Work-life balance as a designer

Hi all!
I am currently on my final year of design school/university and have chosen to write a report on how designers go about balancing/integrating their work-life ethics and how much “effort” is “enough”.
Because I am a student, I have no past experience in the industry and I presume that being a professional in the design world is a tough thing.
I would like to know:
•How many hours a designer typically works per day/a typical routine.
•How much do designers think about their current projects they are working on and does this affect relationships with family, spouses, friends in any way? (Good and bad)
•How much overtime work do you think you are doing and would you personally consider overtime work as a good thing?

It would be great if you can reply to my question with your thoughts on the work-life balance/integration as personal as possible.

Thanks so much!!! :):grin:

There are no “typical” designer hours. Sure you can probably land a 9-5 job or set your own freelance hours, but there will always come the day there is a project that requires you do more than 8 hours in one day in order to get it done in time. Some projects, like a store opening or a tradeshow have hard due dates that you cannot change. It’s called a “drop dead” due date for a reason. You work it until either it’s done or you drop dead trying. (it also applies to what a printer might tell you, if your files are too late for output in time for your due date.)

In my weird little corner of the industry, we deal with designers in different time zones, some as close as 1 hour difference and some on the other side of the world. It is usually the designer that gets to pull the weird hours that make the necessary communication happen. It’s also the designer that get stuck when things come down to the wire, all the content isn’t decided until the last minute, or something goes horribly awry with print files.

You decide how you want your career to play out.

You adapt your job and family life to make it work out best you can. Of course you may think about it on off hours, but it shouldn’t mess with your relationships unless you let it.

I think I answered the overtime thing. I personally consider OT a good thing because I’m paid hourly and am eligible for overtime. Up to a point. There is such a thing as too much OT. And if you’re salary, you get screwed. Latest trick of some employers out there is to consider designers a salaried “upper management” position. If you end up on that bus, be sure the benefits outweigh the loss of overtime pay.

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Thank you so much for your insight and taking your time to write this!
I can’t imagine how stressful it must be dealing with clients overseas with a tight deadline.
Would you have any tips or personal experience on how you manage your work time and down time?
Also, this might be a little personal, but how do you find your work-life balance? Would you consider it balanced at the moment?

As PrintDriver mentioned there’s no such thing as a “typical” routine and everyone’s answers will vary depending on multiple factors (whether they are freelance, inhous, work for an agency, whether they’re an art director, junior designer, motion designer, web designer, print production, etc.)

With that being said, below are my answers as an inhouse designer at a “medium-sized” company with a small internal marketing group.

•How many hours a designer typically works per day/a typical routine.

I usually work form about 8:45 until 5:15. My lunch breaks vary, but it’s usually between 45 minutes to an hour.

•How much do designers think about their current projects they are working on and does this affect relationships with family, spouses, friends in any way? (Good and bad)

Sometimes on larger campaigns/bigger projects I might think about the job outside of work to try and come up with a solution, but its not disruptive at all. Its usually later at night or just jotting down a note or sketch on my smart phone form time to time.

•How much overtime work do you think you are doing and would you personally consider overtime work as a good thing?

Overtime in my case is a bad thing because I’m salaried. So, overtime is unpaid. If I got paid, it probably would be okay, occasionally, but I really, really value my free time.

I will say that I’ve worked my whole 20 year career as an inhouse designer with 3 different companies and the experience has been similar in all 3 cases. One of the companies was a little more stressful because I was the only designer, so all the workload fell on me, but even then for the most part I kept to a 40 hour week.

I will say that effort and when is enough actually enough can be a challenge. Sometimes you just have to move on to the next job and so sometimes, yes, “good enough” is good enough. But there are also times you have a little more time and you can dedicate some more energy, tweaking, sketching, etc. to come up with some really great work.

Once again, being an inhouse designer, I might not kill myself to produce a simple piece that has a short “shelf life” and a smaller internal target. But then again if it’s a bigger external-facing piece or it’s going out to executives, I will probably dedicate much more time and not just settle for meh, “good enough”.

Work/life balance is important. And I think for the most part, for a medium to large-sized company if you work inhouse you can have more flexibility.

That’s my 2 cents.

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As mentioned, there’s no such thing as typical. For me, work probably averages 65-70 hours per week. I don’t really differentiate between work and everything else, so it sort of all blends together in a big blur. It seems stupid to others, but I’ve always done it this way, and I have no complaints about it.

I don’t really think of them at all unless I’m working on them. I worry excessively about all kinds of things, but rarely about projects I’m working on. I’m probably more concerned about the projects those I supervise are working on.

As for family and friends, well, I’ve never really thought about how work affects it. It just sort of seems to work out and has never been a problem. When a family or friend thing comes along, I stop work and do that instead. Having had no kids, has probably (and unintentionally) made that possible.

My day job is four ten-hour days of dull, repetitive meetings (in one right now) and supervising others. The rest of my seemingly excessive work hours are spent on freelance projects and type design.

I’m essentially holding down two jobs, but I’ve been doing it for many years, and it seems perfectly normal and fine to me. When I retire from my day job in four or five years, I’ll have more time for other things, but I have a feeling I’ll just fill up the extra time inventing more work for myself.

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How many hours a designer typically works per day/a typical routine.
I’m at work from 9-5.

How much do designers think about their current projects they are working on and does this affect relationships with family, spouses, friends in any way? (Good and bad)
I used to. I’ve become really good at compartmentalizing different aspects of my life. I don’t think about work issues at home and I don’t think about home issues at work.

How much overtime work do you think you are doing and would you personally consider overtime work as a good thing?
I think it’s a good thing as long as I have nothing else going on.

I’m salaried but I get time and a half overtime. Since I’m the highest paid employee here, time and a half is a lot- so my boss would rather me give any work that I’d be doing to someone else to work overtime doing.

So I get a few hours a year, maybe. I’m only up to like 6 this year. Last year I had like 40+ overtime hours because of a hurricane we had. I got paid during the week and a half that we couldn’t work then I got paid time and a half for the overtime I had to put in to catch up.

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I’ve moved from part-time freelance to completely freelance now, and I put in a LOT of hours, depending on project deadlines. I may start at 8:30, take a lunch break, work, take a dinner break, and go back to work until maybe 9, or maybe midnight.

But when some time opens up, I’ll do something fun, like horseback riding. And I have several workout buddies, so I try to get to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. Unless a project is at a critical point, I try to maintain a reasonable balance.

I do think about my projects a lot. I have my best ideas when waking up and in the shower, so a notebook is always close by.

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Right, thank you so much for your detailed input!

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