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Red Button Bulletin 5 - Life-work balance

This week's topic isn't technical at all.  It also won't be nearly as in-depth, but it's personal - it's just a few thoughts around the idea of life-work balance, a.k.a. making sure you don't become a workaholic.  It's a term I've heard thrown around in IT and software development a lot, but in game development it's usually called quality of life.  Because both of these worlds approach the problem in different ways, I'll approach what the term means in both of these fields, my struggle with it, and what I'm trying to do to fix it.

Life-work balance in IT

The typical job in IT / application development expects 40 hours week, with some overtime.  Depending on what role you serve in the company, this could mean pushing operating system updates, deploying a new version of an application, or crunching to meet a deadline.  Even though there is some "crunch time" in the way game developers use the term, the typical issue IT/developers tend to run into is constant availability.  A given work week might only consist of 40-50 hours of work, but some of those hours tend to be during inconvient times.

Quality of life in game development

The typical job in game development has a similar baseline for hours (40 hours / week), but it tends to ramp up much more during crunch time - typically running 60+ hours / week for weeks to months at a time.  Although there isn't as much "emergency time" needed as a job in typical IT, the sheer commitment of time is much higher.

My story

I've been lucky enough that neither of these issues really define my balance in my career.  It's rare when I work more than 40 hours a week at my main job, and when I do it's only to make up for hours lost the week before.  As far as work goes, it's been balanced pretty well.  However, I tend to take on commitments to fill up whatever time I have left.  Only a couple months ago, in addition to working full-time as a Business Intelligence Consultant, I was doing contract programming work, starting Red Button Games as an official business, and doing a ton of programming and planning work for a charity gaming group I help run and participate in (72 hours remain).  My biggest long-standing issue in life-work balance is over-commitment and spreading myself too thin.

The Future

All these points in mind, I realized that since I was starting a company, I can make whatever goals I want.  It's really tempting to put all my time towards the game (since I'm so passionate about it), but I realized I really need to focus on avoiding the three major pitfalls: costant availability, commitment of time, and over-commitment.  I hate the American system of only having 2 standard vacation weeks, so why not have 4?  I love the idea of taking an afternoon to just play something, so why not?  And most importantly, by going full-time working on the game (instead of working on it part-time AFTER a full-time job) I free up a lot of the stress and over-commitment I've dealt with my whole life.  I'm getting married, have a house to maintain, and have a beautiful summer to enjoy - not sitting in a codecave my whole life.

~Daniel Frandsen, President of Red Button Games

PS: Make sure follow us either on FacebookTwitter.  You can also contact us via email: (info [at] redbuttongames [dot] com).

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