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BEN: Welcome back to Chicago.
FITZ: I'm Fitz.
BEN: And I'm Ben.
FITZ: And we're here to answer your questions.
BEN: What's the next question, Mr. Fitz?
FITZ: Let me check on my gPad right here.
You know I've got some new apps for this, actually?
One's called a pencil, and the new one's called--
BEN: Paper app?
FITZ: --Paper App.
Yeah, the paper app is fabulous.
It really feels like real paper.
BEN: Calendar's a little rough, though.
FITZ: Yeah, the calandar's a little rough.
Especially when you make a lot of changes.
But anyway, on to the question.
The first question we have here is from Mayank.
I hope I pronounced that right.
And it is "how much time do you give to your family and
friends?"
BEN: "How much do you give to your family?" Well--
FITZ: That's a personal question.
BEN: I think maybe what he's really asking is do people who
work at Google have time for family and friends?
I think that's the implicit question.
I've seen other questions like that.
FITZ: You have a family and I have friends.
So together, I think we're-- no, I'm just kidding.
Absolutely is the answer.
I mean, Work-life balance is something we talk about a lot,
and it's really important, I think.
We talk about long term and hiring people for the long
term who are a good match.
BEN: Ah, the Blade Analogy.
FITZ: The only way you're going to keep people for the
long term, I think, is that if you have a
good work-life balance.
BEN: Keep them happy.
FITZ: Right.
Well, the Blade Analogy actually has to do more with
ongoing learning, I would say.
BEN: OK.
But also just burning out your engineers is another way to
think about it, right?
FITZ: Yes, so we'll talk about that.
Most companies are out there looking for the sharpest blade
in the drawer.
That's the recruiting program.
We're looking for a very sharp knife, so that we can use it
to cut things, right, to cut through hard engineering
problems. And a lot of companies will take that sharp
knife, and they will grind it against the sidewalk.
BEN: 80 hours a week.
FITZ: Right.
When you do that, and then a couple years you're like, hey,
I have a dull knife.
I want to get rid of this knife, and get a new knife.
And then you go and they spend a lot of time to find a new
sharp knife, so to speak.
BEN: Not a sustainable strategy.
FITZ: Right.
So having a good work-life balance is part of a way of
sharpening that knife, and I think the big part of it, is
ongoing education, right?
We have a lot of tech talks here.
We have a lot of interesting people come in and talk about
what they're doing in computer science.
A lot of, I think, just interesting talks about what
we're doing project-wise.
BEN: We share.
It's very academic internally, very academic community.
But beyond that, as managers we are encouraged to be very
aware of work-life balance, and to see what
our reports are doing.
Do they have a life?
Are they spending too much time at work?
I know there's a lot of rumors.
I've heard rumors, oh, if you work at Google, you're going
to work 80 hours a week.
You're going to be burned out, blah blah blah.
They expect you to live there.
And I have not seen that ever in the five
years I've been here.
It's really just--
FITZ: There are times, I think, when there's a little
bit of a crunch, right?
Where you're--
BEN: That's true of any company.
FITZ: You're going towards a goal, and so it's like we have
a deadline--
not necessarily a deadline, but we're trying
to launch on Friday.
BEN: As long as it's an occasional thing.
If it's an occasional crisis, an occasional deadline, then
sure, everybody works a little harder.
But it's not the norm, say, like in the gaming industry,
where you really are expected to work 80 hours a week all
the time, and If you don't like it, there's 20 people
lined up to take your job.
At Google, the theory is if you are working more than 40
hours a week all the time, then something is very wrong
with that team, and it will get attention,
and it will get corrected.
And we even have a case sometimes of engineers getting
so enthusiastic that they'll work too hard without
realizing it.
FITZ: I think that's the biggest challenge, because
you're working with a lot of exciting technology, with
really big, scalable systems. And it's tempting, I think, to
continue working on stuff, just because it's so
fascinating and so much fun.
BEN: Right.
We've seen examples of folks maybe who are just out of
college, they have no spouse or kids or anything, and they
just get so excited, they just stay at work late, right?
And no one's stopping them, because they're so
excited about it.
But the truth is, certainly as a manager, if that person
keeps doing that over and over, they will burn out, and
you have to stop them and say wait, relax, take a vacation.
FITZ: We've seen this happen before.
BEN: Yeah, we've stopped it.
FITZ: Ourselves included, right, burning ourselves out.
I think it's important to maintain the balance, to keep
a focus on the long term.
BEN: The message I've heard from upper management is if
people work too long and too hard and burn themselves out,
it's not worth it.
Maybe you get more hours out of the person, but you get
very bad code.
The quality of the work goes down.
It's just not worth it.
FITZ: I think you can do that sort of grind if you're not
doing anything necessarily creative.
If you're just cranking out just really simple, boring
assembly line type code--
BEN: That's not Google.
FITZ: --You can do that.
That's definitely not Google.
I think writing really good scalable code is a very
creative endeavor, and it takes a
lot of creative thinking.
And if you're not rested, and you haven't had a minute to
step out and look at different things, I think then it's hard
for you to really get into that creative mode.
BEN: Yup.
So the answer is Google is actually quite aware of the
tension between work and life.
We focus on it, and we try to find that balance very well
FITZ: And Googlers do have family and friends.
BEN: Yes.
FITZ: All right.
BEN: All right, we're done.
FITZ: That's good for today.
Thanks a lot.
BEN: Bye-bye.
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Ask a Google Engineer - Fitz and Ben from Chicago - Work-Life Balance

4729 Folder Collection
ABbla Chung published on September 10, 2013
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