Facebook co-founder Moskovitz: Tech companies risk destroying employees' lives

Facebook co-founder Moskovitz: Tech companies risk destroying employees' lives
By Marco della Cava, USA TODAY 9:29 a.m. EDT August 21, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO - The tech industry threatens to cannibalize itself, forcing its talented and young workforce to pursue work over life with the inevitable end result being compromised results and miserable employees.

That's the not the rant of a Silicon Valley outsider jumping on the anti-Amazon bandwagon launched by a recent New York Times expose of the Seattle's company's grinding business practices.

Rather, it's the regretful lament of Dustin Moskovitz, one of the founders of Facebook and current CEO of workplace collaboration start-up Asana.

"It is with deep sadness that I observe the current culture of intensity in the tech industry," Moskovitz wrote in a Medium.com essay Thursday titled "'Work Hard, Live Well." Its sub-headline: "Amazon isn't the only company burning out their employees with unsustainable expectations. Let's break the cycle."

"My intellectual conclusion is that these companies are both destroying the personal lives of their employees and getting nothing in return," he writes, citing the example of a recent Asana candidate who described a rival company's practice of offering company dinners late so workers would stay on into the night. "This kind of attitude not only hurts young workers who are willing to 'step up' to the expectation, but facilitates ageism and sexism by indirectly discriminating against people who cannot maintain that kind of schedule."

Moskovitz cites research conducted by automotive pioneer Henry Ford, which concludes that fewer hours actually increased employee output. "The research is clear: beyond 40 to 50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative," he writes.

So why are some tech companies driving their workers furiously? "It must be some combination of one, not knowing the research, two, believing the research is somehow flawed or doesn't apply to them (they're wrong), or three, understanding that many people see these cultural artifacts as a signal about the intensity and passion of the team."

The essay opens with a confessional tone, with Moskovitz posting a photo of his somewhat chubby 2006 self and noting that it was "a great year for Facebook, one of the worst years for me as a human." He describes drinking more soft drinks than water, and often going without sleep or food.

"You might think, but if you had prioritized those things, wouldn't your contributions have been reduced? Would Facebook have been less successful? Actually, I believe I would have been more effective: a better leader and a more focused employee. I would have had fewer panic attacks, and acute health problems—like throwing out my back regularly in my early 20s. I would have picked fewer petty fights with my peers in the organization, because I would have been generally more centered and self-reflective. ... AND I would have been happier."


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