April 12, 2009

The Hours We Work

There's been a rather interesting flame war going on inside of the International Game Developers' Association over the sorts of hours that a developer should be expected to work in order to balance out one's Quality of Life. The whole thing started over at an IGDA Studio Heads "Hotseat" Panel where Mike Capps from Epic noted that he hires his employees with the expectation that they will work a number of 60-hour weeks and get rewarded for it. The part that puzzles me is that there are people who take issue with this.

Now, let's note for a moment that I don't necessarily feel like I would want to work for a place like that, nor would I like to end up at a company that finds me working long hours when it had been advertised as quite the opposite.

That having been said, I understand that there are companies out there who, by nature, do not have standard 9-5, 40 hour schedules. That's the nature of the beast, and there are going to be companies that work insane hours, unreasonable schedules and groove on crunch-time, especially in an economy like this one. And I'm okay with that, as long as they're up-front with their new hires.

And yet, there are people who find that any company who works its employees more than 40 hours a week for any reason, even when said employees know what they're getting into, is being terribly immoral and unethical. Maybe it's just me and my capitalistic and libertarian ways, but I really don't see how there's a problem with that.

The best argument that I've seen (and believe me, "best" is simply a relative term) is that when industry-leading companies set up unhealthy work cultures where their employees don't have personal/work time balance or have substandard quality of life, that sort of thing will spread. And, to be fair, a cursory examination of the US and UK during the Industrial Revolution will bear that out to some extent.

On the other hand, the people employed in my field are professionals with education and who command relatively high salaries for what they do. We're not exactly 9-year-old children being put to work in factories and sweat-shops for subsistence wages. Most entry-level programming jobs that I know of pay well above the median income... granted that's with a 4-year degree, but still.

In fact, compare software developers to, say, individuals with liberal arts and/or teaching degrees. Nobody really bats an eye when teachers spend numerous hours grading outside of their 9-5 nor when graduate students or professionals of the liberal arts spend long hours writing papers and conducting research. Simply put, there are jobs that are 9-5 and there are jobs that are anything but, and not only are software developers paid well for working long hours, they are usually aware up-front when a job will require those hours.

And if you're lied to, you need to vote with your feet. Sure, the economy's bad right now, but if you know what the hell you're doing, you can find a job out there with an honest company. And if you aren't willing to do that, you deserve the treatment you're getting.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at April 12, 2009 12:00 AM | TrackBack