In the last AIGA design census, nearly 85% of people surveyed worked over 40 hours a week. 7.8% of those worked 50+ hours. It’s often seen as a badge of honour, to pull an all nighter and have the project on the Creative Directors desk for 8am, but at what cost?
When we began our studio, we never said no. We took every project on, for fear that the latest client would be our last. We’d be working all hours, and for a while it was exciting. Slowly the adrenaline of juggling many projects with rapidly approaching deadlines dissolved, and excitement turned to stress. There’s around 8 working hours in a day, and we’d be booking up everyone, plus more. Contingency was merely a word in the dictionary.
Now for us, it didn’t seem such a big deal as we were working towards stabilising a new business, and we were happy to do what it took. Would we have felt that way if we working for someone else? I very much doubt it.
It’s just what everyone wants to hear when it’s almost the end of the day. More often that not, regularly needing to stay behind to finish work is down to bad project management, and unrealistic timescales. If it’s not you who is responsible for the project management, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Why should you be staying late because someone else can’t do their job properly? You shouldn’t. But people do, for fear of rocking the boat and getting chucked out. We’ve heard some horror stories from designers we know, who’ve been in the above position. It’s shit, and it’s not healthy. Stay in an environment like this for a while and it’ll take it’s toll.
Nobody wants to be taken advantage of. But what if it’s your fault? What if you’ve fucked something up with an impending deadline and the clock is ticking it’s way down to home time? In this situation, we’d hope there’d be some form of responsibility taken. Now, it may not be possible to stay late in the studio. There may be commuting issues, child care responsibilities, etc. But you could still take something home to work on. Or come in early to fix your mistake. Taking ownership of your mistakes is a good trait.
This is NOT to say never stay late. Sometimes you may actually want to stay later, as you’re in a productive flow. You may have struck gold with a dream brief that’s needed quicker than you’d like, or you may want to work on a self-initiated project. In fact, we encourage the latter. We’ve built a creative space to play and experiment, so if someone wants to stay late to use it, we’re open.
When it becomes an issue, is when it becomes a reoccurring event because the top dogs are getting greedy, or are just incompetent. Resentment will kick in, and you’ll end up being another person who dreads Monday morning.