Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

imageI originally wrote this on Qt3 but I think this might be helpful to others who are wondering about the effects of working long hours.

Here are my views on the matter:

I think with most people, 55 to 60 hours a week is about the maximum before they start to eat up stored health/sanity points. And even there, over time, you will start to suffer burn-out -- the rate depends on how much you enjoy what you’re working on. But sooner or later, it’ll catch up on you.

Up until last year, my typical work week was 60 hours. That's about 10 hours a day, 6 days a week and I'd take Sunday off for family/video games/etc. I would regularly push a beyond those hours because I was ignorant of the gradual effects of working beyond a healthy dose had on me.

I got my first real taste of working really long hours In 2009, when Demigod came out. It is a multiplayer-centric game with servers designed to help connect users. Like many Internet-centric games, its initial launch overwhelmed our infrastructure and we raced to fix/add to it. That event started a bad habit on my part of doing all-nighters. As a result, my normal schedule rose from 60 to 80 hours even after the 100 hour weeks of the Demigod effort subsided.

Less than a year later, still really not recovered from the work on Demigod and with Impulse really starting to take off, I returned to working on a PC game called War of Magic. It was at the tail end of development and our retail launch window had been set to August. My hours returned to being over 90 a week during the Summer – one all nighter a week.

Here is the part I want to emphasize though: I believed my disposition and work quality seemed just as good as it normally was.  I was wrong. From later talking to my coworkers, friends and family, later I realized that was not the case. According to them, I was like “a heroin addict, I looked strung out and was very difficult to be around.”  Since I regularly engage with the public, this would have significant consequences.

That August, things got even more pressing and I had to increase my work to over 100 hours a week (two-all nighters weekly).  During this time, I considered my disposition and the quality of my work to be just as good as it was at 40 hours a week. It’s like drinking alcohol– but without the pleasure. Winking smile

The point being, those who say that they can work 60 or 80 hours a week without it affecting them are dead wrong. I was one of those guys – for years.  Luckily (or unluckily) the consequences for this became too obvious to ignore and I changed my work habits.

These days, we avoid crunch times like the plague. We no longer take retail availability into consideration for our product cycles so that we have the flexibility of just pushing the release date back. That’s how big a deal we consider excessive hours to be. It costs us less to push a date back than it does to deal with the consequences of having people work long hours.

Comments (Page 2)
on Aug 20, 2012

I remember Brad mentioning that his body doesn't even need the full 8 hours of sleep to function normally. Knowing that probably exasperated the condition because Brad could say to himself, "It's okay, I don't need that much sleep anyways." If he had to get by on 8 hours, I wonder if the realization that working 60-80 hours a week was not good/healthy would've come much sooner.

on Aug 20, 2012

I really don't get this mindset of working so much.  I do my 40 and go home.  Cya, my time is *my* time.

When I started my company I used to do 16 hour days all week. No friends, no family, no free time. I did it as a sacrifice for the future. I sold the company after 4.5 years and now have an extra paycheck arriving every month out of my savings account. I am just finishing my education and am starting a new job next month.

The niche of the company was web development for entrepreneurs and other newstarted companies. And I met any number of people that worked crazy hours. They did it because they either loved their job, or because they wanted to reap the rewards (some did, some didn't). But they were all self-employed and aware of what they were getting in to.

It was actually quite crazy, it was a frequent thing that I would get a phonecall or a mail sunday evening. And the reputation of the company was such that our customers expected replies/solutions the same day. So at least I can personally vouch for the fact that entrepreneurs do crazy hours sometimes.

on Aug 20, 2012

I hate you all!  Stop talking about sleep already.


Teasing the poor insomniacs...

on Aug 20, 2012

Well, I just lost a long post that I had written, and I don't have the time to write it again, so I will leave it with a "thank you" to Brad for writing this. It needed to be said.

on Aug 20, 2012

Brad, thank you for your wonderful post.  Like you, I used to push the envelope a lot.  Now I've learned to relax a bit and get a solid 8 hours of sleep - most of the time and trust that you are doing the same. 

K10w3, I agree with every single word you wrote.  There is life and there is quality of life - and that has suffered in recent years.


on Aug 20, 2012

So glad you came to this conclusion.  I'm sure your family appreciates it. 

on Aug 20, 2012

I've never agreed with you or anyone else working long hours.  I'm glad you finally got some perspective.  You are not a robot.  You program robots.


I've always thought you had a lot right but not that bit.