On "Working" Outside of Work Hours

Etsy’s culture puts a very strong emphasis on work-life balance. As someone who has mostly worked for startups, this took some adjusting to. The fact that Etsy IRC and email pretty much goes silent outside of normal business hours struck me as odd initially. But, I really appreciate it. Startups are stressful, and they left me feeling that there was always something work-related that I should be doing whenever I had some “free time.”

However, I love my work. I love the people I work with and the projects I work on. I love solving problems. I love coding. I wish I had more time to spend doing it. Having a family puts a massive dent in your free time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and am [usually] happy to spend any available time with them, but I so miss having large blocks of time to myself to just get into the zone.

So when I or other colleagues mention coding (or even checking email) after hours, or on vacation, we’re often castigated for doing so. I love that my colleagues are looking out for my well-being, but hey, we’re all individuals. If you have no desire to be anywhere near a computer outside of work hours, that’s awesome. It’s pretty cool to work at a company where that’s not only possible, but encouraged, isn’t it? But please don’t judge me for thinking that my ideal vacation would be go somewhere alone, with my laptop and a fast internet connection, and just code.1

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to bed. I like to wake up crazy early so I have a couple hours of alone time with my laptop.

  1. There is an argument that a senior engineer working after-hours sets a bad example for more junior engineers, making them feel like they should be doing the same. This is certainly something to be cognizant of, but so long as the prevailing culture makes it clear that this is in no way expected behavior, it should not be an issue.