Ross McCray is a purpose-driven boss who pushes the limits of human endurance, at work and play. Workers at his company say they thrive off the extremity of working long hours.
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Ross McCray is a boss who does not believe in the concept of work-life balance. “There is no such thing,” says the 25-year old co-founder of VideoAmp, a digital platform based in Santa Monica, California, that allows advertisers and media owners to interact across different screens or devices.
McCray, who says he thrives on an “above and beyond” culture, follows an extreme workout routine to kick-start his day.
“I wake up every morning at 04:30, regardless, Monday to Sunday, because ultimately I love life and I want to get a lot of stuff done. I can’t really find the amount of time to do everything that I want to accomplish by waking up later.
“I want to be able to inspire people and be the best version of myself. In order to do that, it is very important to be physically and mentally healthy and to get that done in the morning so I can still go to work at around 08:00.”
Back to black
To avoid "decision fatigue”, McCray sticks to the same routine every day, to deal with his meals, domestic tasks and wardrobe. This includes wearing the same style of clothes every day.
“I don't want to wake up and say, 'What am I wearing today?'
“I'm a simple guy. I wear black pants and I wear black shirts. I go in the closet, I grab something and then I can move on with my day. I'd rather be putting my energy into thinking about things that are, in my opinion, more impactful.”
A 100-hour week
There are no scheduled office hours at VideoAmp. Some staff start early, at 06:00, to miss the morning traffic, while others prefer to work later. The office can still be busy at 22:00. McCray says he puts in more than 100 hours a week and he estimates that the average employee works for about 60 hours – combining office-based tasks and work carried out at home.
Work and play
During the day, employees often meet with a personal trainer, paid by the company, and get together for group yoga sessions. Defying conventional wisdom about balancing personal time with work duties, McCray encourages an environment where his employees practically live at the office. They work, work out, dine and play together. It is a “bulldog" lifestyle that may not be for all, but McCray believes his "high-freedom, high-responsibility” approach helps his staff unlock their full potential.
It is challenging, says C.K. Lin, VideoAmp’s head of culture, to work within a culture that does not regard work-life balance as a priority. He prefers to focus on work-life equilibrium where workers are “so comfortable with their core values and goals” that they can manage their work and home lives.
At job interviews, it is made clear to future employees that the company may not be a natural home for everyone. People who are sensitive, easily hurt by “constructive criticism,” interested in office politics or inclined to try to “outshine their colleagues,” would not be a good fit, he says.
“The type of quality I look for amongst all of the candidates… is warrior spirit,” he says. “We are a tribe and a tribe of people who want to build this company. There needs to be a level of warrior spirit before we let them join our tribe.”
Under US law, employers are not required to offer paid holiday time. VideoAmp does not have a holiday policy – employees are free to take as much time as they need, with full pay.
‘Unlimited’ holiday policies have become popular with many tech firms in the past few years, but it’s not common for workers under these schemes to take months off each year.
At VideoAmp, some people take up to six weeks, others rarely leave their desks. Michael Allman, a data engineer who enjoys overseas travel, says the policy does not mean he can take half the year off. “It means you talk to your supervisor, you have to be responsible about making sure that you’re getting your projects done, you’re collaborating with your team mates and you’re not unavailable too much,” he says.
Sonya Apreleva, a senior data scientist, says she does look at her work email while on holiday, to check on a job or fix a problem. But, she says: “That’s part of life.”