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Blowing Off Steam and Recharging

I’ve written a few things about why conferences and events are good, or why it’s valuable for an IT worker to go to them (Being Around Smart People is Exciting, The Conference ROI). I believe that if you take a motivated employee and send them to an event, it’s a win-win for both of you.

However what about the rest of your employees? What do you do to ensure they can blow off steam, recharge, and not burn out on the job?

On one hand you need to constantly be managing your people to detect issues, but I think it helps to give them the ability to self-manage themselves.

I read a great post by Andy Leonard on IT coaching. It’s worth the read, but what caught my eye was the Chill section. He said that people in his development room would appear to be laughing and having fun. Blowing off steam.

There is value to this. It allows people to unwind, and take a break from the intense concentration that good programming requires. Why does Google include games in their offices? Why does Fog Creek have a DVD player and game console in their Bionic Office? They realize it’s a good investment.

I worked in a startup, employee 22 or 23, and we had a room in our office dedicated to IT. Actually 2 rooms. One was large, and contained 7 desks, where we all sat together in a corner office. The other had a ping pong table, dart board, table hockey game, and a football. We’d work for an hour or two and then one of us would need a break and get someone else to come spend 5-10 minutes in a game. We might talk about an issue, we might design something, or just shoot the breeze, but it was refreshing. We had one guy that smoked, and we’d often throw the football with him while he had a cigarette.

Creative people need to de-stress.  Give them a chance, and then turn them loose on your problems. I think you’ll find it works better than chaining them to a desk for 8 hours.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Tim Mitchell on 16 November 2009

Good post Steve.  I think the gut reaction by many in management would be that such things are a waste of time.  However, assuming that you've got responsible people on the payroll who are evaluated on their accomplishments rather than the number of hours they warm their office chairs, it's a great way to let people disengage for a few minutes every now and again.

Posted by Steve Jones on 16 November 2009

Thanks, it's an attitude that is slowly changing, but not quickly enough. Too many managers still think that sitting at desk (or in office) = work getting done. Definitely not true.

Posted by Robert Pearl on 16 November 2009

Agreed. It has gotten increasingly difficult managing my personal and work life without the ability to work from home 1-2 days a week. Of course, I deal with different clients, but have been F/T not too long ago (and it almost destroyed me and very relieved I'm no longer there) This I believe is the new remote workforce of the 21st century!  Only, most of the corporate cogs have still not been convinced.  The ability to work remotely, can be and is  productive, allows work-life balance, and is the "green" way to work (lower carbon-footprint), plus maybe less H1N1 spreading....Just my two-cents!

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