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Ask Slashdot: Does Your Work Schedule Make You Unproductive?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the only-when-breaking-bad-is-on-at-the-same-time dept.

Businesses 311

debingjos writes "Management at my company seems to think that our developers can get extra work done if they work extra long days. However, as one of the devs in question, I don't agree. When I've been coding for eight hours, my pool of concentration is exhausted. Working overtime either fails to produce any extra code, or the quality of the code is very bad. What is the community's opinion on this? This can be broken out further into several questions: What are the maximum number of hours you can work in a day/week and still be reasonably productive? When you absolutely must work beyond that limit, what steps do you take to minimize degradation of quality? If you're able to structure your time differently from the typical 9-5 schedule, what method works best for you? Finally, how do you communicate the quality problems to management?"

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Really? (1, Offtopic)

cyberpocalypse (2845685) | about a year ago | (#44907183)

"Does Your Work Schedule Make You Unproductive?" - no but Slashdot and TheChive sure do

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44907237)

"Does Your Work Schedule Make You Unproductive?" - no but Slashdot and TheChive sure do

Oh come now! You're Slashdotting is counted toward Professional Development. Same as for when the execs slip out for an afternoon of golf.

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44907429)

Does code golf count too?

Re:Really? (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44907459)

Does code golf count too?

Only if you take three beers out with you. No more. No less.

and the number of counting shall be three...

Re:Really? (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#44907541)

"Golf" is just "flog" spelled backwards.

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#44907253)

1- Manage MILESTONES, not MINUTES
2- Quality problems are why there is a design spec and QA engineering. If these are too "old school" for your management and methodology, expect the beating to continue. That means code coverage and quality will be measured by your customers. ;-)

Re:Really? (4, Interesting)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about a year ago | (#44907287)

lol

True. It really varies by the individual, amount of sleep, consecutive days of intensive work, etc.

As a person with an executive function disorder it's much much easier for me to work for extended periods of time because I don't recognize the time passing. I'll go until I can't go anymore. That said it takes me a while to get into "code mode" so a schedule which is interrupted by meetings and other crap means a huge loss of productivity for me.

Re:Really? (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#44907547)

a schedule which is interrupted by meetings and other crap means a huge loss of productivity for me.

Dude - that's the case with anyone - developer or not. Well, the sales guys and such may find them helpful...

Meanwhile, something about those meetings (and especially the excess of them) brings up something: I find that a lack of good design is often covered-up by a mass of meetings. I get that some information can only be correlated/gathered by a meeting, but too many of them I think tends to just make a mess. If your organization is plagued with excess meetings (or individual scrums that drag on for hours), productivity is going to go down the toilet no matter what you do.

Re: Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907657)

I find that the time of day has more bearing on productivity. Personally my best and most efficient work is done between 10:00pm and 6:00am. My work schedule is 9 to 5. I actually get more done on the two day weekend than throughout the work week (although fixing stupid user problems that arent programming related probably compounds this).

You will never change them (5, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#44907195)

You will never change them. Find a company that allows flex hours and doesn't manage by putting out fires with more fires. They are out there.

Re:You will never change them (5, Insightful)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year ago | (#44907407)

This issue occurs across all careers, not just programmers. A friend of mine is an accountant and he has had the same issues. What he has learned is to just move on to another employer. It's not worth the heartache and permanent hair loss to stick around.

Re:You will never change them (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44907477)

from the sounds of it he doesn't actually need flex hours.

he needs a company with a management that understands working day being 8 hours..

12 hours would still be 12 hours no matter how "flex" it was!

Re:You will never change them (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#44907631)

I agree but for one bit: It all depends on the individual, and what's going on at the time. A project that is interesting will keep me happily occupied for 12-14 hours straight (yet only feels like a couple of hours). A task that is exceedingly difficult will likely require a couple extra hours to solve (or reach a good stopping point) - just to avoid having to re-familiarize yourself with the problem all over again come the next day (or worse, waking up at 2:00 am to write down ideas and things your restless brain came up with while asleep).

Each person, each project/task, and each skill level/familiarity is different. On the latter, if I'm actually learning something along the way, cool - I can hang around a couple extra hours to finish it down and absorb what I learned. If I already know it and I'm just pounding things out because of a looming deadline, then screw it - I'm going home to get some sleep, deadline be damned just because some asshat was a bottleneck for everyone for so damned long, etc.

It's an organic problem, really - and I mean that in both the figurative and literal sense (after all, you gotta sleep/decompress sometime...)

Re:You will never change them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907563)

9-5

You're cute.

Uhhh... (1)

NeoStrider69 (2777567) | about a year ago | (#44907197)

I thought it was the thought of work that made one unproductive...

how bout (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907203)

insted of contigious over time, we work on saturdays and sundays

Re:how bout (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907325)

Or we could work healthy amounts that boost productivity and not cut into the days people know they will be off so they can schedule normal things with other people.

