Ever since I got hired as a QA engineer at SeekandHit, I’ve had this conversation quite a few times. My parents, my friends – they all kept teasing me “how great I have it at work”.
But do tech companies really bring a life of ease? Am I really that spoiled for needing to rest as much? Having to explain myself as often as I do made me question my work ethic.
Five years of college frenzy, and then – work
But I always did have a solid work ethic.
Fortunately, my family never had to struggle to make ends meet. I have no heartbreaking story to tell about a boy who went to school hungry because he had nothing to eat. I didn’t have to work during college, but I did always like to have a few extra bucks on the side, just for myself. So I went to classes, then waited tables, then to practice, back to classes, do a few odd jobs here and there… Five years of pure, self-imposed frenzy.
Then I got a job and – what do you know! I just can’t make it through the day without a break. So is it me? Have I changed? Talking to my colleagues, I see we all have the same issue.
So what’s a break supposed to look like?
Every company should have a 30-minute break in its 8-hour working day. Occupational safety and health ordinances say that anyone working on a computer should take a 5-minute break every hour.
There’s also the Swedish model that practices a 6-hour workday. Scientists say that the brain naturally functions in sharp energy spikes and drops. It usually climbs for an hour, followed by a 5-10 minute drop. But let us emphasize that taking a break doesn’t mean you remain seated at your desk. “During a break, you should get up, walk around the room, or if possible, get out of the building. A chat with your workmates, a short stroll, or reading can all help recharge your batteries.”
But we’re not here to talk science. We’re here to discuss our everyday experiences.
An average day in tech companies begins with a good cup of coffee
When you get to work, you make your coffee, start your laptop and prepare for the day to come. After studying my tasks for the day, I start serious work.
When I first got this job, I had quite an easy tempo. I’d do a few tasks, but more experience brings more responsibilities. And just as rains and sunshine often swap places every hour here in Dalmatia, you can always count on work obligations following the same pattern.
The afternoon is usually reserved for more serious work and complex problems. Check this out, test that out, can you make this and that work… A myriad of tasks keep sweeping in from the side, while I haven’t even started my main task of the day. My head keeps spinning and I don’t know where to turn while new problems just keep emerging.
But right then, a colleague’s voice appears like a light at the end of the tunnel: “Wanna play a quick round?” As if all problems have suddenly gone away, I get up and go to this magical place where no obligations reside.
My actions are very debatable. Many would call it irresponsible behavior. Work comes first, the rest is a privilege. I couldn’t agree more – but I can explain myself.
30 mins of PlayStation time means more than 3 hours of ineffective work
It must’ve happened to everybody at least once – you study all day, but learn nothing. Oh, so frustrating – to work on something all day and have nothing to show for it.
I evaded this problem by having coffee with my friends, going for a run… I’d choose any other fun activity and leave studying for tomorrow. I’d be a lot more focused the next day and actually took in more in half an hour than I would in the entire previous day. I use the same technique at work.
If I’m tired and have trouble focusing, half an hour of PlayStation means a lot more than 3 hours of ineffective work. My output is better if I’m feeling refreshed, and PlayStation helps to get me there. Let us be clear, I don’t practice this every day. Sometimes deadlines creep in, sometimes other people depend on what I deliver to do their part of the job. I don’t ever want people depending on me while I’m out there fooling about.
I’m talking about the days when I get to choose whether I rest for a bit or go on and risk being unproductive. In that situation, I always choose to have some fun.
But playing video games can be a lot more than just pure entertainment
I once heard an interesting thought: “New technologies and humanity’s progress will lead to many professions going extinct, but will create a lot more new ones.” Who knew 20 years ago that you could one day be a professional esports player or influencer, but we’re just witnessing these jobs come into existence. For once, the gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. In the past couple of years, it has outgrown the music and film industry combined.
A good example of how the gaming world is inching towards the mainstream is games like Pro Evolution Soccer or FIFA. Their popularity led to many football clubs starting their own esports teams, like Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and many more represented in the gaming world. These numbers should not be easily disregarded and many experts see a big future for this industry.
Far from it that an average employee could measure up to pro gamers, but there’s something to the whole idea. People often get stuck in a rut at work. At some point, you no longer feel challenged.
I believe humans are competitive by nature, whether it comes to sport, work, or any other field. Everyone strives to be good at something. For people that don’t have time for other activities, 30 minutes of PlayStation can work wonders to satisfy this need.
Why do we forget about those small pleasures…
Let me repeat, my arguments are not backed by scientific research, but by my own personal experience. For the best comparison, let me go back to my college days.
SeekandHit is 50 people strong today, with only one PlayStation to share. Luckily, we never had any problems arranging slots for everyone. We used to be much more relaxed and play a lot more, but that changed as well with time.
I must admit, I miss epic Rocket League showdowns. Getting your turn used to be a lot more challenging, while we barely even do it today. I noticed this shift when we moved to a new office space. It’s bigger, prettier, and more spacious, but these small pleasures have gone. Nothing has visibly changed, but those days are gone now. We’ve grown more serious. Most of my workmates no longer have time for PlayStation.
I honestly think that everyone can afford half an hour of fun every few days, even if we then work half an hour longer. Of course, not everyone will find it fun, nor do they have to. Some find it childish, some aren’t as adept with the controller, but I know that those who entered the playroom want to go back into it. We have the time, we just need to know how to use it (and actually want to)!
…if they’re so useful?
I’ve already listed many reasons why I like workplace fun, but I’ve yet to mention my favorite: meeting new colleagues. Believe me, you don’t really know a person until you’ve seen them handle defeat. When you steal their ball and score at the very last minute – priceless!
Every break I ever took to play is like a small team-building session. Those “inessential” situations helped me a great deal in getting to know my colleagues and communicating effectively with them, especially in my first days there.
For a while, we replaced PlayStation with Among Us, which brought us some new players, new introductions, and new stories. The game requires you to lie to other players and convince them you’re not the killer. You play the trust card, but you’re lying all along. Could it get any more intense?
Everybody’s got an opinion
I don’t expect many people to agree with me.
Quite the contrary, I expect most readers to take my friends’ and parents’ side, who don’t understand quite how draining a computer can be, but I’m sure many will understand and support me. Times change.
It’s obvious that I’ve always loved video games and still do, but fun at work doesn’t necessarily have to entail video games. Most of us have some sort of hobby alongside our work. Many companies have ping pong tables, foosball or pool, fully equipped kitchens, etc. A little imagination can do a lot, but work should always come first.
I’m glad I live in a time when I can take a breather if I need to and I will take advantage of that whenever I can.
What’s your take on all this?