Promoting burnout is a bad thing

Ray Houston over at LosTechies has a post about not wasting time.  On the surface, what he says makes sense.  But consider this:

“After a good day of pairing, you feel exhausted because you put in a real day's work. You were engaged the entire time. Why don't we hold ourselves to the same standards when we are programming solo?”

It is bad to have your workers, in any field, feel exhausted at the end of a day’s work.  This pretty much guarantees burnout in your workstaff.

Except for those periods where there is a really important business imperative for working extra, you should never expect or allow your workers to feel exhausted.  This is local optimization gone way wrong and bad advice all around.

posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 10:14 PM Print
# re: Promoting burnout is a bad thing
Ray Houston
3/18/2009 10:22 AM
I didn't say anything about working extra. I'm merely saying make good use of your work day. If someone gets burned out after working a good 8 hour day, then it sounds like there are other problems.
# re: Promoting burnout is a bad thing
3/18/2009 10:44 AM
"Making good use of your work day" != 'feeling exhausted'.
# re: Promoting burnout is a bad thing
Troy Tuttle
3/18/2009 11:09 AM
Around 2005 or 2006 my employer hired some top-notch agile consultants to come in for a 2 or 3 day teaching session with our development teams. Their recommendation at that time was only pair about 4 hours of the day because they found devs got too exhausted if they paired longer than that. Seems like that says something about extended pairing sessions.

# re: Promoting burnout is a bad thing
3/18/2009 11:03 PM
A great book called 'Slack' talks about this in depth - highly recommend it to anyone who thinks work at 100% (or higher) is more efficient or effective than working at 70-80%.

But basically, from the first chapter of that book - think about the 'tile puzzles' - where you have a picture that's jumbled up and you have to move the little tiles to get it straightened out; to be at 100% there really shouldn't be any 'blank' spaces - but without blank spaces how do you move the tiles?

A popular thing back in the 80's (for those who might remember) was to get rid of middle management and secretaries because high priced 'time management experts' noticed that these people were only busy 60-80% of the day - so why not just have 2 people do the work of three? Cuts your staff by 1/3 and everybody is 100% effective - sounds great right? Wrong, no they were unable to manage change and they had no room to take on emergencies or deal with crisis' that required extra effort. The 80's trend of doing that was a spectacular failure, but here we are again (this isn't the first time I'm hearing this) having people say that working at or near 100% is best.

When will people ever learn that history repeats itself.
# re: Promoting burnout is a bad thing
3/18/2009 11:49 PM
When building out a server farm, a good rule of thumb is to design it so that it normally runs at 10% of capacity, but can handle a tenfold increase.

One should probably work at more than 10% capacity on the job, but it is totally unsustainable to think you should be 'exhausted' at the end of work.

People have this weird view of software development as being mostly total failures, and different from other lines of work. Like, I don't know, public construction projects. They never go over-budget or suffer from poor quality or are completed late. And the workers come home exhausted every day.


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