Best is two shifts with some recovery time between (4, Interesting)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about a year ago | (#44907205)

Now that's just me, but taking a break and stepping back makes a huge boost to my productivity. I also code best late at night because I'm not distracted or disturbed and can get into something without worrying about a schedule. I can do several days of 10-12 hours if needed but not more than that before work quality suffers.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (3, Insightful)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907277)

By "distraction" do you mean 3 group of people having right now conversation around me ? I hate openspaces...

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (2)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about a year ago | (#44907303)

If I had to work in a cube, someone would die.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (2)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907395)

I much prefer to work from home, provided I have a dedicated work area/machines.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#44907645)

I much prefer to work from home, provided I have a dedicated work area/machines.

Ditto - I found that I was way more productive when there wasn't a stream of folks interrupting, ambient noises, etc. As long as everyone at home knows to leave you be unless the house is on fire, working at home is awesome for productivity.

OTOH, it does make things harder for you in regards to office politics and all the intangible bits that can make or break your career...

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44907399)

If you're in a cube [imdb.com] , someone will die.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (1)

Alsee (515537) | about a year ago | (#44907603)

Agreed. I always insist upon a tetrahedron in my employment contract.

-

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (2)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44907461)

Noise canceling headphones work as long as you don't mind having to listen to music all your working day.

Sadly they don't stop people from talking to you.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about a year ago | (#44907687)

I tried out a pair of these the other day:
http://www.bose.com/controller?url=/shop_online/headphones/noise_cancelling_headphones/quietcomfort_3/index.jsp [bose.com]

Even without music they seemed to be able to almost completely cancel out background noise (though, again, sadly not people talking a few feet away). I would have bought them if I could justify spending over $300 on a pair of headphones right now. It was like ear pillows.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (5, Insightful)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44907449)

Pointless telephone calls and stupid 'do you have a minute' conversations waste about half of my day.

I'm with you on working outside office hours and ideally outside the office.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44907533)

Those developers in Bangalore must have it made!

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (2)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44907557)

Those developers in Bangalore must have it made!

The only thing I've seen them make is a mess.

Re:Best is two shifts with some recovery time betw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907613)

I think I must work at your company!

Too Old (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907209)

When you can't crank out 100+ hours/week at max capacity, you're too old for the job. Step aside and let us younger and more capable guys show you how it's done.

Re:Too Old (4, Interesting)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907255)

When you crank out 100+h/week, you should probably ask yourself question about your life (or lack of thereof)...

Re:Too Old (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907341)

When you can't do in 100+ hours / week what I can accomplish in 30, you're probably too young for the job. Step aside and let someone with some experience and perspective do the job that you obviously can't. Development productivity cannot be measured in hours, nor in lines of code.

Re:Too Old (4, Insightful)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44907475)

When you can't crank out 100+ hours/week at max capacity, you're too old for the job. Step aside and let us younger and more capable guys show you how it's done.

If you have to crank out 100+ hours a week on a regular basis you can't do your job.

Re:Too Old (5, Insightful)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about a year ago | (#44907695)

Or you're being expected to do more then just YOUR job.

Define Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907211)

Define "work". Is it 100% coding, or does it also include trips tot he restroom, lunch, water cooler discussions, etc?

Lucky you... (1)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907223)

You are lucky to get 8h of concentration. With lunch, pauses and interruptions, I am happy if I can get 5h or 6h of total code time. After ? brain... off...

When you start making more mistakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907225)

than you're fixing, it's time to go home.

I do get work done when I work late (2)

Archeopteryx (4648) | about a year ago | (#44907239)

In fact, I find that after the distractions of the office are gone, either because I am working at home or everybody has gone home, I can get a lot more done.

Re:I do get work done when I work late (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44907279)

Unfortunately, the main question seems to imply everyone staying late, which negates the positive side of what you are describing.

Re:I do get work done when I work late (3, Funny)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44907493)

Unfortunately, the main question seems to imply everyone staying late, which negates the positive side of what you are describing.

Not totally. The slackers that cause 80% of the noise and distraction all go home at exactly 4:59 pm.

Re:I do get work done when I work late (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907637)

Unfortunately, the main question seems to imply everyone staying late, which negates the positive side of what you are describing.

Not totally. The slackers that cause 80% of the noise and distraction all go home at exactly 4:59 pm.

That's bullshit. Those you are talking about hang out at work because that's their social life, and believe they're the best workers because they are on site the longest hours. The fact they drift through the day is irrelevant, their bosses merely see long hours and assume they're they productive ones. In fact, it's not even long hours, it's late hours. Those that get in early and are productive before these wasters get it are treated as you suggest. They leave on the dot despite being in 90 minutes before shits like yourself.

