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How Google's Marissa Mayer Prevents Burnout (entrepreneur.com)
146 points by edu 1105 days ago | 115 comments



> "Overwork doesn't burn people out per se, but it's doing that without knowing the things that replenish you."

If you're working 130 hours a week, and sleeping a healthy 56 hours a week, that leaves you with negative 18 hours a week for replenishing yourself. Not even including showering, eating, etc.

I'm sorry, but merely having dinner with your family on Tuesday nights is not what it takes to replenish yourself. If that's the only thing I get to ask for, it sounds like a hellish place to work.

I need hours of replenishment daily... you know, like an actual work-life balance.

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I think people are reaacting to the 130 hour note a bit too much. I doubt that was a common occurence, just an outlier week put in there for effect. If what you do for work is your passion (ie: hobby, interest, etc), then you naturally get energy back from the effort you put in. Especially if you see meaningful results back. In such a situation, Mayer's recommendations makes sense.

Working for someone else's passion, idea, etc as talent/expertise doesn't translate the same. The problem with articles like this is that some manager/entreprenure/"idea guy" is going to read this and make it the rule around the office, even for the people it most certainly doesn't apply to.

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I think this is probably the best interpretation of the piece. Both 1.) that passion restores (this is probably the chief reason to do what you love and not follow big trends blindly BTW), and 2.) that the 130hr was an outliner that was brought out of this piece for dramatic effect.

I'd also love to see a poll for who actually does this desk sleeping stuff. Also, how many of those fell asleep in school often? I just never get sleepy at a desk - exhausted, yes, but not sleepy...

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I could see sleeping at my desk, but now for late night stuff, I would really prefer to work from home so I can sleep in my own bed. I dont see why you should have to sleep at your desk. The only reason really to be in the office is to interact with other people and unless everyone else is sleeping at their desks....

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The cynic in me sees sleeping at you desk a purely showing of how far you are willing to go for no other reason.

Same with people who eat lunch, often with a work and knife, in their cubicles. It's not about saving a half hour. Maybe you can eat a sandwich and type at the same time. But really, are you saving that much time? And if you are not using your hands, can you not read your email while eating in the cafeteria?

I perceive things like that as work place theater.

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I agree with you but some people are just not like everyone else.

Mayer is the exception to the rule. My sister, who is taking a year off to work at Google before going to law school, is of the same type so I emailed her this story.

The best that I can do is to tell that life is much more than being a lawyer. That won't make a difference though.

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For me, "replenishing" activities come in larger hour chunks, but less often than daily. I point this out to reinforce the pp and tfa, knowing your limits and what you need is vital.

So is a regular or even constant monitor of it. Lives and people change, so what worked for me last year, is not really the same as what is working for me now. If you are in a high time demand situation, it is prudent to keep up with yourself on this, so you can change when needed, and work with your employer to help ensure the best satisfaction for all.

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If you're working 130 hours a week (18+ hours a day, 7 days a week), there's no way you're sleeping 8 hours a night.

You're probably getting no more than 4-5 hours of sleep a night, if that. And you're probably pulling an all-nighter or two every week.

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The paragraph

When Mayer suspects an employee might burn out, she asks them to find their rhythm. They've come back with, "I need to be home for Tuesday night dinners," or "I need to be on time for my daughter's soccer games."

really bothers me. If employee burnout is a regular thing inside your organization, that's a serious issue that needs solving. But to have to ask permission to spend time with your family is ridiculous.

If you're working 130 hours a week, something is seriously, seriously wrong.

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Agreed, it reads like pure insanity.

That you would only be "granted" to have time for your family if you're on the brink of burn-out is ... horrible. I'm pretty sure that's not the general guideline about how Google operates, not sure if there's some editing and/or language barrier here.

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I don't think there is any such barrier. I've read multiple articles from multiple publications about the same Marissa Mayer, and they all have the same anecdotes and themes. If it's so consistent across multiple publications, you have to think she really does say all these things. Whether she walks the talk is another question, but she's probably a freak of nature who is really able to do so.

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Moreover, the legend of the ├╝ber-productive employee who never sleeps is a double-edged sword and can demotivate the employees that person touches in ways that far outweigh the direct positive impact to the company that person has. As stated above, it's one thing to work 12-16hr days during start-up phase, but if you're doing it as a matter of fact when you're a 30,000 person company, frankly you're doing it wrong -- even if you're the founder, owner, board member or C-level executive. Leading via exemplary personal performance and ethics is one thing; driving those values throughout the organization is far more important.

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This really bothered me too. Maybe they just didn't phrase it well, but the sentence "Grant your employees one must-have freedom" is horrible. If you're considering freedoms something that have to be granted to you by your employer, or worse, if you're an employer who thinks that way, there's already something terribly, terribly wrong.

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Not always.

I get the feeling that the article was more written with the mind of the early days of Google- where one employee working 130 hour weeks could save the company tens/hundreds of thousands, and she wanted it to work that well.

