A couple of Sunday nights ago, I was crouched over my laptop in a rental house in New Orleans working feverishly to help launch Women’s Wear Daily on WordPress.com VIP. It was (and still is) a huge undertaking, and to get it in shape for a successful Monday morning launch, I realized pretty early on Sunday night that I was going to have to pull an all-nighter to get it done.
I did, it launched, got the thumbs-up from all the personalities involved, and I collapsed into bed at around 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. I was in New Orleans for a team meetup, and spent the majority of the time I was there focused on making sure the pre-and-post-launch processes went as smoothly as possible.
It’s my job, and I take great pride in what I do.
That kind of “crunch” isn’t abnormal in today’s working culture. Long hours, little sleep, and work focus are common. We all know that fatigue and long work hours end up causing less productive work, but sometimes the tasks just need to get done and require sacrifice. What I described may sound like something you have experienced in your work life, and maybe all too recently or all too often.
What I haven’t said yet is why I’m happy to put in those kinds of hours at work when it’s needed. And that’s because I’m happy to work somewhere that respects my time and my life the rest of the time.
When the project was launched, several of my colleagues nudged me and made sure I knew that I should take some time off to make up for the sacrifice of that weekend (and the weeks leading up to it). I was only too happy to oblige, given that I’d already marked today and the two previous days as time off. But it’s notable to be somewhere that recognizes the extra work people put in and then not only allows, but encourages comping that time after the fact with time off to rest and recharge.
And I’ve had a great three days off with my family, spending extra time with them and not worrying about work projects, checking email, or doing anything more than housekeeping check-ins a couple of times over that period to make sure things I’m responsible for are still progressing.
It’s in the time between the days off that Automattic is really special, though. My time and my family are respected by my employer and my colleagues. We have an HR staff and teammates who understand the value of time away from work, even in the middle of the day. I’m very careful to guard my time during the work week. I try to be done for the day around dinner time to spend the evening with me family, I take an hour during the afternoon three times a week to go to the gym and work on my personal fitness level, and I spend my weekends not doing or thinking about work the vast majority of the time.
When my last child was born, I was able to take six weeks off to be a dad and help my wife with her recovery. I take at least two two-week vacations a year to do something fun with the family and not directly think about work stuff. I even take the days off leading into Evo weekend to just enjoy watching some high-level gameplay. If I need a day off, I take the day off.
And this all works because as a team we all know that when things get real, we’re all going to pitch in and do the work that needs to be done. We communicate clearly and often about when we’ll be around and what we’re responsible for. You may find this surprising, but when a company and an employee mutually respect each other’s time, it appears to lead to more dedicated work, less fatigue, and a happier balance.
I know this is something that’s rare—if not unique—and I’m super-appreciative that this job exists and that I’ve been welcomed into it. I’ve been doing this for over five years now and I don’t see myself doing anything else. I think more industries and companies should take a hard look at how we are doing things and think—really think—about changing the face of work for the better. And if what I’ve described sounds like something you’re interested in, maybe you could give our hiring page a quick glance.