Re:I do get work done when I work late (3, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44907297)

In fact, I find that after the distractions of the office are gone, either because I am working at home or everybody has gone home, I can get a lot more done.

Agreed. I'm the most productive when everyone else has gone home. But I pay for it by being dull and generally unresponsive the next morning. I'm thinking it's like the old proverb, you can't make a string longer by cutting off a piece and tying it to the other end.

I think what we're saying is that there are productive hours and hours that you're required to ... be there ... and they're not necessarily the same hours.

The collateral damage of staying late is that the company will start *expecting* you to stay late.....

Compressed Work Week perhaps? (1)

MarioMax (907837) | about a year ago | (#44907245)

Ever give a thought to a compressed work week of 4x10-hours instead of 5x8-hours? You could also try 3.5x12-hours (3x12 one week, 4x12 the next week) but that kind of schedule works better when you need 24/7 coverage.

Re:Compressed Work Week perhaps? (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44907365)

Ever give a thought to a compressed work week of 4x10-hours instead of 5x8-hours? You could also try 3.5x12-hours (3x12 one week, 4x12 the next week) but that kind of schedule works better when you need 24/7 coverage.

My impression is that companies argue (at least to themselves) why do I need to offer 4x10 when I'm already getting 5x10? I'd just be letting them take another day off.

I worked for a manager once that didn't believe that anyone who practiced WFH actually worked when they were at home. His position was, you must be visibly in your cube to be considered to be working. Or, an employee at all. One might argue that just being seen at one's desk doesn't necessarily mean one is working, but I didn't make that argument, because I wanted to keep my job.

Re:Compressed Work Week perhaps? (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44907435)

My impression is that companies argue (at least to themselves) why do I need to offer 4x10 when I'm already getting 5x10? I'd just be letting them take another day off.

And that's when you describe to them the fact that they are exempt from paying you overtime, and part of that deal involves you working whenever you damn well feel like it. =)

Re:Compressed Work Week perhaps? (4, Insightful)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44907515)

I worked for a manager once that didn't believe that anyone who practiced WFH actually worked when they were at home. His position was, you must be visibly in your cube to be considered to be working.

Sounds like he was assuming other people would behave like him.

Marination (5, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | about a year ago | (#44907269)

Solving problems is like marinating meat. It takes time. If you rush it, you get a quick solution, but not the best. A quick solution might be acceptable for one meal, but not for future meals.
The "Eureka effect" isn't something new.

Re:Marination (4, Insightful)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about a year ago | (#44907439)

Please mod up everybody. This man has hit the nail on the head.

So many times I've been at work doing nothing because I didn't have a solution or at least I had a gut feeling that the approach I was taking wasn't a good one. A night's sleep and a hot shower next morning and ta-da! The solution is suddenly makes itself available.

8 is an entirely arbitrary number (5, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44907271)

In creative endeavours like coding, an 8-hour day of actual work is never, ever 8 hours of successful coding, and often results in questionable code that I have to rewrite later because looking busy when you really need a bit of time away from the desk. I think that if I could get away from the desk more without being perceived as slacking off, I would actually get more done.

Get up, take a walk around the block, play a little guitar, or whatever suits your fancy. As long as it gets your mind off the present obstacle. Come back with a fresh perspective and a fresh mind.

It certainly does worlds of good for my own free-time projects, but at work? It seems more like people believe they are paying for time, and not for actual work done.

Re:8 is an entirely arbitrary number (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44907383)

I absolutely agree. When talking about the number of hours worked, for any creative process, you're almost certainly asking the wrong question.

Re:8 is an entirely arbitrary number (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44907579)

I all ways reckoned a walk to a nearby pub and a pint and a few game son pinball helped to clear my mind if i was stuck on a coding problem.

nice (2)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year ago | (#44907275)

I recommend a 4 hour work day with same pay as the standard 80 hour work week.

No i sort of jest. You have to figure a few things. Management isn't rated on how well the code is written or how productive the people they're managing are... well in the most cases where you have the upper management who are brain dead. What instead is how much they can push their employees to make them look like effective managers.
Let me give you a basic example. If i work 8 hours a day, and the work i have assigned will take 3 weeks but i only have 1 week to do it in, a good manager will convince you to work twice as fast but not meet the deadline and then complain that they don't have enough resources. A bad manager will say it can't be done to upper management. Guess who is rewarded? The guy who puts on the dog and pony show for the upper management showing they can rally the troops in doing extra whether or not they met their goal.

So back to the point. It doesn't matter how effective you are. It matters how much they can squeeze out of you. Change that mindset and you've won. Good luck though, i doubt you'll change anyone's mind.

