Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Staying Awake at Night

I enjoy the occasional all-nighter, even though I'm well past my twenties. I once read that staying up all night every once in a while stretches your nervous system. It was mentioned in the same paragraph as taking a cold shower periodically (which I don't do). I doubt that this really makes sense but the all-nighter does make for some interesting creative thinking--albeit many ideas are scrapped when the dawn breaks because they're just too creative.

Even though working at something that's enjoyable makes this easy, it shouldn't be a license to work longer. When someone in the hourly ranks would tell me that they spent many hours the previous night worrying about some problem, I would thank them, and then tell them that worrying about this was my job and they should relax and enjoy their time with their family. We need to make sure employees have a life outside of work. They have families; they have avocations; they have responsibilities beyond the "9 to 5" (these days, more like "7 to 6"). People need to feel they can take care of things outside of work too: the school events, the doctor visits, the shuttling of aging parents, being home for the plumber or electrician, etc.

There's another perspective on this I've appreciated: in their book Rework, the guys at 37signals recommend setting limits to the work hours in this way:
          "When people have something to do at home, they get down to business. They get their work done at the office because they have somewhere else to be. They find ways to be more efficient because they have to. They need to pick up the kids or get to choir practice. So they use their time wisely. As the saying goes, 'If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know.'"

It's also advice to hire people who do things outside of work, rather than the person who can devote all day and all night to your company. That person may not be as efficient. Thus, you don't want to hire the person who can pull the all-nighter every week or every other day. You want the person who will give you 100% when they're at your place, and still able to give 100% to his/her family and community.

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