Working 9 to 5

Facebook COO Sheryl Sanberg makes a shocking confession:

“I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids,” Sandberg said in a video posted on Makers.com. “I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it’s not until the last year, two years that I’m brave enough to talk about it publicly. Now I certainly wouldn’t lie, but I wasn’t running around giving speeches on it.”

A few weeks ago I posted about the overtime death marches we go through in the VFX industry and how some of us develop a jock-like mentality to “love the pain“.

Interestingly the CNN article touches upon similar subjects that apply to VFX:

 In a competitive industry where your work is never truly complete, has it become socially awkward to leave work at a time that used to be the standard? And are those working eight-hour days that end at 5 p.m. being quietly judged by their co-workers? Whatever happened to “work-life balance”? Worse still: Are those who work these “standard” hours being overlooked for promotions?

Of course for those of us in VFX: Are those who work standard hours more likely to get laid off?

The fact that the COO of Facebook is a bit reluctant to admit that she leaves work at 5:30 certainly exemplifies the social and business pressure to stay late and work long hours for the rest of us.

Soldier On.

20 Responses to Working 9 to 5

  1. Dave S says:

    I’m some what infamous for leaving at 5:59:59. People would joke that if you look at my desk at 6:01 there would be a piece of paper fluttering down in the wind where I was. That was the type of comment I get for leaving at 6. The key is to make sure you are there before everyeone else, always. Then they can never say they work more than you b/c they never know when you got there.
    I’ve even said “7pm? I can’t make that meeting. But if you want 8am, or 9am I’m there! Oh what? too early for you? Well…” then I still leave at 6. In some ways you train the company of what to expect from you, hours wise. I said no not working past 6 unless there is something REAL that I can agree with that would make a difference. Delivering at 10PM on an extended deadline for example, once.
    I still have/had to work 6 day weeks from time to time but I always focus on work produced not hours and fight/blatantly leave early. Saturdays 4:30pm is quittin’ time. I make sure the farm has more than it can handle from me, and as punishment to the company I’m only optimized my renders by 50%! Suck it VFX facility!!! LOL
    I know most people won’t do what I do, but it IS very doable, they just can’t imagine actually doing it, or they “can’t”. Truth is yes you can, and yes it is harder once you’ve already set precedence.
    I think of them as an “hours bully”, I fight them and win b/c I won’t tolerate it. At the end of the day your value = quality work produced + likeability. Extra hours doesn’t factor into the equation, as long as you focus on the equation you can beat the hours game, and live a better life.

    • jonavark says:

      “and as punishment to the company I’m only optimized my renders by 50%”

      ha! got a kick out of that one!

    • edwardh says:

      So what about the very, very few (it seems) people in VFX who aren’t hypersocial?😉
      Just kidding, I already know the answer to that one… VFX really isn’t much of a business for introverts.

      • Dave S says:

        thats a fair question. I think the formula still holds. I think about how I don’t get more GOOD work done working longer than 8 (really 6) hours. I can make more iterations that aren’t generally better or more inspired. So when I leave at 6 I think I did the best I could, thats all I got. Leave with a clear conscience, I’m doing whats best for me to get the most finals I can in a given amount of time.

  2. rfk says:

    Some folks work long hours because it makes them feel accomplished, some folks do it to show off to their peers, and some do it because it’s easier to be at work than to deal with their families.

  3. Pssst says:

    …harsh working conditions may not be politically acceptable anymore in most Western countries but it is the norm in a number of developing countries. In fact, this makes them more competitive by keeping labour costs down. If a government in some developing country tries to improve labour standards, capital starts leaving in search of ‘freer markets’.
    I am not arguing all against globalization. Global trade has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and allows me to get great gadgets from eBay! What I am arguing is that while acknowledging benefits of globalization and competition we need to be more critical, examining where competition starts hurting us rather than helping us.
    http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2012/uncategorized/race-bottom-competitive/

    • Anonymizer says:

      Instead of stating the obvious and applying more salts, why don’t you provide more solid hard-to-refute facts just as much as you talked, and without using Hollywood movie clips as your example?

    • Pssst says:

      Besides DreamWorks Animation’s plan to build a production studio in Shanghai, Disney announced last week that the next “Iron Man” film will be co-produced in China under a joint agreement between Disney, its Marvel Studios arm and China’s DMG Entertainment.
      Disney had also announced earlier this month that it would work with China’s Ministry of Culture and Tencent Holdings to promote the animation industry in China.
      http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/04/24/business/24reuters-sec-movies.html

      • Ymir says:

        And exactly WTF does this have to do with the topic of working reasonable hours? If you want to pontificate, take slaps at America and the west, start your own blog.

      • Pssst says:

        Simple, China doesn’t work 9 to 5

  4. sick of vfx says:

    I think there is a larger problem of perception at work here. I am currently hiring movers and I am looking for guys who are quick, efficient, and get the job done. Its amazing how people in this industry respect how many hours you do. If I was a sup, I’d want a team of people who go home at six. Those are the goal oriented, do it right the first time people who get the work done.

    I’ve always had question with the logic, of people who work long days. Being at work, and getting shots out are very very different things.