Re:nice (1)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907351)

I recommend a 4 hour work day with same pay as the standard 80 hour work week.

No i sort of jest. You have to figure a few things. Management isn't rated on how well the code is written or how productive the people they're managing are...

I disagree. My management used to be pretty lax, and we were productive. In the past year or so, they decided to put more management, including a daily "stand-up" meeting, (which used to take up to 1h30) more bogus release schedule and unattainable targets. No matter to say that my productivity declined exponentially. We went for an atmosphere where everybody was happy to an atmosphere where everybody is pissed (though not saying it). Finally, they got what they wanted. This is my last day in the company. All in all, I couldn't agree more to the quote saying that people don't leave bad company, they leave bad managers...

Re:nice (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#44907661)

We have the opposite here. My boss has made everyone chill out and leave the developers alone, and we are now the most productive we have ever been. People get up and talk a walk around the building if they need to. They don't monitor websites except for porn and we are faster than ever. People work late when THEY decide they need to and want to.

Depends on context for me (1)

KindMind (897865) | about a year ago | (#44907281)

For me, it depends on the context of what I'm doing.

If I am doing something very complex, with many pieces that I have to keep in my head at once, I am much more productive if I stay with it and work late, even through the night.

But if I am doing mundane bs stuff, one hour is too long before I start becoming unproductive.

I have found multiple days of late hours will fry me if I do too many back to back. I need a night off somewhere in there or I wind up sitting in my chair just staring and doing nothing.

Can you get into the 'zone'? (5, Insightful)

penguinbrat (711309) | about a year ago | (#44907283)

As a developer, once I'm in the 'zone' I can code until I'm practically asleep... Although if I was forced to code for X hours, I couldn't say if I could 'enter' that zone or not - my guess is I wouldn't considering I would probably be thinking more about how pissed I was.

Re:Can you get into the 'zone'? (5, Insightful)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | about a year ago | (#44907455)

+1 for mentioning "the zone". I've experienced this. It's that time when you know what you're doing and how you're going to do it and every line of code you write is progress.

Re:Can you get into the 'zone'? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#44907521)

As a developer, once I'm in the 'zone' I can code until I'm practically asleep...

Yeah, imagine you were working for yourself and set your own hours, would you really believe yourself saying "Nope, put in eight hours today no way I could get anything more done." or not? At the expense of having a life, sure I could put in more hours.

my guess is I wouldn't considering I would probably be thinking more about how pissed I was.

I'd be thinking about all the overtime pay I'd be getting, 150% and if they went all out then 200%. Did I mention I don't live in the US?

Re:Can you get into the 'zone'? (1)

penguinbrat (711309) | about a year ago | (#44907611)

I've 'coded' for 16+ hours straight both 'on the clock' for a given company, and working on my own. It comes down to wanting to accomplish something or not, personally if I've come up with a funky way of doing something (code wise) I'll stick with it until it works or it doesn't.

If you don't live in the US, your getting ripped off in the first place - the majority of the US is "ONLY" about profit, not living in the US changes the ball game completely.

Just a few hours in the morning... (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44907291)

I have found that I really only have a few good hours of high productivity (not a programmer now, but applies just the same to other work). This is usually in the morning and I find I can get a lot done if I don't have meetings and interruptions. The rest of the day I just schedule low engagement tasks.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself (-1, Flamebait)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year ago | (#44907305)

You aren't a special little snow flake.

Yes, there is a reasonable number of hours each day most folks can dedicate to mentally strenuous tasks, just as there's a limit to physical activity, but if you were getting your job done in the standard 8 hrs/day, 40 hrs/wk, this wouldn't be an issue.

That said, there are plenty of work places that are flexible with back office folks who aren't answering phones or otherwise directly interacting with customers.

If your boss is micromanaging your time rather than focusing on your work, either your work needs to get better or you need to find a different boss.

Re:Stop feeling sorry for yourself (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44907641)

"You aren't a special little snow flake."

He isn't, but I'd be pretty surprised if you weren't.

Get rid of 40hr work week (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907311)

I am productive in "sessions", usually lasting about 1.5-2.5 hours. I usually have two sessions a day (morning, afternoon). The remaining time I browse the web (hello, Slashdot!), or go to meetings (does that count as "productive"?). I could easily produce the same amount of quality working 5 hour days, instead of 8 hour days. After 6 hours, I'm pretty much useless, other than answering silly questions.

On top of that, I am more productive than entire departments (because I automate those departments!). I saw a graph recently of American productivity versus actual wages. It was quite depressing (for me), though I bet the CEOs were very happy to see it.

Studies say (4, Interesting)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44907313)

6 hours max per 24...

