compensation at Google is one highest in comparison to Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook. For example, Google pays around $191k for an entry level Software Engineer, compared to an average of $173k at all FAANG companies. The salary of a senior Software Engineer at Google is $357k, vs an average of $324k at other FAANG companies.

The benefits of working at Google are too long to mention but include:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with your colleagues (for free!)
  • Video game stations
  • Foosball & Table tennis and even mini-golf
  • Gyms and swimming pools
  • Cooking classes
  • Lots more…

Software Developer Work-life Balance at Facebook

Based on reviews from Glassdoor, Software Engineers rated working at Facebook as:

  • Overall: 4.3
  • Culture: 4.1
  • Work-life balance: 3.5
  • Compensation and benefits: 4.7
  • Career opportunities: 4.6

Comparably rated the work-life balance of engineers at Facebook as a C-.

Vacation policy

Facebook is very generous with its vacation policy, for example in the USA, you get ~21 days paid vacation per year. Also, every five years, you get a 30-day paid break. The numbers are much higher than the US average.

As with all companies however, the vacation policy varies based on your work location.

Remote work policy

Facebook is probably the most remote-friendly FAANG company with the company recently announcing that it will let all employees work away from the office after the Covid pandemic is over. Remote work must be requested by the employee however. Mark Zuckerberg himself, says he plans to work around 50% of 2022 remotely.

In addition to offering remote work, Facebook provides all the tools to make you a successful remote Facebooker.

Culture

From many different reports, Facebook has a great working culture e.g. Comparably rates the work culture as A+.

At some point, Facebook’s motto was “Move fast and break things”. Today, it’s “Move Fast. Be Bold. Be Yourself”. In the past few years, Facebook has been through a lot of change. They have been trying to find their identity. And they found it with their newly created motto: “Move fast with stable infrastructure.”

The culture at Facebook is impact-focused, with a strong emphasis on creating value for the community. Another focus is that of “openness.” Zuckerberg has always been a huge advocate of transparency. And in this fast-paced work environment, openness is a crucial aspect that needs to be taken into account. Transparency means that employees have access to all information they need in order to do their jobs well. It also means that they know how their work will impact company goals and objectives, and vice versa.

Openness to side projects

Although there isn’t a formal policy, the rules about employees having side projects are more relaxed than other FAANG companies. One employee said that “as long as the project didn’t complete with Facebook’s core business and you don’t work on it during company time”, there is no issue.

This is challenging because there are now many Facebook products in a lot of industries, with the set continuing to grow. Also, if you produce any content on your work computer, it belongs to Facebook and can’t be used elsewhere. So make sure to work on it using another computer.

Pay and benefits

The pay for Facebook employees is higher on average, when compared to other FAANG companies. For example, Facebook pays around $180k for an entry level Software Engineer, compared to an average of $173k at all FAANG companies. The salary of a senior Software Engineer at Facebook is $390k, vs an average of $324k at other FAANG companies.

In addition to the generous salary + bonus + equity, a compensation package at Facebook also includes retirement plans, life insurance and equity.

A comparison of the average senior software engineering salary at FAANG companies

Facebook offers some of the best working environments in the industry, dedicated to ensuring employees have a healthy work-life balance. They offer many benefits to their employees, such as:

  • On-site gyms
  • Free meals
  • Transportation
  • Medical, dental & vision insurance
  • Legal services
  • Family programs
  • Autism therapies, cancer care & transgender services

Facebook also touts itself as a great place to work for those with families. Benefits include paid leave for new parents, support for family planning, baby cash to help with expenses for your newborn and other programs to help with family care needs.

Software Developer Work-life Balance at Apple

Based on reviews from Glassdoor, Software Engineers rated working at Apple as:

  • Overall: 4.3
  • Culture: 4.2
  • Work-life balance: 4.0
  • Compensation and benefits: 4.3
  • Career opportunities: 4.2

Comparably rated the work-life balance of engineers at Apple as a D+, the worst score of any FAANG company.

Vacation policy

According to Comparably, Apple’s PTO and Vacation policy typically gives 15–20 days off a year. Apple has many other benefits such as health insurance, discounts on Apple products, and stocks in the company.

However, some employees pointed out that some of these benefits come with strings attached.

Remote work policy

Apple isn’t a huge fan of remote work unfortunately.

A recent survey by Apple employees in 2021 showed that 37% of people were worried that they might have to leave Apple due to lack of flexibility. In June 2021, employees even launched a protest to push back on the companies plans to return to office working.

