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What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?

by mischief (Hermit)
on Sep 09, 2000 at 01:58 UTC ( #31693=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

After reading jcwren's post on What do you wear to work?, I thought I might ask a related question that has been a constant problem for me: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?

Personally, I think the only reason that a programmer (or sysadmin, or whatever) should have to get to work early in the morning is if they have to interact with other people (something that, if they are expected to get something done as far as computers are concerned, should be minimal). So, if they have a meeting with a client or their manager wants to see them, or maybe there's a project they're working on that involves constantly keeping in contact with other people, then perhaps it might be logical to be in the office at 9:00am. But why else?

In a typical office, there are lots of people milling around, asking questions, playing music, delivering mail and generally creating an un-zen like atmosphere. After 6 o'clock when everyone leaves, the internet connection is faster and you don't have to wait for the coffee machine and there's noone who wants "just a quick question" with you. It's quieter. You're more relaxed because you started the day how you wanted to. You get more done. All those little requests that you would normally have been asked throughout the day can be finished in one nice easy chunk, so you're free to get on with the more interesting and time consuming things.

What do others think? Are there any managers out there that think I'm totally wrong?

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(jcwren) RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by jcwren (Prior) on Sep 09, 2000 at 02:28 UTC
    I think this is just a ploy to get XP for asking a similiar question! (J/K)

    Seriously, many companies have the concept of "core hours". This is usuall 9:30 or 10:00 AM to 4:00 or 4:30 PM. If you're part of a team, this is when you should all be there. I've worked on jobs before where 1 or more of the critical developers wasn't there, and it really can wreak havoc.

    I'm a believer in flex time and comp time. Flex is important, because 1/2 an hour can make the difference between my drive in being a living hell, and just pure hell. I *try* to be at the office by 8:45. I do this because I (currently) work 3 10 hour days, since my current contract is 30 hours a week. With a 45 minute lunch, that puts me out of the office at 7:30 PM. The drive home is pretty nice at that hour, but the drive in is really bad if I don't leave the marina by 7:45 or 8:00, at the latest. It's worse when school is in season (don't get me started about these damn parents that drive their brats to school, or let them drive, instead of taking the bus a.k.a. mass transportation!).

    I do think if you pull an all nighter working on some hot and heavy code, you shouldn't be expected to show up at 8:30 the next morning. There has to be give and take. You also shouldn't show up at 9:30 every day, and leave at 3:30, with an hour lunch. Then, you're not honoring *your* part of the 2000 hours a year contract that I've menionted in another thread.

    I've never been a manager, and Dog knows, I don't want to be (you over there! Change that shirt! And be here on time tomorrow!). But, if I were, there would be *some* rules. There has to be, anytime there's interaction between an employee and the rest of the company. If your arrangement is finish project 'X' by date 'Y', and no one needs to see you before it's done, do whatever you like. But if you're expected to be there to meet with vendors, interact with other team members, whatever, there *has* to be a certain window of time when people can be expected to find one another, and ask questions.

    Where does this leave projects that are teams split up across the US, or the world? In a quandry. It's been my experience that work throughput is drastically reduced for the *majority* of groups that work like this. You'd be surprised how much is accomplished in impromptu hallways meetings, over lunch, etc. It takes a good bit of discipline to work with people 6 time zones off from you, and not get hung up by a 24 hour turn around when you have a problem. You *hope* there are things you can do in the mean time, while you're waiting for a response, but if you're in the design phase of a project, or debugging hardware, and waiting for news from a chip vendor, often you're just burning hours while you wait.

    I do think that in this day and age, more people need to telecommute. With growth of cities, pollution, fossil fuel consumption, and all those facts, work at home WILL become more prevailent. But it takes discipline and coordination for that to work. Some people see work@home as 'No one knows I'm playing FreeCell all day'. Or, less severe, "I'll go to the store now, and work later". This is why some companies, particularly old-school are so resistant to work@home. No real accountability. They're still paying you for that time you're supposed to worknig at home, and if you're not working, you're screwing the company. An employer/employee relationship is a two way agreement, after all.

