The WHO (World Health Organization) recently published a study claiming working long hours will kill you. I agree, though I routinely do it.
Here’s the difference for me. I routinely work 80-90+ hour weeks when on a project. This is an on-site project far away from home. I don’t do touristy things. I don’t often, if ever, hang out with coworkers on weekends. I’m there to bank as much money as possible.
At the end of my contract I go back to the family farm to decompress. Sometimes I stay here three months, sometimes it is close to two years. You can work 80-90 hour weeks, but you have to lead a semi-retired kind of life. Long breaks between projects. Only take projects you find interesting. You don’t even realize you are working like a slave when you truly enjoy what you are doing or are simply fascinated by it.
I’ve blogged before about how technical recruiters cannot understand a semi-retired life consultant. They are using to low wage slaves who can’t miss more than one paycheck without being on the street. When your bill rate is high enough and you are working 80-90 hour weeks, you can take a lot of time off, if you live cheap.
I talk quite a bit about this topic in my latest book. In particular you probably want to read Karoshi – Do More With Less. There are other essays and conversations about the people I know of who died in IT. Some of them I personally knew. Others I came to the client site after the death. Others were just local lore about managers killing themselves in the office to buy their development team more time to complete the project.
I kid you not.
Management at most companies seems to want at least 60 hours per week. You can read this lengthy thread on Quora if you don’t believe that.
If you grew up on a farm you can generally work all the time. At least if you grew up on a farm when I did because that’s all there was to do. We had three television stations; five if the weather was perfect and we turned the antenna. There was no air conditioning and no Internet. You could sweat while reading a book or you could sweat while working. At least when you were working you were moving.