Throughout my early career as a businessman-architect, I worked too may hours. Most of my Saturdays and countless evenings were spent chipping away at business-related tasks that couldn’t get done during ‘regular’ hours. When I met my colleagues we often joked about who spent the most hours weekly at work – 50, 60, 80 or 100 hours.
At first, after starting my own office, the extra time I spent at work was exciting – taking the time to do things my way. I was in control of my destiny! But,i wasn’t long before the excitement wore off and I began to see the negative effect on my health and family.
Two primary conditions for long term, long hours for small business architects are:
1. Wanting to maintain control of the design produced by the office. The tasks of office management, finances, marketing, business development and client fulfillment take up all the ‘regular’ hours. So if an architect chooses to be designer on top of all these other roles, he must spend weekends and evenings at work.
2. Maintaining the company’s profitability, it may be necessary for the owner/architect to wear the hat of various positions with in the office. Two or more positions will require extra time to complete the required tasks.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not promising that success can always be achieved without overtime. On occasion extra hours are necessary to meet deadlines. Time spent for long term planning is often spent after hours since those tasks are best completed when there are no interruptions. During a normal day the pace of the work may necessitate a quick response to an issue and interrupt a planning session.
There may also be other instances for overtime are unavoidable. However, extra hours must never become the rule. Plan to avoid this habit
Long term, long hours creates a false sense of self worth and creates negative reprecussions for the owner/architect. There are three primary symptoms of sustained long hours spent at your work:
1. The primary reason for one’s work, ones profession is to create an income to support a family and be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor by spending time with family. There are seldom happy memories of Saturdays spent at work. But, times spent with family at the zoo, the playground, a picnic, etc will give you the great memories of your life. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as starting a business and starting a family often happens coincidentally and creates conflicting priorities that are difficult to sort out.
2. While spending long hours on a long-term basis, one becomes stale. To maintain creativity and generate fresh ideas, you will require time away from your desk on distractions allowing your time to rejuvenate your creative spirit. In my experience time spent away from the office on activities unrelated to my work, leads to a renewed creative period upon return to the work at my desk.
3. Long term, long hours may lead to the demise of your physical and mental health. In my case my health was jeopardized by long hours spent at the office over long periods, resulting in too much time at work and too little time at the gym. Long hours at the office also is often compounded by and unhealthy diet, poor eating habits and excessive alcohol consumption. If this continues, one day you’ll wind up with a health problem. This was my fate, however I was lucky to get over my problem before it created any long-term negative effects.
In hindsight evaluating the long hours I spent at the office:
- Did this time actually benefit my business?
- Did it enhance my work, may me a better designer?
- Am I happier because of it?
- Does it give me good memories?
What about you?
- Are you in the habit of long hours spent at work?
- What are the benefits to you?
- What are the potential dangers?
- Is it worth it?