    Brief diversion and diatribe here: You may like to think that "Well, if I get the project done by the due date, it doesn't matter what I do". This is a bad attitude, I think. The fact is, as an employee of a company, you are a company resource. If you weren't goofing off at home, and finished the project 1 month eariler, that would be 1 month less that the company has to recoup, and you could be on another project. So it's not a matter of "Oh, I'll finished as by the due-date", it should be an attitude "I'll finish this as fast as possible, within reason".

    One other thing I was going to mention that was touched on. Work conditions: Few offices can have the ideal arrangement of every employee having an office. Offices are often still used as a sign of rank, rather than effectiveness. Cube farms will exist because they're space efficient. They have other problems, but building cost is something that's very visible as a bottom line item on a financial statement. You being 3 hours less effective per week is not. Also, building codes won't allow for offices at the density that cube farms can be put in, because of handicap access, and fire codes. If the cube farms are that noisy, the office policies need to be evaluated. Some places implement "quiet time" for 2-3 hours a day. This isn't a bad idea, at all, and sometimes is the best compromise for a cube farm enviroment. Cubes don't represent an ideal enviroment, compared to offices, where you can close the door.

    So, all in all, core hours are essential to a development group. Flex time is important, and core hours, by definition, accomodate flex time. If you want to pull a few all nighters, and fix something or finish eariler, you should be able to take that as comp time. If you work at home, you have an obligation to actually accomplish some work, and not play FreeCell. It's all give AND take, not give OR take.


    e-mail jcwren
      I think this is just a ploy to get XP for asking a similiar question!

      Of course! But only as much as your were asking a similar post to Ovid's Why do monks put up with it?. ;-)

      Seriously though, this is something that I've thought a lot about in the past. Your post and the replies to it made me want to see what others thought about this particular question. I've worked at companies before where I have been mostly independent in what I've been doing; ie, normally there is no reason that I have to be at work at a particular time (except of course for things like meetings etc). I've argued vehemently that I should be allowed a lot more flexibility than I'd had but mostly been denied this because, as BlaisePascal said, I didn't have enough "political clout".

      I've actually come to more or less the same conclusion that you've expressed in your reply - that core hours are important, but traditional times to be in the office are less so.

      You mentioned working from home:

      > I do think that in this day and age, more people need to telecommute.

      I agree with this, but I don't think that the infrastructure is available yet where this can become common practice. Even when the infrastructure is there, I reckon it'll take a while for it to catch on, for the same reason that programmers are required to wear suits to work.

      > So it's not a matter of "Oh, I'll finished as by the due-date", it should be an attitude "I'll finish this as fast as possible, within reason".

      Again, I agree with you. I just think that being able to set your own hours, at least in the case of most programmers, makes you more productive. If you aren't able to manage your time yourself you'll find out fast because you won't be able to keep up with what you have to do - either you'll get fired or you'll learn to organise yourself properly.

      You also talked about office space. As you say, most offices are much less than 100% perfect as a working environment and could be drastically improved (but aren't, generally for the reason you say - it doesn't look good on a balance sheet).

      This is one of the biggest reasons I think it's important for techies to be able to manage their own time. I know that if I come in at 11am and leave at 8pm, I'll get way more done than if I have to be at work from 9 to 5. Most of the other reasons for wanting to come in whenever I like are for the most part selfish - I prefer to stay up late and get up late, I like staying in bed for as long as I like and I prefer travelling to work when it's not so busy on the train etc. But the fact being able to come in when I want means I'm more productive is something that I find hard to accept that it's considered a Bad Thing.

        The balance sheet for good office space is much different than it looks at first glance. Steve McConnell does a nice chapter on this in Rapid Development and concludes that for prices in his area at that time skimping on office space to get more developers was a foolish decision - by about a factor of 100. (BTW I recommend the book, a good chunk of it will give techies good facts and figures to use to make a good case to management..)