Working from home isn’t compatible with the company’s culture; Tim Cook himself says that he misses “the hum of activity” that in-person working offers. However, they do follow a hybrid model where you can work from home two days a week if your manager approves. Specifically, it is compulsory for employees to come into the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with Wednesday and Fridays left as remote days (with manager approval).

Culture

Culture is one of Apple’s core strength with Comparably rating it’s culture as A-. It’s one of the most inclusive companies you can join where they champion inclusion and diversity. However, you must be present at the office to fully immerse in this vibrant culture.

According to a recent study, Apple’s culture is described as:

  • Top notch excellence: Apple only hires the best engineers
  • Creativity: Apple favours creativity above a candidates experience + knowledge
  • Secrecy: there is a strong focus on protecting intellectual property
  • Combativeness: A legacy of Steve Jobs is the company’s combative culture between employees and teams — although this is reportedly changing

According to an anonymous ex-employee everyone is “very smart, experienced and they works hard”; despite this the company has a low staff turnover. They also say “it’s hard to get hired” and most staff are contractors and very few ever get FTE. Finally they describe the employee demographic as “older” than your average FAANG.

Openness to side projects

You can do freelance jobs or work on your side projects after you get permission from HR. As with most other FAANG, your side projects should be outside of work hours, without using Apple resources, and not in competition with the company.

Pay and benefits

According to Levels.fyi, salaries at Apple are on par with most other FAANG companies. For example, Apple pays around $172k for an entry level Software Engineer, compared to an average of $173k at all FAANG companies. The salary of a senior Software Engineer at Microsoft is $332k, vs an average of $324k at other FAANG companies.

As an Apple employee, you enjoy benefits like:

  • Medical insurance
  • Fertility treatments
  • Childcare support
  • Elderly care
  • Gender equal pay
  • Great parental leave

Software Developer’s Work-life Balance at Microsoft

Based on reviews from Glassdoor, Software Engineers rated working at Microsoft as:

  • Overall: 4.4
  • Culture: 4.4
  • Work-life balance: 4.3
  • Compensation and benefits: 3.9
  • Career opportunities: 4.3

According to a study by Comparably, the Work Life Balance at Microsoft is rated a B, the (joint) best of all FAANG companies.

Vacation policy

Microsoft time off “package” includes 15 paid vacation days, 10 paid sick-leave days, 10 paid U.S. holidays, and two personal days every year. During your first six years, you get three weeks. After that, they become four weeks. You can also “roll over” unused vacations to the next year.

Managers are pretty flexible about vacations.

Remote work policy

In October 2020, Microsoft decided to make their temporary remote working policy (due to Covid) permanent, with manager approval. Microsoft says some roles will still require an in-person presence like those needing to access hardware. But many other staff will be able to work from home part-time without needing formal approval.

Culture

According to Comparably, Microsoft’s work culture is rated as A — with Glassdoor reviews scoring a 4.4.

In general, the working culture at Microsoft is very good with it being highly ranking on both Glassdoor and Comparably.

Microsoft’s culture encourages collaboration, a growth mindset, and customer-centricity. The company embraces working together across boundaries and has strengthened the connections between the employees by encouraging it. Microsoft has made diversity an integral part of its culture by adopting inclusion as an organizational value.

Openness to side projects

Microsoft is one of the best companies (when compared to other FAANG companies) in this regard as it has a clear moonlighting policy. The gist of it is that anything after hours, made using 100% of your own resources, is yours. On occasion, Microsoft has even promoted apps and tools made their employees during their own time.

The Global Hackathon is also a great opportunity to grow your hacking skills.

Pay and benefits

According to Levels.fyi, salaries at Microsoft the lowest out of all FAANG companies. For example, Microsoft pays around $158k for an entry level Software Engineer, compared to an average of $173k at all FAANG companies. The salary of a senior Software Engineer at Microsoft is $222k, vs an average of $324k at other FAANG companies.

  • Custom Work Station
  • Health, Dental, Life, Vision & Disability Insurance
  • Gender Neutral Bathrooms
  • Gym Discount
  • Maternity Leave (20 weeks)
  • Sabbatical

Software Developer’s Work-life Balance at Amazon

From our research of a number of studies, Amazon’s work-life balance is one of the poorest, when comparing against other FAANG companies.

Based on reviews from Glassdoor, Software Engineers rated working at Amazon as:

  • Overall: 3.9
  • Culture: 3.6
  • Work-life balance: 3.1
  • Compensation and benefits: 4.0
  • Career opportunities: 4.2

Based on reviews on Comparably, work-life balance at Amazon for engineers is rated as B-.

