I’ve read a number of blogs and articles on the horrors of overtime and what it can do to your mind, body and soul.
They are all true.
Working 16 hour days is a schedule you won’t always be able to keep up.
Staying in at lunch to code a few for bugs might give you a crick in the neck and make you moody.
Helping someone over that hurdle of how to run the build machine or understand a new feature while your work sits there waiting to be done will probably decrease your “Me” time on this day.
Working on a project that you are passionate about going out the door and delivering to your customers whilst learning a number of new technologies is worth it. How else do you learn something new? How else do you build your career? How many times in University do you remember all of your professors having got together to say – “Hey guys – looks like Jeff has 4 exams next week, he is going to be up all night, all weekend, so how about we bump that down to 2?” – never happens.
Crunching those few extra bugs is not only a great benefit to you, but also a symbol to your team that – “hey she cares so much about us and this project that she is willing to take a hit to get us that much closer to GA”. When one person starts doing this, everyone should start doing this, because that is one of the foundations of a Great Team that pulls together when times are tough instead of going their own ways with their own agendas.
And how can you argue with the guy who might not start his work until 2pm when he started the day at 8am because he acknowledges the fact that his success is not just tied to his work, but the work of the team that he is on and it would be against everything they are doing as a team for him to selfishly focus on just his own work and extoll his successes over the team.
I will glad put in extra hours to further my passion for learning, to work side-by-side with the great teams I am a part of and revel in the successes of my team and not myself.
There is a time and a place for overtime. I will be the first one to put my hand up to say someone should not be working to 2am on a single or ongoing basis, your body cannot function at that time (mine can’t, I prefer to wake up at 6am and get a start on the day). But then again, we are wired differently are we not? The people that go at a 125% on a project on a daily basis, you don’t need to tell them to work overtime, you do need to remind them to slow down, take that mind, soul and body break. But they are doing it for reasons other than money – passion, knowledge, experience, desire – these are ingrained behaviours that those people just do, they have always done it all their lives (going right back to university and not complaining about exam schedules), why would they stop now?
I am a strong advocate of – “If one person is working extra hours on the team, the entire should be working extra hours” – after all is it a single person that is delivering your release to all your customers or is it a team? I can look to many other professions that have overtime, but in software, where else can you directly correlate what you put in, to what you get it out – and really the choice is always yours.