        Of course businesses have been ignoring research for years that says that code reviews are cost effective just in terms of improvements to debugging time. Let alone the implicit training benefits! In general costs that nickle and dime you to death get ignored by people because the up front bills are more obvious...

(kudra: I require flexible hours) RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by kudra (Vicar) on Sep 09, 2000 at 11:14 UTC
    Like many other people, I like working flexible hours. More than like, I require them. I've worked jobs where I had strict hours (either from needing to work on group projects or because the managers were deluded), and found that the end result was that my personal life was in chaos and I hated the job. Since I don't see much point in working at a job that makes me unhappy if there are other alternatives, I will keep flexible hours as one of my working requirements.

    I've considered what my life would be like right now if my job wasn't flexible. I would have wasted my entire vacation time taking half-days off to do just the most necessary of the errands (such as appointments with the doctor or dentist or a tax advisor, or hours spent on the phone trying to fix the mistakes of the phone company before the phone is disconnected, etc--the unimportant errands like picking up a package from the postoffice or getting my hair cut would just be abandoned) that I now do in the morning before I go to work. I would have been taking unpaid vacation on the days I've worked from home--the days when someone had to remain in the house because 'sometime' the washing machine repair-person would show up, or 'between 9 and 4' a new oven would be delivered, or 'at one' the heating would be inspected (because I commute to another city for work, the last item couldn't be just a long lunch break from the office). I really don't know how people with strict schedules manage--for me it seems more of a necessity to have flexible hours than a luxury, unless you can pay someone to do things for you, or live with someone who isn't working (or has more flexible hours than you or a different schedule).

RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by Fastolfe (Vicar) on Sep 09, 2000 at 02:03 UTC
    It also depends on how much interaction you need with fellow developers, the client, or any other technical resources your staff provides.

    Myself, I routinely test new features with the client, need to consult with our system administration group or database group or just need to coordinate some development with other developers. Some of this can be done by e-mail just fine, but if my hours are 4-hours off-sync with the rest of them, I may end up waiting for certain things to get finished or answered.

    In addition, if shit breaks, managment will be infinitely happier if I am on staff and on the problem than if they have to call me at 10am and wake me up. They might decide to hire someone else to be available when I'm not, and it's just one step from there to outright replacement.

    But it depends totally on your work environment too. If you have a fast link from home and have no problem hopping on as if you were in the office, "off-time" might not be as "off" as it might be for other developers, so it might not be a problem. It really depends on the criticality of your position and of the applications/systems you support and how many others are around at any given time to pick up the slack while you're out.

RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by BlueLines (Hermit) on Sep 09, 2000 at 04:51 UTC
    Short answer: you should be around for at least 4 of the "normal" working hours.

    Long answer: I'm a programmer/sysadmin/networking guy/general hacker for a small start up in the Bay area. Having moved here from the east coast from my last job, i've come to enjoy the freedom that people in out industry get in California. My job is very leniant; I come in anywhere between 9am and 2 pm most days, and stay at least 9 hours. There's two kinds of days for me: doing my work, and fixing other people's work. The former usually involves writing tools to automate the latter. The hours after 6pm are valuable to me, since i can usually get more done between 6-9pm than i can from between 9am-6pm. With no questions/meetings/lunches/etc to do, my mind can stay focused on one particular task. And there have been months where i stay 6 hours behind most of the other employees here. As far as raw productivity goes, this is great for me. But one of the best parts of working for a small startup is the people involved in everything. There's amazing enthusiasm coming from all sides, and regularly burning the midnight oil kind of keeps me out of the day-to-day loop in my companies operations. So i've found that making sure half of my day is available for corporate "normal" business hour stuff has helped me stay a part of my company, which in turn is probably a good tradeoff .