6.5 Hours Per Day is All I Saw Productive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907319)

Each day varies, but on a consistent day to day effort, I found code quality dramatically dropped at the 6 1/2 hour mark for the day, I'd literally chat with developers working long hours and found the same answer. They spent their next day cleaning up the mess they created the night before.

If you are mandated to work long hours, know your most productive coding hours and use them. Then use the other time for menial stuff, code check-in, documentation, etc.

Often having a couple of hours away from work, if you are allowed to work from home, can allow you to recharge for another couple of hours. So, leave normal hour, have dinner and relax, then remote in and continue to work until an hour before you plan to go to bed.

Strategy and management thinking is at a different cognitive level that tracking variables and solving equations (programming). If they've not lived the heads down coding life, they will not understand it. I've seen management level work go a good ten hours functioning, but again at some point, people start making mistakes.

6 Hours is my limit (1)

FuzzyDustBall (751425) | about a year ago | (#44907331)

I can program/develop for about 6 hours a day effectively the other 2 hours at work I use for emails meetings etc... I had at one time attempted 4 10 work days a week I found that often the last 2 hours I would either make a lot of mistakes or be unable to find solutions to an issue that I would find instantly when I got to work in the morning.
On the flip side although I am not at work I never actually stop working, I will even wake up out of a dead sleep and realize I have coded something wrong and have the correct way in my head for implementation in the morning.

Re:6 Hours is my limit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907421)

And this is one of the important lessons about informational professions, you can't truly turn it 'off,' so don't get so stressed about being 'on' all the time you spend at work. Take a shift that you can manage (and get managers to agree to), do what you can while at work, and pay attention to what sort of situations seem to trigger the revelation moments when your contribution to progressing the project are highest.

My experience (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907347)

I one took a job for a company developing a Futures Trading system, and they pushed us hard (at least 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week) in order to meet their imposed deadline.

We finally got the system to pass the entire test suite on a Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning, when I arrived at work, the outer office was full of boxes containing all of the personal belongings of the developers, along with the CFO, who was handing out pink slips.

Amazingly, they actually issued a press release boasting of how they had gotten rid of all of their expensive software developers since they were "done" with software development.

In 3 months, they were out of business.

Hope you fare better!

Re:My experience (1)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907387)

Morality: software engineer must learn to say "no".

Re:My experience (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44907671)

Morality: software engineer must learn to say "Ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh, wait, you were serious?

BWAAAAAA Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!"

FTFY.

Life's more fun when you openly deride stupid, unreasonable assholes.

All work and no play... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907353)

It's pretty pointless trying to be creative even after 6hrs...add 4 to 6 additional hrs on top of that and you're pretty useless and not much value for money.
Menial work perhaps...but if the company's future is at stake...which it eventually will be, one would want engineers, programmers and other creative staff at their peak performance. You're bloody useless if you work 50hrs+ weeks...

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy....

Flex hours is the way (3, Insightful)

Rigel47 (2991727) | about a year ago | (#44907359)

Any company that measures progress by how many hours your ass is in the chair is not a company worth working for. It's a sign management is not only incapable of measuring real productivity but that they are also indifferent to your well being.

It's not the same thing but I work from home a couple days a week and it's great. I save a couple hours/week on the commute and get to spend some time working in a way that's best for me. And if after lunch I'm tired.. I go hit the couch for 20 mins of shut-eye. Wake up refreshed, far more productive, and in a better mood for when the kids and wife get home. WINNING.

8 hours solid coding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907361)

I'm lucky if I get 1 hour before interruptions.
But in the rare cases I do get good stretches of time at about 8-10 hours my brain needs a break from coding (and no a break / 2 shift does not help).
That said on some interrupted days I have worked almost 8 hours after my shift in the quiet office and got more done than I could have during the normal work day, mostly because my concentration was not broken mid thought so many times.

The bigger issue is lenght of time units (that is time you should dedicate to a task in one stretch)... in business it is one hour for a task. for coders I've seen suggestions of 1/2 day or longer. It takes a lot to convince business type bossess to believe that.

I've also done a 40+ hour code-a-thon during a merger and got immense work done. though at the end of it I was toast for the weekend.

Not meaning to post as AC but cannot remember my ID on this computer and I am at the end of work day at end of work week... I'm done.

Depends on how interesting the work is. (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about a year ago | (#44907363)

I can work about 30 minutes on really boring stuff before I want to start sabotaging the work so no one is ever tempted to try to get me to do that kind of work ever again, and I can work like 16 hours a day on something if I find it really interesting.

For my current job I am obligated to work 9 hours a day, and that seems pretty doable most of the time. I do however get a disproportionate amount of interesting work compared with other developers though.