Google most definitely doesn't require those insane hours out of people today- hell, quite the opposite. Requesting to spend time with your family does seem ridiculous, but the thing is, if you're in a small startup that is trying to get somewhere fast? You knew what you were getting into, no one forced you into the job, and maybe you should have chosen something that allowed more family time without having to ask. That doesn't make the job bad or 'seriously wrong', it's just a different life situation.

Similarly, there are a lot of people who want to work that hard, for something they believe in or are passionate about, but they find themselves incapable. That's what the article is really for.

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Well, I think that's the problem with the article--is the advice geared toward start-up employees, or current Googlers? I agree that in a start-up, you should likely expect longer weeks (even all-nighters), and maybe you do need to ask to have dinner with your family[1]. But at an established company? Seems like a cultural issue.

[1] FWIW, I still think this is insane, and would never want to do it.

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I think she is merely recounting a story from the early days of Google and relating it to the larger problem of employee burnout. I know quite a few current Googlers and as far as I understand nothing so ridiculous happens there now. Of course the problem is incredibly relevant to Startups: I would never enjoy myself in such a restrictive situation unless I was working on my idea but again different people have different tolerance levels...

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I don't disagree, and I'm trying to criticize Mayer here--I think the "article" is a bit poorly written, and I imagine some mid-manager somewhere reading it and thinking "oh, I can make my devs works 100 hours a week, as long as I let them eat dinner with their kids once a week."

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I think you're right, I certainly don't see much of that kind of thing around here now (there probably are some engineers pulling long hours, but they're the exceptions and it's not generally expected). Could be partly related to the location, although I haven't seen evidence of people doing 80+ hour weeks in other offices yet either.

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And that's okay. It isn't for everyone. Me? I managed to do 60 hours in a 3 day week last week, my first week at a new job. I loved it, and am proud of the work I did in that time. I plan on doing 60-70 hours a week consistently if I can, just because I enjoy it.

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One thing that's critical here is to internalize the wisdom in "more speed, less haste." Know yourself, and find your productivity sweet spot.

For example, I am most productive when I am doing approx 6 hrs of heavy coding a day. More than that and productivity slowly drops. Less, and I could be doing more. That leaves time for meetings, management activity, etc. Most of the time I can out-produce at least three other developers together at 6 hrs/day, and I don't care how much time they put in.

That allows really 10-12 hours of work a day max, which means really no more than 90 hours of work a week assuming doing some work every day.

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> If employee burnout is a regular thing inside your organization, that's a serious issue that needs solving.

Congratulations, you have discovered the entire point of the article.

> But to have to ask permission to spend time with your family is ridiculous.

I didn't see any "ask permission" going on. I saw a manager who realized this is something she has to discover from her employees, and then made sure they received it.

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In case anyone is wondering whether this reflects Google's current working culture, let me comment that in my experience it absolutely does not.

In the office I work in, it is virtually empty at 8:00 AM and mostly empty by 7:00 PM. Most people seem to show up around 9:00 AM and leave around 6:00. On Fridays, the office mostly stops working around 5:00 PM.

There is a cadre of people, typically those without families, who stay a bit later but it often seems like they stay just long enough to eat the free dinner and then head home. Those people often also show up around or after 10:00 AM.

There is variation from project to project and office to office, but the work life balance seems very healthy in the offices I've seen. I have kids and a long commute, so it's important that I don't work late and I've never felt the slightest pressure to work more hours.

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Indeed. I worked for Marissa on a project and didn't really feel crushed at all. I actually think she was one of the better managers I've had in SV. But then again I worked at Yahoo.

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Still sounds crazy. We cruise in between 9 and 10, bail between 4 and 5 and take an hour lunch. Also we tend to work from home 2-3 days a week.

Then again, they realise that we generate about 650k a year in real hard cash per head which is pretty good :) That's how a company should look.

we have to buy our own lunch though and spend our spare time doing some reading and self tuition.

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So do we, I know lots of fellow google devs that work from home a couple of days a week. Some of us also work on the shuttle during our commute so we can count that as work and therefore get home earlier and spend more time with friends and family than those with similar commute times but no company shuttles.

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I've been pretty highly entertained by the complete and utter inability of the other commenters to recognize her examples as edge cases.

Mayer's explanation should really be read like this:

Employee X has been working 130 hour weeks for the past month. He's looking more than a little worse for wear; he's probably going to burn out soon. Let's sit him down for a chat and make sure he's doing okay. Oh, he's been missing his daughter's soccer games to manage a critical deploy, and those soccer games are super important to him. Alright, let's deal with that. Mandate that someone else take over, de-prioritize the deploy, rework the process so that deploys happen on a different day or a different time... whatever it takes. He might still be working 130 a week, and that's not great, but he gets the critical thing he just can't miss.

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"When Google was a young company, she worked 130 hours per week and often slept at her desk." - Nothing from the article suggests this is an edge case. Instead the author seems to perpetuate a very dangerous meme "toughen up and work insane hours if you want to get anywhere in the startup scene".

This meme is dangerous not just because of the effect it has on people who don't subscribe to this, but also because it is just plain wrong. People who work longer hours are not more productive and they do not get more done. Its a simple case of measuring input (hours spent) instead of output (quality code, decisions whatever...), because measuring what matters is not very straight-forward.

