Thursday, November 29, 2012

Proof Overtime Is Bad

I am against overtime. I do as little of it as possible. And now I have proof that this philosophy actually makes sense!

The Sleeping Geek Kitten - Angers -
The Sleeping Geek Kitten - Angers - / Nathonline-Beta

Before any potential future employers find this and take my resume off the pile, let me explain.  Knowing how long I can work before getting tired is important to me. If I go too long, then I'm likely to just make things worse.  Plus, if I know I only have a set amount of time to get things done, I can focus better - there is no later.  The standard 8 or 9 hour day seems to work perfectly well for me.

That's not to say that I'm not willing to put in some extra time around a deadline, of course.  I have stayed late a few times during my co-op terms and I've worked into the evening on school stuff more than once (though I've only ever done one all-nighter, and it wasn't even strictly necessary).  I just ensure this is very much the exception and not the norm.

So, back to this proof I mentioned.  The IGDA has a great article on why perpetual crunch modes just don't work.  Most other industries started figuring this out 100 years ago (hence why the 40 hour work week is fairly standard).  Research literally proves that after a certain number of hours worked in a single week, output goes down when compared to a more regular work week.  Working more just doesn't pay.

High tech can be a brutal field when it comes to overtime expectations.  My strategy? Don't make working longer a precedent.  If you do, then that amount of work will be expected of you.  But, of course, the more you work long hours, the less you'll do over time, making you want to work longer to make up for it, making you accomplish less... and so it goes...

8 comments:

Christian Muise said...

Be careful with your use of the word "proves" -- human behaviour is never as clean cut as math, and claims like the one you're making always have exceptions to the norm. Erdos notoriously worked absurd hours (albeit with the help of a tailored drug cocktail much of the time).

I think the best we can say is the average human performs far better overall when they aren't overworked. Knowing how much constitutes as being overworked depends entirely on the person in question.

Gail Carmichael said...

You and your specificity ruining a fun post. ;P

Shrutarshi Basu said...

Have you looked at Cal Newport's idea of fixed schedule productivity? His idea is that you should set the times you want to work everyday (within reasonable limits) and then do the best you can to find everything into those limits. This forces you to cut out procrastination and limit your activities to the ones that produce the best results. I've been trying to use it this semester and though I have trouble with it, the days (and weeks) I really do put it to use are very productive.

Gail Carmichael said...

I hadn't looked at it specifically, but what you describe sounds familiar to my experience of tracking my time etc. Having a baby to look after seems to be a really good way to make you appreciate every spare minute!

Christian Muise said...

Well I think the most valuable approach for anyone in our positions is to be scientific about it. Test the limits of how much or little you should work a day to be the most productive. It's just another optimization problem in disguise ;)

Gail Carmichael said...

Can't say I disagree! :)

Garth said...

Working 6 hours at school teaching and then going home to work on a school related project for 4 or 5 hours does not count as overtime does it?

Gail Carmichael said...

Hmm, guess it depends on what your optimal working times are and whether you do it every day. ;)

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