12 Hours (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#44907369)

I find 12 hour days 7 days a week are okay for a while. After about 6 weeks you start to burn out and need to get some down time. I used to work 20 hours a day for weeks at a time back in my 20's and 30's. Now that I'm 50 I can't pull that kind of schedule. It's kind of like you work, eat and sleep and nothing else. Life turns into a fog.

No job, no schedule, no worries (5, Interesting)

seniorcoder (586717) | about a year ago | (#44907377)

Eat your hearts out.
I'm recently retired and loving it.
I'm currently building a kayak rack in my back yard without any deadlines.
Sometimes I just put down the tools and paddle off to check my crab pots.
At the start of every day I sit on my patio overlooking the water, drink my coffee and decide what (if anything) I will do for the rest of the day.
I wish I could have retired 40 years ago.
So long and thanks for the fish.

Office Space (5, Funny)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about a year ago | (#44907385)

I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

Re:Office Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907599)

I'd say more like an hour or two out of the entire week. The rest of the time it is doing simple things that don't require much mental thought. That is the result of required 12 hour days.

The last 4 hours of unpaid time of the day are just spent starring at a screen or reading / wasting mine and the companies time.

In my experience, yes (3, Interesting)

ErichTheRed (39327) | about a year ago | (#44907397)

One problem that IT folks often come across, especially with development jobs and especially at startups, is the expectation that long hours produce better results. Large companies also do this -- Google, Microsoft, etc. have on-site everything as a perk for employees, but also to keep them there for the maximum possible time. This works very well when you're just out of college -- you're used to working long hours to finish stuff, the dorm-like atmosphere is inviting, etc. But it really gets old when you're older, more established and have things outside of work like a marriage, family, etc.

Also, employers hate to add staff in IT roles because most of them see the entire function as a necessary evil. If you're in one of these places, you'll never get free of being called to fix stuff out of hours and working like crazy to put out fires. On top of that, many see themselves as "great places to work" and don't think that their workers feel any of this pain.

The one common myth throughout IT employment is that every place is like this. It isn't -- I happen to work for a place that allows flexible hours. And although we're lean in the staffing department and often have to work *a little* extra time, the workload isn't crushing. There are trade-offs, and people who work here know them. Pay isn't at the top of the range, the stuff we work on is typically not cutting edge (but not ancient either,) and the work our department does (systems integration) is very difficult if you don't have the right attitude/mindset/troubleshooting brain. In addition, those flexible hours get cashed in for marathon work sessions on very rare occasions. My company basically says "keep sane hours, make sure you're around for meetings, and we reserve the right to fly you halfway across the world if a disaster happens." I could get a job working myself to death for an investment bank or video game company, but I have a family at home now.

Seriously, not everywhere has a toxic culture. And yes, I'm aware that there are a lot of people who love working insane hours and have very little to do outside of work. That's why different companies have different work styles.

A broken assembly line mentality. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907401)

Any management system that is dictating software development labor via an hour metric doesn't get it at all. You work to achieve an objective. Objectives are to be met on a schedule. Schedule is arrived at by monetary and customer specifications. Therefore the hours you work are inconsequential so long as you achieve the objectives on schedule. Prescribing hours (especially overtime) is non productive micro managing. Some people acheive in an hour what others take all day.

If I can meet objectives working 10 hours a week and slashdotting the other 30, then so be it. You are paying me for my contribution, not how many hours I sit at my desk.

Now if you have people failing to meet objectives or schedules, that is an entirely different thing to be dealt with in a variety of ways.

Used to (5, Informative)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year ago | (#44907427)

This will all be 'used to':

What are the maximum number of hours you can work in a day/week and still be reasonably productive?

Entirely dependent on the project. If I was intensely interested, I could work much longer.

When you absolutely must work beyond that limit, what steps do you take to minimize degradation of quality?

There is no 'absolutely must'. If you have a limit, it's a limit. It's unhealthy to push past that, people have died.

If you're able to structure your time differently from the typical 9-5 schedule, what method works best for you?

Four long days followed by three off.

Finally, how do you communicate the quality problems to management?

Walk up, say "Hey....

Night Owl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907441)

I don't know the reason behind it, but I get my best work done in the evening. I always have. I work best when the office is empty and I'm up against a deadline where I absolutely have to get it done. If it's, say, Friday, and I need to get it ready to demo by Monday, I can pull insane hours into the night on Friday, and maybe even work one day of the weekend, and get more done than I'd gotten done during daylight hours for the past five work days. I get a second wind in the evening, especially after a dinner and some caffeine, and the absence of talking coworkers makes it even better.

The "quality problem" for me seems to be that management insists that I work at the same time as everyone else. I'm easily distracted by conversations, noises, food smells, etc. I work much better alone. They hired me to code; I occasionally need to sync up with coworkers, but not really that often. And when I do, I can usually resolve it via IM or email. It'd be great if I could work alone more often. I grind out a lot of production-quality code with fewer errors when I do.