    Although i do despise traffic. Taking the 101 from San Francisco to San Mateo and back during rush hour is one of the most ridiculous things that millions of people do everyday (other than buying boy-pop-band cd's, but that's a different thread). So the only request i made was that i'd never be required to come to work during peak traffic times..

    The nicest thing about the industry out here is that if there's something you want that your company won't work with you on, there will be 10 other companies out there waiting to give it to you :-)


    Disclaimer: This post may contain inaccurate information, be habit forming, cause atomic warfare between peaceful countries, speed up male pattern baldness, interfere with your cable reception, exile you from certain third world countries, ruin your marriage, and generally spoil your day. No batteries included, no strings attached, your mileage may vary.
RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by Anonymous Monk on Sep 09, 2000 at 07:19 UTC
    My best answer would be to switch to hourly consultancy.

    The best thing I ever did was to billing by the hour. I have enough clients that need extracurricular attention, and enough of the Things I'd Rather Be Doing But Don't Pay Me (record label, playing in a band), that I can't, with a fair concience justify going in anywhere to sit on my tush for X hours a day, while knowing I'm going to spend at least three of them taking care of non-client productive activities (email, phone calls, what-have-you). Most people do, I guess, to a lesser extent (IM with the wife, personal email, shopping online, whatever), but I don't like being in the position where I have to justify or lose control of my time.

    Prima donna, sure, but I think "Tell me what you need, tell me when you need it, and I'll get it done and sent you a bill for the hours I spent *actually* working on it" is alot more honest.

    I also *hate* having to go into an office. It's a waste of time. I do give up any seperation between work and private life (I regularly get calls from clients at 9pm), but it's worth it.

    Ask any artist/actor/writer -- there is no downtime, since generally the work you prefer doesn't pay enough to live on, paid work is just the preamble to another any number of hours that you can stand at rehersal/studio/computer/whatever.

    Me? I'd rather have the control over my own schedule, and the responsibility of maintaining my own affairs (and life, and clients, for that matter).

RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by turnstep (Parson) on Sep 10, 2000 at 05:04 UTC

    > After 6 o'clock when everyone leaves, the internet connection
    > is faster and you don't have to wait for the coffee machine
    > and there's noone who wants "just a quick question" with you.
    > It's quieter....

    And don't forget about coming in at 6 in the morning. Or five. Yes, I know that probably sounds hellish to most, but Perl Hackers come in all varieties. Some of us do not even drink caffeine! :)

      yeah... Working nights if no social interaction needed... No one is going to stress you up with questions or hassle you about when it has to be done!
      True - several times I've woken up at 4am and not been able to go back to sleep so I've gone into work. I still needed a coffee though.
RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by Maclir (Curate) on Sep 11, 2000 at 02:51 UTC
    My view - as a geek and a manager, is that unless you are one of the rare people whose job does not involve interaction with others, then there should be a standard set of core hours that a person is available in the office. My personal view is that it is reasonable to expect people to be available between 9 am and 4:30 pm, with some time off for lunch.

    I have for a long time (all of my 20+ years of working) been in places where there was flexible working hours. Any place that does not have some degree of flexibility is way behind the times. I start at 7:30 each morning - I get about 1 hour or more of relatively undisturbed work, and if I decide to leave early (say 4:30), I have still put in a good day.

    The bottom line is, you have to be seen to be dedicated, and not just doing your own stuff, but working ith others in your team, users, and the rest of the people you should be interacting with.

RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by toadi (Chaplain) on Sep 11, 2000 at 12:44 UTC
    Becuase everybody else told his story, I will do to

    Maybe I'm a weird guy but I have a nice girlfriend who has a job from 9 to 5 and is at home from 6. Well if I would work odd hours I wouldn't have time to spend with her.
    So I sleep a little bit longer but I still get in at work between 9 and 10 in the morning and leave against 6 in the evening.
    This is very important to keep our relation intact! I can't believe that there are peolpe with reltions that can work these odd hours.

