As we’ve previously reported, many tech workers, particularly software developers, are under intense pressure to work insane hours.
The myth is, they should be so passionate about their jobs that working is the only thing they want to do.
This myth doesn’t happen to be true. People that work all the time aren’t better, more productive or even more passionate workers.
Research shows that productivity typically declines after 40 hours a week. A Stanford student research project specifically found that overworked coders working 60-hour weeks produced less high-quality code than refreshed people working 40-hour weeks.
Nevertheless, the pressure exists, particularly in the startup world where money is tight, deadlines loom and the all-nighter culture rules.
But there may be a glimmer that a backlash against this myth is starting to happen.
A startup CEO got slammed on Quora when he posted a question complaining that his employee, a new dad, insisted on leaving the office between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
I manage a young startup company in the valley. My only employee is great but he is also a new father. Which means leaving work between 6 and 7 pm. I understand him but it’s hard for a startup that the commitment lasts for work hours only. What would you do as a CEO?
By today, there were 65 answers or so essentially telling the guy something like this, “Ok, so you are upset that he is not working at the stereotypical, and completely inaccurate, 80-100 hours per week. Are you only getting 50-60? Seriously? I find that I get the maximum amount of work done at around 50 hours per week. It falls off sharply after that point.”
Or this, “Too many companies think it is natural for developers to work late hours.”
Or this: “The new father neglects his kid(s) to work until midnight? Are you going to post a question about your employee not staying around until 1 am or 2 am next?”
The CEO was so universally trounced by his attitude, that he eventually updated the question to clarify: “The problem is not that the guy is leaving early per se … the question I have is more with the rigidity of the time even when something more urgent is needed.”
In other words, the new dad was absolutely insisting that his evenings would be spent with his baby, and not doing “urgent” work when the boss called. The boss was looking for ideas on how to cope.
To that, the people had this simple advice: “If you want a night shift hire somebody else to cover that.”
The responses are a good sign that work life balance may soon arrive more broadly in in the tech industry, maybe even at startups. But, sadly, the question also means it hasn’t really arrived for everyone.