As for the max. hours -- I could probably work a 40 hour week "energized" (alone and at night) in addition to my 40 hour daytime week when I'm not really getting much done, and spending too much time on slashdot, etc. Of course I could just as easily spend the daytime at home on my home PC not even pretending to work, come in at night, work, and be just as productive. The only thing that'd do is that my coworkers who have questions (there are a few who like to bug me because apparently I know things) would be unable to ask me questions in-person during the day, which is a significant part of the reason why I'm so unproductive during the day. Bad for them; great for me.

nothing new... check out DeathMarch (2)

Fubari (196373) | about a year ago | (#44907445)

Management at my company seems to think that our developers can get extra work done if they work extra long days.

Your management's "thinking" is nothing new.
*shrug*
What you're really asking is how to deal with your management.
So here, check out Death March by Yourdon. [amazon.com]
This will answer all your questions (as well as things you didn't think to ask), with more wisdom and insight than you're likely to find via "Ask Slashdot."
It will also give you some perspective to make informed decisions about your options.
The reviews on Amazon will tell you if this is a book for you.

This is so individualistic (2)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#44907447)

In a perfect world managers would just tell their employees

Your job description and duties are those that an average person of your skills can do with a 40-hour workweek. You can set your own schedule and work as little or as much as you need to, just get the job done and be available for meetings on short notice during "core business hours." If you get bored, let me know, there is always more work to do.

There is no such thing as a perfect world.

Re:This is so individualistic (1)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907497)

This is pretty much called "being an independent consultant" !

Re:This is so individualistic (1)

mx+b (2078162) | about a year ago | (#44907527)

I wish the perfect world manager was much easier to find! I have noticed that when I am focused on a project, I can actually work for a whole day -- 10-12 hrs or even longer sometimes (with 15 min breaks here and there for a snack or bathroom). It can be incredibly productive because I keep on the same train of thought without interruption and just hack out all of my ideas. However, when I do that, the next day I need to recover and relax and not do anything useful. If I could set my hours and work a couple of long days and then take a long weekend, I think that would be ideal. But too many bosses want to see warm bodies from 9am-5pm regardless or whether that is efficient.

management (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | about a year ago | (#44907469)

Unfortunately, management is a largely evidence-free space. Research on all your questions, and a thousand more, exists. 99% of managers don't seem to know anything about management nor people. Not in the way anyone else knows anything about their profession. That's largely because few people actually study management, most are something else by profession and were promoted to management positions, and if you're lucky they got two weeks of training.

Your case is typical. Managers don't know about how people work, so they try to manage them like any other resource. But, as the excellent little book "Peopleware" put it: "Adding manpower to a late project makes it later."

If you want to have a good job - leave. A company with that kind of management is unlikely to change.

If you can't or don't want to, buy your manager that book, or some other. Send it to his private address, anonymously. You don't want to embarass him. He most likely knows that he needs help, but he would never admit it.

Re:management (1)

x0ra (1249540) | about a year ago | (#44907523)

He most likely knows that he needs help, but he would never admit it.

Or just consider that you are an arrogant SOB.

Re:management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907649)

It's not just management. Have a look at the MAFIAA and piracy. Every single assumption they make has been shot down by hard facts but they just keep plugging their "solutions."

Who cares what the community thinks? (5, Informative)

seebs (15766) | about a year ago | (#44907485)

This is a well-researched topic with hard data available. And it's pretty unambiguously and consistently the case that the hard data show that working extra hours results, not just in lower productivity per hour, but lower productivity overall. Which is why people who start pushing for extra hours can't seem to catch up -- they're making it worse rather than better.

Your managers are trying to find out just how much gasoline they have to pour on this fire to put it out, and I don't think you can reasonably expect them to get smarter.

Hmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907565)

Work harder slave, or you'll be replaced.

Paye me more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907567)

I few months ago I asked my employer for a pay rise, and was told that I would not get one. So I have given my self a pay rise by working extra hours (I get paid by the hour), but doing an extra 10 hours a week I am sure that I am not being more productive, by Thursday I am really tired, and Friday is almost pointless.

So to sum up my employer is now paying me more money for less production. Simply they should have given me the 5% I asked for so that I could continue doing the 40 hours a week I was doing, rather than what is now happening, I now do 50 hours (20% more cost to them) for the same output.

It isn't the hours worked it is the environment (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907577)

I work for myself, so no one tells me when to start or stop working. I rent an office and work offsite most of the time so I'm able to come and go as I need to. In some sense I'm the extreme example of someone who is free to work whenever, however, and sometimes whereever I want to. The only complication is that fact that a few of my clients end up schedule regular (very useless) meetings on status. Apart from that I tend to work normal hours - 9 AM to 6 PM. Then, if I have the energy and the appetite I'll work at night and on (usually) several hours on the weekend.