I know the statement above doesn't have backing data, just my experience/ observations, but have you seen anything to contradict this statement?

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>> "You can't have everything you want," Mayer cautions. "But you can have the things that really matter to you. That empowers you to work really hard for a long period of time on something that you're passionate about."

If by "everything you want" you mean "all the activities you'd like to schedule outside of business hours," then, um... yes I can. Step 1 is called "clear expectations." Step 2 is quitting when pressured to do too much. It has worked great for me.

I'm not passionate enough about any work to pull the kinds of hours she describes. Heck, even if I were -- even if the project were "build software to save your own life" -- I'd be writing some crappy code after 60+ hours.

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First of all, I very much doubt that she actually worked 130 hours per week with any regularity. That comes to 18.5 hours per day, including sundays. Even assuming that she could survive with 3 hours of sleep per day (yeah, sure), it leaves almost no time to eat, commute, or god, even going to the bathroom.

And why in the world is she giving advice on burnout?

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Not to sound condescending, but use a little common sense here. Even people that work 40 hours a week aren't on task 100% of the time.

In a given day I'll take a couple coffee breaks, maybe go outside for a couple breaths of fresh air, and use the restroom at least twice, in addition to my lunch hour.

That said - those 40 hours that I am in the office aren't hours I am free to use however I please, so it is customary to say that you work 40 hours a week, not 35.8 hours per week, etc.

It's not hard to conceive of a situation where it just works out to be easier to be in the office every waking hour, particularly working on startups. This doesn't mean you don't stop to watch a funny youtube clip or set up a good music playlist- it just means its time fenced off from any other major commitments.

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You know, frequently such a person is the type to make others think they're contributing merely by being at the office for such a long time.

"Marissa must be getting things done. She works here 130 hours a week!"

Yet if you look, they probably aren't actually working the entire time they're in the office.

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I can't speak for Marissa, but I certainly did pull one or two 130-hour weeks "back in the day". They _were_ productive. I did pay a huge price for them, both in terms of reduced productivity for weeks afterwards, and in terms of health. (I always get a horrible cold after exhausting myself that much)

There are two things to keep in mind:

1) These weeks were rare. I'd expect they were rare for Marissa too. You can't do that anywhere close to regularly. And you don't. Those are heroic efforts to meet a particular deadline.

2) That was "back in the day". Late 20's, early 30's. As you get older, those efforts are much harder. (Damn it, all the old people I knew needed next to no sleep. Can I please finally be old enough for that? ;)

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I've worked long hours too. Being a hero is counterproductive in so many ways. If a deadline requires that level of exhaustion, you're doing it wrong.

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There _are_ deadlines that are worth it. Putting in the extra hours so the decision demo to the VC guys is smoother? Uh, yes. Same goes for e.g. working on reducing network traffic before a spike will hit, if that reduction will save you a million or two.

In all cases, make sure the payout is commensurate with your effort - i.e. unless you own equity or there is a large bonus attached to that, IMHO you should tell the powers that be to go pound sand.

And putting in those hours because your manager didn't listen to your estimates in the first place? Hell no.

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There _are_ deadlines that are worth it. Putting in the extra hours so the decision demo to the VC guys is smoother? Uh, yes. Same goes for e.g. working on reducing network traffic before a spike will hit, if that reduction will save you a million or two.

Yeah, definitely agree. I was more referring to employee positions without significant equity, which you touched on in the rest of your post.

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I don't doubt that they were productive. It's just that such long hours are frequently a way to cover up lack of productivity rather than increasing your productivity.

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I agree that this is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but probably not too far off. My brother who was a key part of mp3.com in the late 90s, was more or less working constantly for a couple of years. I lived with him for part of that time. He always got home later than me, left earlier, and rarely sat down to eat. He'd be up at all hours of the night working or checking servers, etc. He was wildly passionate about his work and was driven to make the company successful.

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Maybe it's because I'm not at a company like Google, but all articles like this seem to do two things: 1) Make everyone who doesn't put in 130 hours a week at work feel like they're not Working Hard Enough 2) Legitimize unpaid overtime/ worker exploitation

It seems that the quantity of "time spent at work" is emphasized over the quality of actual work done. I'd be curious what her work quality was over 130 hours, especially once she was in week 5-6 of working that much.

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2) Legitimize unpaid overtime/ worker exploitation

I'm pretty sure most people understand that the only people who are going to even come close to what she's talking about here are A. founders, and B. early employees with significant equity stakes. IOW, people who stand to benefit to an extreme degree, if the company succeeds. In that case, it might actually make sense to work those kind of crazy hours, since the possible payoff means financial independence and the chance to live out some of one's dreams.

Now a company that's routinely asking non-founder employees with no equity to work more than ~40 hours a week on a regular basis... yeah, that's just not necessary.

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This reads like a allegory for Hell. How to love working 18 hours a day could almost be the title of a satire novel on the failings of modern office life. The fact that she lived it and looks back on it fondly doesn't, in my mind, reflect positively on her or her employer.

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I just don't understand the hostility toward someone who has worked ridiculously hard and has achieved a demonstrable level of success. She did it, she talks about it, she's happy with the choices she made.

