Thursday, December 07, 2006

Work/Life Balance

Working hard, for long hours, is pretty common in the games industry, especially for programmers. In this post, I’ll not go into whether this over-working is a good thing or how we could move away from it, we’ll just accept that it’s the way it currently is at many games companies.

It’s very common for programmers to spend a long time at work. Some do it for the love of coding, some as a show of how macho they are at working hard, and some to show how much they’re being a martyr for the good of the game. And for the most part, it works OK. The programmers have some fun, spend time with other dedicated individuals, the oh-so important deadline gets met, the company gets its game on time, and everyone’s happy.

The point where this falls down is when you scale it up to, let’s say, 20 years. If you’re not careful, you could quickly flit by the whole 20 years in a blur of deadlines, the snack cupboard, pizza, cola, high-stress, and shabby living.

You can pay a high price for all the years of bad posture, no exercise and no ‘life’, from not prioritizing people outside of work, and for not exploring hobbies and interests away from the computer. You could find yourself looking back at a string of AAA titles, but find little solace in it. Worse still your health could suffer, tales of work-a-holics having heart-attacks before their time are not uncommon, and unfortunately they can hit anyone. Carpul tunnel, repetitive strain injury, neck and back problems also have a high likelihood.

My aim here isn’t to depress you though. It’s a not-so-gentle reminder that you need to look after yourself and live a balanced life. If you’re too ‘one sided’, coding all the time, then in the long run you’ll suffer. It means doing tricky things like exercising and forcing yourself to get out and socialize in the real world, but it’s hugely worth doing.

Aren’t I shooting myself in the foot here, scaring off new recruits? Not at all. Happy balanced workers get sick less often, will hopefully never ‘burn out’, will work as well or better than the stressed ones, and make the work environment a better place to be.

So there we have it. Exercise, have hobbies, socialize, get away from computers, and be aware of when you need to take a break. You’ll live and code for longer, and enjoy life more.

Oh, and always wear sunscreen.


Todd Hendrix said...

Get back to work slacker!

Sang-Won said...

That was insightful and revealing~ will note the advice :)