Am I the only one who thinks we spin our wheels a lot? I worked at SPY Magazine right out of college and one of the guys in the AdSales staff became a sort of pal/mentor to me. He was in…his THIRTIES!!!! Which at the time seemed so ADULT that I, obviously, believed he knew EXACTLY what he was talking about.
Well, one thing he told me was this: If you can’t get your work done during working hours–you’re doing something wrong.
This idea is heresy in the ad biz. Basically, every place I’ve ever worked at expected you to be available 24/7. Granted, your day starts at 10 am. But that’s the only perk, because however many hours you knock off the front of the day, they just get tacked onto the end.
I may be ultra-sensitive to this. I made the two worst decisions you could make for being a member of the ad community.
1) I had children.
2) I moved out of the city.
Having kids is like taking a little blue pill labeled ‘perspective’. Suddenly, your need to be at work till midnight four days away from the pitch meeting evaporates (especially when you know all work will be scrapped 48 hours away from the deadline and worked on up until the last-minute). Compared to actually giving your child the sense that they actually have TWO parents, it’s not even a choice.
Also, there are certain people who have malicious sense of glee when making you choose between family and work. I’ve been at places where shoots have gone right through Christmas. Literally shooting on Christmas Eve, then, out of the goodness of their black hearts they let you take a red-eye home for a handful of hours before reporting back on set the next day. When complaints arose, I remember a person saying, “Well, this is the business we have chosen.”
Sorry. But, no. It’s not. Bill Bernbach left work at 5:30 everyday. Look it up. The proper thing to do is to NOT TO SHOOT ON CHRISTMAS. It’s not brain surgery. It’s advertising. The shit can wait. 87% of the free world does sweet fuck-all between X-Mas and New Years anyway.
Now on top of all this, I threw on an hour plus commute. So putting in the extra hours, really whittles away my home time. Now, to make it clear: I don’t mind putting extra work when it’s needed and necessary. I want the extra hours to be used efficiently. I don’t want to hang around waiting for time on some shit-heads calendar. I don’t want to stay late just because my boss is staying late and he likes seeing people in cubicles. No. My days of waiting around for the ‘bedcheck’ before I can leave are over. Time is too valuable to use it just to stroke someones ego.
And doesn’t having well-rounded lives make us better at our jobs? Doesn’t it put us in touch with our communities and families and give us valuable experiences that we can use to reach an audience? And I’m not solely talking about having a family, either. Just having interests OUTSIDE of advertising makes you a better creative. (I’ll always remember Stacey Wall saying that the idea for Lil’ Penny, came from his love of the show Thunderbirds!)
I’ve found that the people in upper management who give a crap about YOUR work/life balance are few and far between. They care about it until there is a dead-line that needs to be met. They care about it until they have to face the possibility of having a difficult conversation with a pain-in-the-ass client. They care about it on paper.
It’s taken me years, but I’ve found that no one is going to fight to maintain my work/life balance but me. And you know what? It’s harder than it should be.
Post Script: If you are thinking about making a comment along the lines of: “hey, if you won’t work late, someone else will.” Fuck you. You’re part of the problem.