You know when you used to work at that 9-5 job and had to wait until about 5:05 to leave, just so you didn’t look like a slacker who hated their work and wanted out at 5:00 on the dot?
Well, there’s a startup equivalent to that: working 9- or 10- or 11-hour days and then feeling lazy for stopping because all your peers seem to be hustle, hustle, hustle. Because for every founder tweeting about their 3 am coding marathon, you feel like you should be doing more. For every profile about long hours and late nights and no sleep, your efforts seem ordinary in comparison.
I wrote an article last year about entrepreneurs’ work hours and there was huge variety – everything from your exhausting 12+ hour days to what I’d call a “normal day.” One of those “normal day” founders said, “It's tempting to work 24-7, but we keep pretty reasonable hours here. Most people are in by 9:30 and out by 6:15 to catch Caltrain home. Startups don't need to work 12-hour days to be successful.”
Amen, I thought.
Until the next day, when I got an email from them: could I remove the quote? “After deliberation, we don't feel like it's a good representation of our office culture.”
I took that to mean: after deliberation, we’re ashamed of being in the same article as founders who claim to put in 12- to 17-hour days. And I know they're not the only ones who feel that way about work-life balance.
But the thing wrong here isn’t their work hours; it’s their shame. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, as much as anything else – it’s the freedom to create what you want, work with the people you want, and work when you want. This company has made the conscious choice to have work-life balance, to have time and life outside of work, but they don’t want to stand by it. That’s sad.
So if you leave the office at 6 or 7 or 8 and start to feel that familiar wave of shame creeping up, tell it to go away. There are thousands of entrepreneurs who feel the same – but maybe they’re too afraid to be quoted in the media about it, too. Don’t let the hustlers of the world make you feel bad, because you’ve got time with your kids or your dog or for actually cooking something in the kitchen. It’s a choice, and in my book it’s probably the right one.