The Case for Rest
Rethinking work-life balance in the games industry
It’s the end of your workday. You’re whittling away at what should be the last of your work, telling yourself it’s the last thing you’ll do today. You do the same with a new task. Next thing you know, it’s past working hours. Sound familiar?
In our working lives it’s all too easy to get stuck in your chair, slaving away at your desk the entire day. Sometimes it’s a case of getting too into the groove, feeling extra productive and determined to stay focused on whatever work you’re doing. With the current work-from-home situation still affecting most companies, this is happening more than ever! It’s so easy to fall into the habit of checking that “one last thing” we rarely, if ever, realise it’s time to take a break.
While it’s great to be focused and productive, working excessively can have detrimental long-term effects. (Who would’ve guessed?!)
Of course, being committed and concentrated on your work is a great thing: it shows you’re willing to go above and beyond for your team and that you’re passionate about the work you’re doing! However, it’s also important to recognise that overcommitting and overworking can cause us to burn ourselves out or experience unnecessary stress. And that’s a big no-no for me.
One important thing we can do to alleviate this feeling is to pace ourselves throughout the day. Take a couple of short breaks every few hours. Get out of that chair and do some stretches. Rest your eyes or go make some coffee! I find that these resets help me clear my mind and allow me to reorganise my thoughts on returning to my work.
When I deny myself breaks, I find I’m more likely to end up stressed or worried about completing tasks. Working to an unhealthy standard of constant productivity often leads to negative thoughts and self-doubt that actually tend to cloud my train of thought. After looking at some trees and having a cup of 3-in-1 Milo (not required but highly recommended), I usually arrive at a clearer picture of the steps I need to take and, in turn, more confidence in completing my work. Taking a step back when it’s needed can actually be the right step forward.
So, next thing you know work is over! Finally, more time to rest! Now to plop yourself on the couch, watch some Netflix, and start worrying about all the deadlines piling up and not being able to finish everything on time and — OH NO!!! If this is you, you might want to think about what it means to RELAX! Now’s not the time to drive yourself crazy — and anyway, you’ve got this!
It doesn’t take much to fall into the habit of always thinking or worrying about work. This might simply take the form of a feeling of uneasiness or even guilt while we’re resting; other times, we may consciously feel as though we are falling behind or not doing a good enough job. As best as we can, we should try not to spend our time off work worrying or stressing out about these (too often self-imposed) pressures. This defeats the purpose of resting and will only add to your malaise. We should try to compartmentalise work time and rest time, making sure we occupy a totally different headspace during each. I’ve learned this helps me get the most out of time spent away from work.
At Mighty Bear, we place a studio-wide emphasis on work-life balance. We’re not encouraged to work past working hours unnecessarily. I will occasionally check or reply to messages out of hours, but anything more can wait until tomorrow. It might take some adjusting to, but after a while of practicing and enforcing this separation you’ll likely find yourself feeling less pressured and more at ease. Fully unwinding means returning fresh for the next day of work, which can make all the difference to the quality of your output.
Everyone has their own way of unwinding. Find out what works best for you: A day spent lazing around in bed? Go ahead! A fun day out cycling across the island? Sounds fun! Staying up till 4 am binge-watching series, not getting the rest you need, and ending up late for work tomorrow? Hmmm, maybe not! Again, the idea is to make sensible use of the time you have to de-stress in a way that doesn’t lapse into your work life.
For me, spending time socialising with friends and pursuing my hobbies are great ways to unwind. Chilling and vibing with friends or hanging outside of work with colleagues can also be a great stress reliever. (At the very least, it's refreshing to talk about things other than work!) It can be as simple as a dinner out or window shopping; I find that just by going out I am able to transition into a clearer headspace. So don't hesitate to invite me for a meal! (Disclaimer: My attendance is subject to availability.)
On top of that, I’m always down to try new things and I keep an eye out for fun new activities. I’ve recently gotten into skating and longboarding, so I’ve been setting time aside midweek to meet up with my friends for a skate session. It’s always fun to pick up something new! Plus, having friends there with you just makes things that bit more fulfilling. If someone attempts a trick and lands it, we all cheer and celebrate. If they fall flat on their face we laugh and shame them! I’m kidding, we help them up and encourage them to try again. Very wholesome.
That being said, I do make sure to balance this out by finding time to relax by myself. I really enjoy a lazy day at home, whether it’s spent chilling on the bed, watching movies, jamming on my guitar, or playing some Butter Royale (a simply amazing game you should go check out right now, wink wink).
In all seriousness, I find that keeping up a healthy mix of different activities helps alleviate any stress I’ve picked up during the week. What’s more, as I expose myself to more and more new experiences, I find fodder for new ideas which could prove to be helpful creatively and actually end up informing my work!
When it comes down to it, it’s crucial on both professional and personal levels that we monitor our stress levels and take care of ourselves more. We may feel like we can push on and keep working nonstop, but in reality that’s a quick path to being burnt out. Pace yourself! We’re in it for the long haul and the better we get at acknowledging our need for breaks, the more productive we can hope to be. And with that, it's time for me to take a good break after writing this article! See you next time!
The Case for Rest was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.