I'm contemplating moving from Canada to the US, hoping to secure a Staff role. My sole reason is money but I do not want to sacrifice work-life balance or mental health for that. A few extra hours of work each week in the initial few months of transition are expected and acceptable.
It's pretty hard to answer this in a way that would generalize well to a specific staff+ role without more specifics.
Staff+ is expected to have a huge amount of impact, but how you achieve the level of impact varies, which will be directly related to work-life balance.
For example, I've seen SVP / VP level people operate without much stress when they have high degree of alignment with their leadership, an exceptional team and solid workflows/processes in place. However, I've seen the opposite happen to someone 2 levels lower than that where everything was a dumpster fire.
Zooming out, I don't think burnout and mental health occur from a couple extra hours up to a certain threshold (let's call it 50-60 hours a week). It arises more from not liking what you are doing, lack of progression and dealing with toxic people / environments.
One of my mentors was known to be a "fixer / turnaround specialist" and he thrived off of broken, chaotic projects while working 60 hours+ a week. Point being, everyone is wired differently and most of the work is introspection vs. anchoring on external reference points.
Therefore, I'd focus on finding something you like and can contribute value to first vs. the other way around, then the rest will naturally follow (pay, mental health, etc.).
Hope this helps add clarity. DM me if you have further questions.
To clarify, you want to move countries purely for money and great work-life balance? I'm going to limit the scope of this answer to the money and work-life balance tradeoff, as whether a move for those reasons and the unpredictability of everything is worth it for you.
Compensation and work-life balance are generally negatively correlated. That said, as Rahul and Alex have said a lot, you can get really good work-life balance in big tech. It's so dependent on you though. You defined what compensation looks like. What does work-life balance for you look like? Is it 40 hours per week? That's totally doable. It will depend on company and team, plus your skillset. That number is viable in a lot of places.
What does good mental health look like for you? There are many Staff+ people on Taro and at my company who are very happy. They might be stressed sometimes during the workday, but it's up to them whether they bring that home afterwards. Or even how they approach their work (e.g. whether they stress about it, not everyone does).
In short, yes, this is certainly possible based on these assumed parameters. If you are an engineer who is solid at the Staff+ level of responsibility/work, define work-life balance in the ballpark of 40 hours, define good compensation as $500k+, and choose to not stress about work, I think this is certainly possible. It's going to come down to interviewing to find the right team and moving roles if needed.
Staff+ roles come with additional responsibilities and based on my experience and other staff/principal engineers I know, work life balance can take a hit. How much of hit or how long of hit will depend on your skills, your team & company, your ability to learn and develop the skills necessary at this level.
Let's address your questions.