Staying Healthy during Crunch Time
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
For those of us working in the video game industry, crunch time is an inevitable part of every project. Overtime becomes part of our normal schedule, and our lives outside of work all but vanish. However, working crunch does take its toll on everyone involved. Some cases are mild, such as lost sleep; others are severe, such as hospitalizations and critical illnesses. While crunch time is pretty much a guarantee, there are some things you can do for yourself and your health to alleviate the stress of working the extra hours.
Many of us are chained to our desks for eight or more hours every day trying to complete a project. But sitting for too long and staring at the computer for lengthy periods of time have adverse effects on our body. To counteract this, get up and move every hour to stretch to avoid being sedentary for too long. Spend part of your lunch or breaks (if you have them) walking around your workplace. If your company offers wellness programs, take advantage of them! Some companies provide rebates for biking or taking the bus to work, discounts for gym memberships and classes, and much more. There are also plenty of apps you can use to track your health. I've been using the popular AR game Pokémon GO for personal wellness, which I wrote about in another article. Find something that works for you and your goals.
It’s easy to reach for that energy drink or bag of chips to power through the day. However, these are short-term solutions that aren’t good for you. Replace sodas and juices with water, tea, and plain coffee instead. If your company provides snacks, go for the healthier options, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Don’t have time to make lunch at home? Go for the smarter options like salads and soups—and read the labels on what’s in those foods, as some of them can appear healthy but aren't. If you’re staying late for overtime, avoid common OT favorites like pizza, burgers, and tacos. If that’s what your company is offering for dinner, however, eat half of it and save the rest for the next day.
Don’t work sick.
When you’re busy and swamped with work, it’s easy to come into the office, even if you’re feeling unwell. If you are sick, stay home! Use this time to recover and get back to your normal self. Coming into the office sick will not only affect your work, but your illness could also spread around, causing others to fall ill as well. This in turn causes them to stay home and will negatively affect the project further. Get the rest you need so you can come back at 100%. If you absolutely must work due to an approaching deadline, ask your manager or supervisor if your work can be done remotely.
Some of you reading this article may think that this isn’t anything new. And you’re right—it’s not. This article can be applied to every other industry out there, from the medical profession to the law field. However, this message is especially important and serves as a reminder to game developers, some of the most overworked people out there. It’s crucial to take care of yourself during highly stressful periods. If you’re unwell, your work and your team will ultimately suffer.
The following is also something that’s not talked about often. If you are finding it difficult to handle the stress, reach out for help. Speak to a trusted friend or family member, seek professional guidance, talk to your manager about your workload, and take some personal time off for yourself. The goal is to keep you healthy and reduce your stress to a minimum. The website Take This has some great resources on mental health, with a focus on the video game industry. After all, it’s dangerous to go alone.