Nights on the couch in the foyer of my first agency.

55 days without any day off. Average of 16 hours per day.

It’s a rite of passage in the agency world. Been there, done that. Agencies tend to hire a lot of workaholics. They’ll keep the light on for you, right? No, they might destroy your culture.

The martyr

You know him: The guy that sends out an email at 2am. He’s closer to the Blackberry than his girlfriend. He stays late every day. And makes sure everybody knows it. Through verbal cues “I only had 4 hours of sleep” and the negative attitude (“I’m shouldering all this work, I should be cranky 24/7”.)

His only joy is to make other people feel bad. When they leave at 6pm to start the second part of their day, he just got a fresh cup of coffee and starts his real work. Hoping the others will think of themselves as lazy. Not as good as him. Not as dedicated.

As a manager, you shouldn’t encourage this behavior. You should regard it as a problem. How come this person needs 16 hours to get the job done while his counterpart needs only 8 hours? You should sit him down and talk about it. That you’re concerned about his work hours and that one day he will hate the job he loved when he started.

The time thrower

The other workaholic is the guy that throws time at problem.

Big pitch? “Honey, I won’t see you and the kids for a while.”

New campaign? “Let’s order crates of Red Bull. And don’t make any plans.”

On-boarding a new client? “Where are your sleeping bags?”

While they tend to throw time at problems, they also love to do that to the rest of the team. It’s one thing to work yourself to death, it’s another thing to expect that from everybody else. The funny thing is, time throwers don’t care about timelines or project hours. They always double up. Any problem will be solved through putting in more time. At the expense of their health, family and team.

Deadlines are deadlines

Sometimes you have to work long hours. You have to meet an insane deadline. A fire drill. You’re still looking for a good idea or solution. So, you better go to work. But, that should be the exception. Not the rule.

As an executive in an agency, it’s your job to create an environment where creativity and teamwork can thrive. It seldom does in front of computer screens. Or after 16 hours of work.

Force martyrs to work more smartly. Force time throwers to stay within their time budget. Have a nap room. Inspiration almost never comes when you’re trying to beat it out of yourself or your team.

I post this on a holiday. I know that many agency types are hunched over their computers right now, with a cold cup of coffee next to them. Come Tuesday, their brain will be as fresh as the coffee at the dimly lit truck stop in Merced. While the others that took three full days off are fresh and rested, able to react to new challenges. I know who I want to work with come Tuesday.