    I really wish at the end of a show, they would run a correlation between how many hours were worked, and how many shots were finaled. Of course some people have harder shots, but that is a different situation.

    I Can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing, “we are going to be here all night anyways, so I guess I’ll pace myself” Could you imagine if an hourly paid plumber was saying that in your home?

    Unfortunately the truly lazy have taken over the workers…. No wonder no one respects us!

  5. andybyrne says:

    Whoa , whoa, whoa. I’m sorry. I can’t let you go on here and tell everyone how you have it figured out with your swing shift technique. Let’s not fool anyone here. On Real Steel, just this last year I think we all averaged between 40-60 shots, while you ended with what 8? (Alright I’ll give you 10.) and you were on them for the duration of the show (hence why we had so many shots.) What was also a factor of us having so many more shots than you was the fact that you WOULD leave at 5pm on the dot, bogging the farm with your jobs while we stayed to fix more shots that we had taken over from you. I still can name every shot I took over from you or had to redo. You see, it’s not that you had some clever way around the system by leaving at 5pm. It didn’t go unnoticed. Don’t think everyone looked at you thinking “wow, that guy has it figured out! leaving at 5pm like that! what a sucker I am for staying!” Um no, it was more like..”wow, that guy has no shame…leaving at 5pm..while we sit here and fix his shit.” You see it wasn’t that we wanted to stay late. We had to, because in the real world of this job, there’s deadlines and some of us suckers have to stay and pick up the slack.

    • jrids says:

      I award you +1 internets.

      • JohnNiehuss says:

        Unfortunately it’s just this sort of scenario that enforces the status quo with regards to late hours. On the one hand – no one wants to leave their team members in the lurch by leaving on time, but on the other hand the fear of not letting other people down can paralyze you into not drawing the line. I know that personally, after years and years of late hours I’m just plain less willing to stay late if staying late becomes a trend – and so I resonate with Dave S’s decision to leave at a stated time and to stick to his guns. I understand full well that I run the risk of becoming a persona-non-grata in some situations by leaving on time, and your post is a testament to the possible consequences of that action, but quite frankly I wish more people in this industry would do that. I’d hope that Dave S realized that people were irked but drew a line anyway.

        The point is that the attitude of “if you don’t like long hours GET OUT OF THE GAME” is getting really tired. It seems to me that some people in the VFX community are finally starting to realize this. Redlining people all the time is unsustainable and your personal beef with the above artist is tangential to the larger issue that currently the VFX industry demands more hours from people than is reasonable or healthy.

        I think crowing about how well we “pick up the slack” for people who establish boundaries between work and life is a convenient way to channel our secret desire to do the same.

        Wouldn’t it be great if we could ALL decide to leave at a reasonable hour and stick to it without fear of retribution? Like if there were an organization that represented our interests and bargained for them on a collective basis to enforce basic standards!?

    • Allegro says:

      I just realized that I’m responding way late to this… but I figure I may as well post it anyways since I just typed it up:

      To be frank, I think you summed it up nicely in you last sentence. In the “real world” there are suckers that stay and pick up the slack. But where you’re wrong is by stating that they “have” to.

      If you’re happy to spend your life at work then do it and suck it up and stop kidding yourself in regards to being better than anyone else. You’re kidding yourself if you equate time spent making pixels changes color to any sort of importance in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, if you’re -not happy- spending your life there, then its on you to re-examine your own priorities and, again, stop thinking of yourself as a martyr.

      To a lot of us, there’s more to life than work. If you prioritize staying at work above leaving and doing something else, that’s on *you*. You’re not at work because someone else didn’t do the work, you’re at work because you chose to be there.

  6. jonavark says:

    I think,.. when you are a COO of any large company.. non one is going to complain about you leaving at 5. I saw an article about her on CNN.. It is similar to rich stars who have nothing better to do all day revealing their diet and workout regimen.

  7. LD says:

    I think the point here is not what the COO of FB does, but the fact that we haven’t figured out a way for humans to efficiently work 60 hour weeks.

    If you define yourself by a practice that’s consistently shown to reduce productivity, maybe you’re not doing it out of professionalism, so much as a lack of something else to do with your time. In which case, it could be worth giving up your badge of honor (without sacrificing any actual value at work – perceived value can be damned as far as I’m concerned) in favor of finding substance outside of work.

  8. Badabada says:

    So far I have only seen comments below coming from artists.
    Production coordinators and PAs get the worst of it, especially if you are working in an outsourced facility of a bigger company (ahem ahem ILM Singapore, DNeg Singapore).
    These people are the last ones to leave the building simply because there are targets to meet – waiting for artists to finish their renders, compa etc – just so they can hit a button that transfers all the work back to HQ. now does anyone sees the problem here? Simply put, studios, especially 2nd facilities need to spend the R&D to develop a better system that facilitates a seamless transfer of work. Secondly, producers at ILM SG and DNEG SG need to know when they can stick their necks out to push back work that their production support and artists can’t accommodate. I have been on shows with shots from London and SF that are soooo urgent that we had artists saying til 2am, 4am. Without over time pay. and I don’t see any of the top management or producers there staying late with these artists.

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