In the end, when you own your own schedule you usually end up emulating a schedule that resembles a normal workday, but the main difference is that there is no one telling you when and where you need to be at what time. I find myself way more productive in this arrangement than I was when I worked at a traditional office job. Here are the side-effects:

1. I work way more than anyone I know, and I squeeze more productivity out of my day. When no one is telling you to come in all night to meet a deadline - guess what? You do it anyway and it doesn't feel bad.

2. If I'm having a bad day or if I want to take a day off, I do it and I don't feel bad about the decision making someone in HR think less of me.

3. I can get into the "zone" very easily because I don't have some pinhead HR jackass telling me to go to the lunchroom to celebrate all of the people with September birthdays.

If management is really interested in increasing productivity tell them to "Fuck off, and stop treating us like managed cattle." If you do that, you'll probably find yourself fired (which honestly might not be the worst thing in the world).

Studies show 8 hour days are a limit (5, Interesting)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about a year ago | (#44907591)

I worked in hospital IT several years back. Hospitals routinely schedule doctors and nurses for 12 hour shifts 3 days a week.

While I was there a report was released that said that after extensive study of doctor and nurse patient care habits throughout their work day, they determined that the quality of patient care dropped sharply after 8 hours. During hours 9-12 the risk of being misdiagnosed (incompletely or inaccurately), administer incorrect medications (patient allergies or medication contraindications), administer incorrect dosages of medications, etc. The risks were almost double compared to the previous 8 hours. After hour 12 the risks got even worse. The study estimated that preventable accidents would fall over 75% by changing to four 8 hour days.

Unfortunately, the attitudes of doctors and nurses were that the quality of their patient care was just fine, and nobody wanted to give up the schedules that they currently had. The medical field has a culture of overworking yourself and working while tired, so they are highly resistant to change even in the face of such profound data revealing how destructive their behavior was to patient well-being.

No problem with long days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907593)

3 ArbZG says (my translation):
"The working time on workdays may not exceed eight hours. It can be extended up to ten hours only if over six months or 24 weeks on average eight hours are not exceeded."

Workdays are Monday to Saturday, so the continuous maximum allowed by law is 48 hours a week.

There are days when I have so much fun working on a problem that I work for more than 11 hours but I keep records to work no more than 40 hours a week.

long hours with no nightlife (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44907619)

If i can get away from the office at lunch and then take a two or three hour dinner break I'm probably the most productive after dinner to midnight. Less interruptions and reasonable music or background noise keeping me focused on the task at hand. I would rather give up one or two nights a week then one weekend day, but either way, this needs to be during crunch time and not lack of planning or funds.

Yes, you are being unproductive (1)

Alioth (221270) | about a year ago | (#44907627)

A few years ago I was on a very large project (over 1MLOC of C++ code in the end). The customer required us to be using and audited to at least SEI CMM level 3 (I think this is called something different now) and so we underwent putting in all the processes in place. We all predicted we'd hate all the formal process, but an interesting side effect is we got very good at sizing new features and the various other change requests we'd get, and the consequence of this was it was very rare we actually needed to do overtime.

I think this had a huge positive impact on the quality of our code - our defect rate was well below what was expected of a project this size, and I think a lot of this was because developers were well rested when they arrived for work the next day and also got time to unwind, which in the 60+ hr/wk days wasn't happening. Unfortunately management forgot this lesson and put in a sort of back door mandatory overtime rule (despite it not being necessary) by making everyone commit to a certain "utilization rate" (100% would mean you never took any vacation, sick days, nor national holidays nor did any admin work, and they wanted everyone to commit to 95% utilization which meant realistically 60 hour weeks). Fortunately, I left at that point. Others have also left since because of this policy (I left for other reasons, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to stay too much longer).

Non-Coders will Never Understand (1)

occasional_dabbler (1735162) | about a year ago | (#44907683)

I keep most of my coding for my own self-employed projects because I know that no manger would ever let me work how I want to. I can spend a week mulling over a problem, every waking and sleeping hour and the solution will come to me while I'm jogging or eating or on the can and it will take an hour of coding and twice that testing/debugging. It might only be ten lines of code but it will be something that gives me a glow inside of something being properly right.

My point is that coding is a creative process; an art, if you like. Who cares how long Leonardo took to paint the Mona Lisa?

Incompetence (1)

themightythor (673485) | about a year ago | (#44907693)

When you earnestly believe that you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your effort, there's no end to what you can't do.

http://www.despair.com/incompetence.html [despair.com]

Which is not to say that you're not skilled. But management trying to solve the problem of falling behind by saying "work more hours" is futile.

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