Why so judgmental?

Working hard at things increases your likelihood of success. Is that notion in question here at HN? True, there is a diminishing point of returns for everyone where working hard doesn't yield more returns or even produces overall negative returns... but how can you categorically decry her and her choice to push her own limits?

I worked crazy hours before I got married and have a lot of financial and experiential success to show for it. I did it then out of choice. I don't do it now out of choice. Was I doing something inherently wrong when I was younger and working so hard?

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My problem with it is that she's managing people and (apparently) expecting them to work similar hours like it's a perfectly normal thing to work 130 hours a week.

She's giving advice like "Grant employees one must-have freedom." Really? One whole freedom away from work?

And making statements like, "You can't have everything you want. But you can have the things that really matter to you. That empowers you to work really hard for a long period of time on something that you're passionate about." Gee, bummer, I was hoping to read a book or something, but I'm already getting to eat dinner, so I guess I can skip it.

I think it's utterly foolish for somebody to work 130 hours a week. I can't think of any good reason anybody should ever have to do that. But, if that's what they want, I'm okay with it because at the end of the day it's not any of my business. But trying to force others to do it is really not cool.

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The article is poorly written. Points 1 and 2 are about knowing yourself and your own rhythm, making one think the article is about caring for one's own mental health while working long hours. Point 3, however, is about long hours being performed by one's employees.

That third point makes it sounds like the article is not about a person who has themselves worked ridiculously hard, but about someone who has cracked the whip over people working ridiculously hard, giving advice to others who want to do the same thing. Understandably, people are a lot less sympathetic to this!

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Not everyone here is a founder.

Most people on HN are employees and don't want 130 hour weeks to become the norm.

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Articles like this remind me of Bertrand Russell's [In praise of idleness](http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html):

"I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work."

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I love Bertrand Russell. Such brilliant quotes. I especially love his thoughts on religion.

Unfortunately, he was no futurist. His view of the manual laborer doing all the work vs the bosses telling the worker what to do was hopelessly mired in the past and plagued with his thinking that the industrial revolution's growing pains were permanent or even worsening.

Given that Peter Drucker was around and writing at the same time, it's not like the idea that we were heading somewhere better as a society was unknowable.

This passage in the link you provided stood out to me:

  The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, 
  but was appropriated by warriors and priests. In times of famine there was no 
  surplus; the warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other 
  times, with the result that many of the workers died of hunger.
These days, our warrior/priest caste is actually the government and the elite corporatists that collude with it. Economy goes up, government spending goes up. Economy goes down, government spending goes up... strange that.

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Interesting, does this essay convey to you that the manual labourer is doomed and Russell's being a pessimist? I got quite the contrary from it (advocating some sort of socialist state), on par with wilde's [the soul of man under socialism](http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/wilde-oscar/soul-m...)

Or are you referring to other writings by Russell? I have to confess that besides this essay and "proposed roads to freedom" I've read little of his own stances.

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Funny you mention that you love Bertrand Russell since he was a massive fan of idleness and against the cult of overwork.

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Your mistake would be in assuming that I would commit the fallacy of ad hominem, I guess.

Religion was pretty well-trodden ground in his time and his thoughts on it were really insightful. The future of the knowledge-based economic world didn't seem to be his forte. Regardless, the guy put some thought into his writings that's worth respecting and he certainly knew how to craft a phrase that would be quotable for centuries to come.

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I don't think burnout directly correlates to working too hard or too much. I think it is more a matter of working hard without a sense of accomplishment. Endless toil without material or psychic rewards for a job well done is what would lead me to burnout.

I have worked with people who claimed to work over 100 hours per week. Upon closer investigation it generally turned out that they did a lot of personal business from the office "because they were so busy." Or, they used "I'm too busy" as an excuse to ignore their spouse or children or to escape a painful situation at home.

Like the others, I don't buy 130 hours on a sustainable basis. Try to work 60 or 80 hours in a week and see how difficult that is before claiming 100 or 130.

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I wonder how many people are on the opposite side of the equation ... I worked 130 hours a week and lost everything.

Somehow, I think the fact she is who she is leave people with the perception that working that much is what it takes.

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Care to elaborate?

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Survivor bias. We don't get to hear of the failures. Not in the news, at least. So, even if 130 is likely to destroy anyone, a very rare breed of people who have a crazy amount of energy may pull it off. Or maybe working 130 hours a week is too much even for them, but they survive anyway because they were such geniuses to begin with (not very rational geniuses, but still).

If we had more hard data from large, non-biased samples, then we would know for sure the various effects of working 130 hours for various people. Then, we could build advice on that. (Of course I currently have reasons to think that such a study would be a waste of time, and that we just shouldn't work that much, period.)

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Sorry, I had meant I wanted the GP to elaborate on why he or she failed :)

I know all about survivorship bias so I yearn for stories of failure.

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It's the survivor effect: you don't interview the people who worked 130 hours/week and never got to a viable product, or burnt out before they ever did a press release.

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Clearly exaggeration on her part about her hours. No one works 130 hours a week consistently, it is just physically not possible. This article is about everything wrong with corporate work environments.