Vacation policy

According to Glassdoor, Amazon employees in the US earn two weeks of vacation time in their first year of employment and three weeks of vacation in their second year. One employee commented that the vacation policy was “on the low end for tech” — which I’d have to agree with. Additionally, you can’t carry over any unused PTO into the next year, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve used up all your time off or you’ll face losing it.

Remote work policy

As with many companies, Amazon has also recently changed it’s remote working policy. The new policy is allows up to two days working remotely and three days at the office — all will prior manager consent.

Culture

Amazon’s culture has been criticised publicly more than any other FAANG company — most of these criticism’s however, have been aimed at working conditions inside Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon warehouse workers are often expected to work up to 12 hour shifts in unsafe conditions.

The conditions while working as a software engineer are much better however. Comparably rates Amazon’s software engineering culture as A-.

According to one employee: “Amazon is not easy to work at but it can be extremely rewarding”. “Product Ownership” is one of the main values which Amazon focuses on i.e. if you want to own a software from top to bottom, Amazon is a good place for you.

Openness to side projects

In general, Amazon expects you to dedicate your waking hours to work. The contract states: “during employment, employee will devote employee’s entire productive time, ability, attention and effort to furthering Amazon’s best interests”.

One employee was able to negotiate copyright for a side project, in return for a perpetual royalty free license.

In general though, the policy at Amazon, regarding side projects, is similar to other FAANG companies i.e. don’t compete and don’t work during Amazon time.

Pay and benefits

According to Levels.fyi, salaries at Amazon are slightly lower than those at other FAANG companies. For example, Amazon pays around $164k for an entry level Software Engineer, compared to an average of $173k at all FAANG companies. The salary of a senior Software Engineer at Amazon is $332k, vs an average of $324k at other FAANG companies.

Other benefits are different based on location, seniority, and role but they usually include:

  • Custom Work Station
  • Health, Vision, Dental & Life Insurance
  • 401k match
  • Maternity Leave (20 weeks)
  • Sabbatical
  • Pet friendly

Salary Comparison of Software Engineers at FAANG companies

So far we’ve mostly focused on work-life balance but which FAANG company has the highest salary for a software engineer?

According to Levels.fyi, the salary for an entry level Software Engineer is as follows:

  1. Google: $191k (highest)
  2. Facebook: $180k
  3. Apple: $172k
  4. Amazon: $164k
  5. Microsoft: $158k (lowest)

And for a senior software developer:

  1. Facebook: $390k (highest)
  2. Google: $357k
  3. Amazon: $332k
  4. Apple: $321k
  5. Microsoft: $222k (lowest)

Which FAANG company has the best benefits?

Most FAANG companies offer similar benefits (e.g. health insurance, 401k match etc) but some have benefits unique to them. For example, Amazon has pet friendly offices, Google offers on-site massages, Apple holds music events, Microsoft offers babysitting reimbursement and Facebook even has on-site dentists & doctors. Levels.fyi estimated the value of employee benefits as:

  1. Facebook: $21k (highest)
  2. Google: $17k
  3. Amazon: $5k
  4. Apple: $15k
  5. Microsoft: $13k (lowest)

Which company has the best work-life balance as a software engineer?

We’ve covered FAANG companies so far but which other companies have a great work-life balance? When it comes to employee happiness, the companies with the best work-life balance are not always the ones you would expect.

According to a recent Glassdoor survey based on employee reviews, the best places to work as a software engineer from a work-life balance perspective were:

  1. Zoom
  2. Procore Technologies
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Facebook
  5. Google
  6. Salesforce
  7. Hubspot
  8. DocuSign
  9. Ultimate Software
  10. Paylocity

As you can see, only 2 of the “big five” FAANG companies feature in this list i.e. Facebook and Google. So if you want a great work-life balance but can’t get hired by Google or Facebook, consider applying to Zoom, Procore, Salesforce of Hubspot.

TL;DR

If you want:

  • Great pay: Facebook or Google
  • The best benefits: Facebook or Google
  • A great work-life balance: Google or Microsoft
  • Other great work-life balance companies: try Zoom, Procore, Salesforce or Hubspot
  • A 4 day work week: check out our 4 day week jobs

This article was original posted on 4 day week — Software engineering jobs with a better work life balance 🎉

Founder @ 4dayweek.io - Software jobs with a better work / life balance.