What fuels the people that stay late isn't fear, it's a culture that celebrates putting in long hours. It's a poor proxy for productivity, but people (especially those in their early twenties) seem to equate long hours with getting lots of shit done. Of course that's not actually true in many cases, but that's beside the point. Like everything else, you get what you celebrate, and in this case you get people basically living at the office.
When you add in free meals, laundry, haircuts, and all other manner of perks, you get people who make the (totally rational) decision that being at work is easier than fending for yourself at home. The moment this translates into a perception that "that guy is working his ass off", you get staying late as a part of your company culture.
PS - Many of these folks working until 10pm also don't get into the office until 11am. I sincerely doubt that's when Sheryl Sandberg arrives.
Sandberg is obviously right, both in leaving the office according to her personal priorities and criticizing the practice of sending late emails to show off workaholism like it was a quality. It's very naive to think she works less just because she leaves at 5:30. She's probably just more efficient, better in setting priorities: and that's the best quality for a startup person. Plus, I'm pretty sure that she'll pick up the phone even at 4am, if necessary.
There will always be people who are jealous that you work harder than them (Take it easy buddy!), or less than them (Must be nice!).
It's veiled resentment. Avoid these vampires full of so much doubt they believe it's insurmountable and look to bring others down to their belief, to justify their own belief that doubts are impossible to overcome.
Innovation and creativity resides in possibility, not doubt. I like having a healthy doubt balanced with healthy dose of possibility.
On a primitive factory floor, the worker who puts in the most time making widgets really is producing better results than the worker who appears on and off the floor sporadically. There's no way to produce results unless you're working X machine, and X machine is in a fixed location, and it operates between Y and Z hours of the day. And the end product doesn't differ per worker. Everything's deterministic and can be measured precisely. So, in this scenario, a worker is only as good as he is present and 100% utilized. Nothing else matters.
Knowledge work doesn't function that way. And yet, we still have this desire to manage it as though it does. Kudos to someone like Sandberg for being able to point this out. Yeah, she's in a position to say it now. No, most of us aren't. But at least someone in her position is finally calling it out, and using the bully pulpit afforded to her by her high-status role to do so.
The more support (or perceived support) there is for balance, the more likely it is to be tolerated.
I'm not sure top software engineers are worried. Despite a rough economy and the poetic justice of hubris, most software engineers can probably afford to set their own hours, to a reasonable extent. If it isn't tolerated they can start their own company, perhaps with a relatively better work-life balance for themselves and their employees.
Well, okay, this guy has quite an ax to grind.
I've spent lots of time in the start-up world. The people I've seen who rise the quickest and achieve the greatest financial heights put in long, hard hours. They put in long, hard hours as interns, as junior programmers, as mid-level programmers, and on up to CTOs or CEOs. Yes, they work "smart" too. But we're talking here about putting in the hours.
It is very true that you don't want to work so hard that you're burning yourself out. It's also very true that everyone has a different number of hours at a given type of work beyond which your returns gradually (or even rapidly) diminish. But don't be deluded by the use of Sheryl Sandberg's CEO's prerogative to create her own schedule.
Hard work tends to pay off. I'm not saying everyone can or should put in 80 hour work weeks, but when you're young and starting out -- figure out what your limits are. Push yourself. See how your body and your mind respond to throwing yourself into your work. Learn your craft.
You're reading YCombinator. You're probably here because you want to be an entrepreneur. Ignore sour grapes articles like the one from that itworld author. That guy would have you start off with an attitude that (here come the down votes) is for losers and people who would prefer to spend their time railing at those dirty Haves rather than doing their best to avoid being a Have Not. That kind of class warfare rhetoric never gets you anywhere unless you're in entertainment, the media, or politics.
2) There's a lot you can do out of the office and it's probably better to diversify your working environment anyway.
The article assumes she is starting work at nine, whereas if she is in fact starting at 5 or 6, she is still working at least ten hour days.
I did something in my 20's: regular ongoing stints of 60 to 70+++ hour weeks, sometimes for a few years straight. Worked 7 days a week regularly, zero vacations (except being within a 3 hour flight of home no longer for a day or two at a time).
I'd hate to say I wasn't productive. But, the long hours blurred the lines between productivity and efficiency, looking back. I am a productivity nut who wants to remain effective.
I found a clear rested mind sees much simpler and eloquent solutions to things. It's easier and better able to find and connect the dots between things. I'd catch myself once in a while wondering why I didn't see something obviously simpler when I was doing longer hours. Maybe it's a side effect of just wanting to ship, ship, ship.
Learning to get 70 hours worth done in 40 or 50 hours by truly working my tail off when I was working, helped me learn to relax, rest and recover truly in my time away from the keyboard.
Changing my routine to sleep lots, especially during the design phase where creativity was beneficial. Coding became hammer and nails, and interestingly something more easily delegated. I still had to do burns, but they were far less perpetual and way more focused. I can still do it for a few months at a time but then I need some down time.
Lately, my routine more evolves around balance between all the things I love to do, and leaving room to discover new things. I don't need a ton of time to my self, but starting with taking one guilt free hour a day, instead of an hour of procrastination, or one guilt-free day off a week instead of wasting a day doing nothing at a keyboard did more to fill up the tank than anything. Listening to my body needing a walk and some fresh air got me back and focused much quicker instead of trying to ride it out.
Don't believe the hype. Very few understand the software development world and think more effort is more output. The folks with the money buying the time of others will always want people without money to work a ton because they stand to benefit from it. Ironically more money folks than you'd expect take more than enough time off once they arrive to truly remain focussed. This is especially too often true in consulting, partnerships, and investments. After you have a track record this can change, or you can just get a ton done in a little amount of time.
When we do something 40 to 50 hours a week we will be making connections not only with ideas, but with people. We randomly come up with ideas just by having the perspective of being away from the keyboard.
Being in a perpetual cycle of shipping releases for personal and client projects has taught me time away from the keyboard is just as important as time at the keyboard to help me stay in one mindset: always be shipping.
I like how you have a wrench to throw into your routine to go outside and come back in. I try to take walks regularly and maybe I'll have to make that a more conscious thing.
Any thoughts to share about when you take a break to relax, how you let yourself do it when you think you should be doing work? I find breaking down this habit with as many approaches is possible is key.