1) Productivity is equivalent to time spent in the office. 2) Pressure your employees to work more than they should - No one should ever have to "ask" to get a weekday night off to have dinner with their family. 3) Managing resentment? If you are spending your time trying to manage your resentment to your job, you probably aren't being productive because you dislike the job. Nothing spells out bad productivity like disliking what you are doing.

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Step 3. Grant employees one must-have freedom.

Silly bullshit. First of all, by definition you have to grant all must-have freedoms. If that's not a deal-breaker than they're not must-haves.. but the idea that family dinner is a gift from your employer is ridiculous.

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The people at Google have and are continuing to attempt significant "outlier" levels of financial and software technological success.

Should they expect to work a 9-5 schedule?

If achieving success at a level that might require that you to sacrifice a bunch of your family life is your thing, then I guess that Google might be a place for you. If it isn't, then you don't really have to work there.

So much vitriol in this thread toward a person who made the choice to work hard and be a part of a company that expects its people to produce. It's not like there are Google slave camps where they put you on an island, take away your passport, and won't let you leave.

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As someone who works at Google, I can say that (at least within my team) people do not tend to work unreasonable hours. People will stay late during crunch time, or when they're on a roll. But there is no expectation that you will work yourself into the ground. There's an expectation of high productivity within a 40 hour work week, plus or minus. There's expectations that people will react to emergencies and deal with them whenever they occur. But there's also an expectation that this will be rare.

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That's why I was careful to say that Google expects people to "produce", not work ridiculous hours.

Plus, I have no idea what Google is expecting its works to do these days. You say one thing, employee #20 makes it sound like a meal with the family on Tuesday night is the exception, not the rule.

I will say that if Google doesn't keep a strong work ethic, it will go the way of Apple in the late 80's and early 90's. I was at Apple when the "work hard, play hard" ethic somehow shifted to just "play hard". Apple was on the verge of going out of business for a decade or so because of that lack of drive.

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I suspect that's more a result of a response to the low-productivity spiral that burnout seems to be. You lose productivity, so you push yourself harder, so you become less productive, so you feel the need to spend more hours, and soon you end up drained and unable to accomplish anything.

If you're in this spiral, then you need to step back and think of what you need to do to recharge. That might become a realization that "I've stopped spending time with my family; I'm going to make sure I'm at dinner with them every Thursday".

I'd find it extremely strange to hear that someone at Google was prevented from making time to spend time with family on a regular basis. I wouldn't be surprised that an employee in the process of burning out needed encouragement to step back.

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  I suspect that's more a result of a response to the low-productivity spiral that burnout seems to be.
I'm a little lost as to which part of my comment this was in response to. At Apple in the early 90's, you could rarely find an engineer at his desk. Working interactively with people was a bit of a mess, what with all the ping pong, foosball, video game playing, the midday trips to the gym, the beer parties, and some peoples' weekly offsites to see a movie. The only people getting any sort of burnout or burns just weren't changing out their bong water often enough.

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That's 18h/day everyday. Or 21H/Day if she gave herself a Saturday. I call BS on the numbers. I'm sure she worked really hard but the numbers are BS.

Further she thinks that there is causation between her crazy hours and the ultimate success of Google. Correlation is not causation.

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I think that its great that it worked for Marissa Mayer. But, the culture of working over 40 hours is troubling. It really puts into perspective what you should value. I value my free time too much to take that choice.

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What's troubling? A culture of working over 40 hours? Or the fact that some people choose to?

Is it your perception that our culture is moving toward working more hours?

http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=ANHRS

The trend appears to be downward. Yay?

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I believe that working that long isn't sustainable and I think that it puts unrealistic expectations for the average person. I would welcome your trend. Thank for the data.

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Since folks seem to not recall prior articles about marissa mayer, I believe it's clearly mentioned elsewhere that she's one of those people who via medical accident/ virtue only need a substantially reduced amount of sleep compared with most people. The journalist for this article is clearly an idiot for neglecting that important contextual info.

That Is all.

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That is not all. If you're criticizing the author for omitting facts, it should go without saying you need to cite them.

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http://money.cnn.com/popups/2006/fortune/how_i_work/frameset...

"My day starts around 9 A.M. and meetings finish up around 8 P.M. After that I stay in the office to do action items and e-mail. I can get by on four to six hours of sleep. I pace myself by taking a week-long vacation every four months."

and thats just the first google result for "marissa mayer sleep"

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Kind of an aside, but I find the requirement of providing proof in an argument to be pretty ambiguous in an age where Googling things is so darned easy.

Sure, I could find a link that gives the quantum dynamics of why water is wet when I use that fact in an argument... but do I really need to? These days, it seems that pushing back on people to provide easily knowable supporting information is just a delaying tactic or cognitive dissonance coping method... as in "Oops, I just read a really uncomfortable conclusion... I think I'll ask for proof then close this window before it's actually provided." :)

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Sad. Sad. Sad. This is macho BS, dressed in a cool start-up suit. No one is productive doing that year around.

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Did I say 'year', I meant week.

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I don't buy that she worked 130 hours a week. Perhaps one week ever. But I'm still not sure if I buy that. Anything short of documentary proof wouldn't lead me to believe it.

