"You must work 60 hours a week!"

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 15, 2011, 11:26 AM | comments: 0

I've started to re-read Rework because I feel like it gives me a lot of focus, particularly in my new position. I'm tempted to buy a few copies for people at work, too, because I want them to to see things that I see. Work just feels good when you read that thing.

We did a focus group recently, and during a break, one of the participants asked if we were all expected to work 60-hour weeks. I kind of giggled at that, but also wondered if that was really the perception of the company from the outside. If it is, that's a pretty serious HR problem.

In my first group, we were treated as adults and it was the end results that mattered. There was no clock watching going on. My new group seems to be about the same (that's the read I got in the interviews, and have observed so far). I've noticed in particular that with the change in role, it's easier to fire off some e-mail or move something along when it's convenient, not in any particular range of hours.

I've always felt that working smarter is the right course of action. A lot of that is letting go of shit that doesn't matter. I don't call meetings unless I'm certain that people attending will get or provide value. I'm on time. I don't send e-mail that no one cares about. It's not hard to get in this mindset. 

The old standard was very different, and probably worse in the Midwest. People would ascend to high career places only because they spent all of their time in the office, regardless of whether or not they were providing any value. Sadly those people would have bosses that saw things the same way. Meanwhile, they probably had a shell of a life because nothing else mattered to them. The funny thing is that if you do have a life, you're more motivated to get your job done as efficiently and as smart as possible, because you've got stuff to do!

One of the guys I interviewed with for my current position asked how I would interact with him if we worked together (he's a dev lead). I told him that what I delivered to him and his team would depend entirely on the context of what we had to do. A lot of people in a similar position will generate reams of paper with detailed specifications that no one will ever care about. I told him he'd get the appropriate level of detail, and no more. A lot of people build software with sticky notes as their use cases, because they don't need more than that.

I don't think that people are inherently lazy. I don't think people want to spend all of their waking hours working on one particular thing. I think they want to do a good job at what they're tasked with, but have room for life. What people do for a living has changed, but the desire to balance it all out has not.


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