We do have data that people overestimated how much they work. I'm sure she worked long hours. I'm sure she was in the office a lot to. But 130 hours?

And 130 hours of actual good work? We also have data on how the quality of work drops off as quantity begins to add up.

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I think it comes down to how you define work. If it is "clocked in on a time card sitting at a desk" 130 hours a week is not realistic long term (it is 18.5 hours per day 7 days a week) -- I agree.

If you define work as "your mind focusing on solving problems or thinking about the big decisions that need to be made" it is absolutely possible to do that for an extended period of time.

I regularly sleep 4-6 hours per night and wake up without an alarm clock (there is a bunch of information about this out there now, example article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783 ). When I'm awake my mind is constantly thinking about the projects I'm involved in and how I can contribute to the team driving a better outcome.

I don't put in 130 hours every week but I'm putting in over 80 -- not because I have to but because I enjoy it. I'm typically only at my desk or in meetings at a corporate office 30-40 hours a week. Part of the "freedom" it talks about is letting people work from where they're most productive in a manner they choose -- not forcing them into a "one size fits all" approach -- measure productivity by outcomes not by methods.

I have a "work productivity device" (laptop, tablet, or smartphone) open consuming information or producing output related to my role easily 80 hours a week (12-15 hours a day M-F and 5-20 hours on the weekends).

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I did actually worked for about 100 hours a week and more, for a few months in 1998, and I spent a couple of quiet weeks in hospital as a result. This sort of stupid bullshit about hard work really gets me angry.

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Is this article trolling? Sure seems like it.

This business week article has some more supporting information about the Google folks asking permission to do family events... http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-12/how-to-avoid...

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The worst part about an article like this is someone will take this seriously and believe this is the path towards "success".

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If you measure success as being in senior management in a big company, it often is

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Even assuming she was not commuting to work (sleeping at the office), that leaves 5.4 hours a day for eating, sleeping, shitting, showering, brushing your teeth etc. Nobody can do it for more than a week or two.

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There are a very few people who can, or can come close. They can make life miserable for people who work for them, merely by being an example.

In an NPR interview with the woman who wrote Why Women Can't Have It All, the woman said that Hilary Clinton limits her time in the office for precisely that reason, so that people don't stay in the office merely because Clinton is there.

Edit: The quote is in the audio linked from here: The Impossible Juggling Act: Motherhood And Work, http://www.npr.org/2012/06/21/155498926/the-impossible-juggl...

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130 hours a week!

Workaholics are bad for the long term health of any large company.

Workaholics can be wonderful, incredibly productive people. Most of the time they are not. But let's just concentrate on the ideal workaholic.

Workaholics enable last minute heroics disaster management. But if you're doing that, even if you do it successfully, just the fact that you are doing it, means you messed something up. You shouldn't need last minute heroics on your projects. Well managed projects don't do that.

And even more importantly the more long term your project is the more important it is to manage it well and avoid last minute heroics.

The long term quality and maintainability of large projects really suffers with such emergency heroics. In fact, each and every one of your death marches over the years could have been a great success. But together they've made all future progress far, far, far slower that it could have been had you not had the need for death marches in the first place.

Exceptions apply to small projects who only care about reaching a milestone NOW, not about long term TOC.

On any large and complex project there will be huge pressure to engage in last minute heroics. If you literally do not have that option THAT forces you to manage your project better.

But combine that huge ever present pressure with workaholics and you're almost guaranteed to take advantage of a death march.

Imagine it is a death march for only one person, the company workaholic. A wonderful person, who is also a technical genius. That person takes on a complex feature, and implements it over a weekend, pulling at least one all-nighter. Normally that person is 10x more productive than average so in that weekend they make HUGE progress.

Now remember the old adage about any developer who is indispensable should be fired immediately? Sounds harsh, but think about it.

I pride myself on working hard to never make myself indispensable. Produce maintainable code, far less complex than I am capable of, document, train colleagues, etc. That's the minimum needed for long term health of any large and complex projects.

What happens if the ideal workaholic gets hit by a buss right after that weekend death march? Now everyone else will have to come up to speed on their code, and that will take longer than if they had been allowed to write it themselves, over a week or two, with that workaholic's help and guidance.

What happens if the workaholic does NOT get hit bu a buss? Great, but again overall development is slowed down. it went a lot faster for that one weekend, but everyone now still has to come up to speed to keep the project going.

You rob from the future to save the present and you drop a lot of the money on the floor while doing that.

Really, really well managed projects explicitly forbid last minute heroics. That's how you know management knows what it's doing.

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I love google, but I am calling bs on this.

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+1, this reads more like corporate branding on how cool can early googlers be more than anything else. I'm pretty happy for her if she manages 130 hours a week, but this doesn't work for everyone... if any.

I don't really care in the debate of working your ass off or staying sane and mentally fresh to be productive, but Google pushing this fact is just plain sad.

What are we supposed to react? Just awe in admiration at the necessary self-destruction we're supposed to imitate?

Plus I was at the talk and it was sadly sadly corporate. If there is one thing I remember about Marissa Mayer is that she does the whole corporate PR / tough questions avoiding thing very well. In my mind this is what makes her so successful..

sad sad sad

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> but Google pushing this fact is just plain sad.

Do you think it's part of some larger corporate effort on their part?

Seems like they need to talk to the employees who posted contrary statements in this thread. They don't seem to be on-message.

> Plus I was at the talk and it was sadly sadly corporate.

Wouldn't you expect someone highly successful in a corporate environment when asked about work environment issues to give you a very successfully-minded corporate type of answer?

The surprise to me would have been if she had given an answer like, "I only work 3 hours a day, then I exercise, meditate, spend time with my family, and get a good 10 hours of sleep. That's the kind of work-life balance that everyone can have and be filthy rich like I am!"

That would have been a great deal more surprising and interesting. Sadly, reality marches on and acts all boring and serious like reality tends to do. Work hard, eat your vegetables, stay in school, don't do drugs... totally boring. :)

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I don't think its a conscious decision on Google's end. They have grown, and as it becomes larger as an organization it faces different challenges. PR and communication becomes naturally very different for a large organization, it is much more scrutinized, subject to easy criticism etc. So some sort of party line attitude is necessary.

It's a thin line to walk, between honest truthfulness and too much marketing bs. I think Google is a bit too much in the latter these days, but I still have good faith in it.

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130 hours = ~18.5 hours a day, 7 days a week

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I really hate these types of employees. First of all they raise employer's expectations that all the other workers will be willing to put in free hours for them. Second by working for 130 hours they are basically taking away jobs from 2 other people who could be gainfully employed if these types of employees worked a normal schedule. Obviously the counterpoint is that these guys really loved their work so much that they didn't really mind. But in that case isn't it better that they do some charity work, help more needy people rather than helping fill the coffers of mega corporations.

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Second by working for 130 hours they are basically taking away jobs from 2 other people who could be gainfully employed if these types of employees worked a normal schedule.

One could say the same about technology in general, and some foolish people have.

But in that case isn't it better that they do some charity work, help more needy people rather than helping fill the coffers of mega corporations.

I'm pretty sure Marissa Mayer has donated far more to charity than most of us ever will.

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Wow - I feel heroic when I work late one day a week and my kid's events are automatically non-negotiable. Guess I shoudl be glad I'm not working at Google and still making a good living - can it last?

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To each their own. Like many other treatments of the mind/body, the effects of this kind of behavior may be seen down the road.

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If a person can work 3x normal (40 x 3 = 120 hours, which is almost the 130 hours she claims to have worked in the past) and generate 10-1000x the value of most people, it might be a worthy tradeoff for some time.

In the long run, however, it can be hard to sustain that kind of pace.

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There is evidence that for a wide range of jobs working 3x normal produces .5x to 1.5x as much output.

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That I find more believable ...

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Hard work, she says, has been the key to Google's success, as well as her own.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessary_and_sufficient_condi...

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Meditation is the key for me. I think more and more people especially people in the Tech and involved with startups should practice it.

I work 12 hrs daily but spend around 1-2 hrs in meditation and it seems to flush out everything.

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That's 1-2 hrs in meditation per day? What particular type of meditation do you practice? How long have you been practicing?

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Yes avg 90 mins daily. Recently I have been doing Kriya yoga but have been doing meditation for longer than 10 yrs

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These days, she relaxes by diving into a Scrooge McDuck style swimming pool of money.

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Forget employees - this is important reading for the self-employed or work-from-homers... how do you prevent burnout when you're grinding on your own projects, or freelance work?

It might be pretty standard advice, but important to remind oneself - I'm very rarely strict with myself about taking time off or finding my 'rhythm' activities as she calls them.

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Im sure the private residence at the 4 seasons in SF and the tens if not hundreds of millions she is worth had plenty to do with her not burning out as well.

Further, as others noted - that is ~18 hours per day "working" - and if by "working" we really mean, thinking about her work.

This means that she could just as easily be "working" when being chauffeured from house to work, or on the plane or eating dinner.

Its not like she needed to be welded to a screen pumping out code at her desk 18h per day... she has a much different output, mostly her thought and attention, than many others.

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Hell no she wasn't. Not as Google employee #20. The implication in the article is that she was actually working in front of a screen. And while thinking is definitely "working", I don't do much thinking without at least a desk.

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If you have to ask permission to attend your daughter's soccer game or have dinner with your kids then that is a fucked up place to work; regardless of how much salary or stock options they throw at you.

If your boss brags about working insane hours then brace yourself for a shitty environment.

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Burnout shouldn't even be an issue in the American economy. We should actually all work a bit less, earn a bit less, and hire more people. What are we creating? a lot of hard work to make our lives hell?

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People seek respect & admiration. http://www.greatandhra.com/viewnews.php?id=38662&cat=10&...

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i think this article lost a lot of merit because 130hrs/week were mentioned. i am guessing this was some kind of record and happened once, but because of the way it was mentioned (proudly, to illustrate that she's a badass) the article seems to insinuate this amount of hours could be sustainable, and worked around with a few anti-burnout tricks.

if this advice was given for ~60hr weeks, it would actually be a lot more credible.

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Satire?

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"Grant your employees one must-have freedom"

I'm the CTO at a startup and I have employees that are my responsibility. The mere idea that it's appropriate for me to grant one of my people a personal freedom that was theirs to begin with is offensive.

A company that requires overwork from its people, especially salaried people, in order to sustain itself doesn't deserve to exist. Paid overtime is another story and is a common aspect of the how the manufacturing sector works.

I'm sure Mayer is a good manager, people have attested to as much in this thread. The article appears to be designed to hack together a particular attitude towards work/overwork piecemeal from an interview with Mayer that I don't think she adheres to.

This article makes me want to defenestrate myself and join the Socialist Party.

I'll be avoiding entrepreneur.com in future.

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  A company that requires overwork from its people, especially salaried people,
  in order to sustain itself doesn't deserve to exist.
I find such strong visceral statements like this really curious and am trying to understand them. Do you resent people who want to work ridiculous hours? Or just the companies that expect their employees to put in overtime?

Do you resent companies that expect overtime from employees as sort of a shared sacrifice on the hopeful way to something like an IPO or buyout where everyone gets a reward for that sacrifice?

If I have a choice to work at company A where I can put in minimal hours and company B where the company expects me to put in "unpaid" overtime. Do you view company B as not deserving to exist?

Do you not support my desire to work in the company and environment that I wish to? Would it be for my own good for company B to be shut down?

  Paid overtime is another
  story and is a common aspect of the how the manufacturing sector works.
Are you under the impression that Google employees haven't been extraordinarily compensated for the hours they've put in?

  This article makes me want to defenestrate myself and join the Socialist Party.
If only everyone who wanted to join the Socialist Party would defenestrate themselves. I commend you for that choice. :P I kid. I kid.

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>Do you resent people who want to work ridiculous hours?

Hell no, if it makes them happy then that's fine, but if it starts producing burnout or interfering with their ability to perform, they need to ratchet it back and chill out. (Which has happened at my company, I've had to intervene and tell a coworker to relax and take some time off.)

My coworkers have nothing to prove to me by spending all day and night at the office.

>Or just the companies that expect their employees to put in overtime?

You're not really being precise enough. It depends on the reward structure and how frequent it is. The infrequent push to finish a release, fine. A consistent/constant expectation that salaried (no paid overtime at all) employees be working over ~40 hours a week is obscene. It's different, I'd argue, for lawyers and factory workers as their reward structures are a bit different.

>Do you view company B as not deserving to exist?

Only if said overtime is necessary for their business model to function. A business that has to abuse its own people in order to exist is just a scam hidden by abstraction and cultural acceptance. If it's doing so out of greed, then the reward structure needs revised. Law firms resolved this a long time ago.

>Do you not support my desire to work in the company and environment that I wish to?

I'm talking about abusing people who don't want to work all that overtime and spend time with their families. My company already has one person in particular who works odd/lots of hours. I don't begrudge him that, it's just an aspect of how he manages his time. My issue is with categorically expecting unpaid overtime of all employees, week-in, week-out with no real reward above the usual salary.

You appear to be constructing some sort of opposition to your preferred way of working when there is none.

>Are you under the impression that Google employees haven't been extraordinarily compensated for the hours they've put in?

Are you under the impression that Google is still minting millionaire chefs?

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> You appear to be constructing some sort of opposition to your preferred way of working when there is none.

You said you wanted to kill yourself after reading an article about someone who talks about working hard and her management techniques at one of the most highly successful technology companies in the world that is listed as THE best company to work at in the country. Exactly how am I misunderstanding your own words and how much are you to blame for putting them together the way you did?

> Are you under the impression that Google is still minting millionaire chefs?

Seriously, number one in the country. I'm not exaggerating.

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/best-companies/2012/f...

Are you under the impression that there aren't other reasons to work someplace besides just the money?

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What are you trying to prove exactly? That I'm coffee-deprived and tired?

Google being a good place to work at really has nothing to do with demanding overtime of employees.

For that matter, Google isn't even guilty of what I'm talking about.

Given those two statements, everything you've just said is null.

What an immense waste of time.

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> What are you trying to prove exactly?

Just trying to probe the depths of the reasoning of someone posting something that's contrary to the conclusions I've drawn from life.

> What an immense waste of time.

If you say so. I gained another little data point in my mental model under the section of "Why do some people react so strongly against others who profess to work hard?" So, thanks.

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That's a bad data point.

I'm not against working hard, I'm against forcing others to work hard for your benefit without commensurate reward.

What is so difficult to understand about that?

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In the context of Google, your use of the terms "forcing" and "commensurate reward" are decidedly oxymoronic. I'd make the case that in the US and most other Western countries, your use of those terms doesn't really make sense.

Do you live in some non-free society where you aren't allowed to quit a job and find another more suitable to your liking? Maybe you live somewhere where you aren't allowed to start your own business and take part in deciding your own compensation? I'd guess North Korea, but your English is extremely good and I didn't think they were allowed to access the Internet.

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Pay developers more than 60K/70K year and you'll prevent burnout. How about paying for equipment you cheap bastards.

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