    Maybe somebody can proof I'm wrong

    My opinions may have changed,
    but not the fact that I am right

      I have twin boys that are not yet two. I usually get to work between 6 and 7am and leave by 3pm. It is easier if I'm gone before the boys get up and it gives me lots of time with them in the evening. It also lets me spend less time in traffic. I also work from home about 2 days per week. If I had to work 9-5 I'd spend an extra hour in traffic each day and would only see my boys an hour in the morning (which would primarilly consist of them screaming for me while I tried to leave) and an hour in the evening.

      So flexible time is essential for my relationships.

              - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
        They say that not enough time spent coding Perl causes children.


        e-mail jcwren
      Toadi, you are not wierd. A loved one is the best reason for working "normal" hours. It does help.

      Roy Alan

RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by Maclir (Curate) on Sep 12, 2000 at 01:42 UTC
    Further thoughts. The bottom line is, unless you are self employed, when you work you are paid by your employer to do things for them. While a good employer will consider your personal situations and needs, the bottom line is, you are being paid to provide services (skills, produce things, whatever) for them - not to enhance our own personal satisfaction. Of course, many of us also get a lot of enjoyment and personal satisfaction out of our work - hey, why else would we continue to do this? - but ultimately, the employer has reasonable rights to expect us to delliver what is asked of us, to work according to certain standards, included the hours we are in the office, how we dress, the tools we use, and a whole range of things.

    Now, the days of bonded labour are gone, and if you or I don't like the face we have to wear a suit, or be in the office between 9 am and 4:30 pm, use Windows 98 on our PC, use emacs insead of vi, or whatever, then it is our choice. If we don't like the arrangements under which we work, then we have the choice to leave that job, and work elsewhere. Generally, the working arrangements are detailed before we take the job.

    As a manager, I am pretty flexible with my staff - some don't start until 10 am, but still put in a full days work. I get annoyed when some people stretch the friendship on working hours - and have gently reminded them on occassions when the situation warranted it. But, ultimately all staff- myself included - need to remember why we are at work each day, and who is paying our wages.

    Remember Archimedes golden rule "Them that's got the gold makes the rules."


RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by wombat (Curate) on Sep 11, 2000 at 08:36 UTC
    My opinion on this is that eventually it won't matter. I think that the further along we get into globalization through the use of the Net, the less dependant we'll become on the Sun to determine the times to get up and go to bed. I beleive that in a number of years, many services will remain open 24 hours a day. Already we have convenience stores and large scale grocery stores (At least the one near my home) that are open 24/7. We have the credit card customer support lines that have people taking calls all night long. I agree with the previous post saying that some degree of cohesion is good and it'll probably remain, but in a mutated form. There'll be those who work in the day, those who work in the evening, and those who work late at night. Folks will probably come in on the hours or half hours, because of the tendency for people to like round numbers. Aside from that they might just come in whenever, knowing that no matter what time they arrive, the client will be there as well. (A rather harrowing prospect)

    This will of course have profound changes on the rest of the work "day". In a best case scenario, rush hour will even out and distribute itself across the day, providing a constant low key amount of traffic. Worst case scenario is that rush hour will be permanently bad. We'd also need a drastic shift in the economy, since we're doing good with employing the population in one eight hour shift with only minimum staffing of the other two. At the rate we're going populationwise, we'll have the requisite number of bodies by that time. Nonetheless I think this'll happen in the next 50 years.
    Anyone else agree?

      I think that you're looking a lot at how the US is and not so much how other countries are. Take the Netherlands for example. It's only in the last couple of years that I've seen grocery stores open until 9 in the evening, instead of closing at 5 with the exception of Thursday or Friday (late shopping night). They're still all closed on Sundays. There are 'nightshops', but these are small and sell only a few essencials, and they are really only found in cities like Amsterdam. Credit card support at all hours? Hah! Credit cards work through bank accounts, so you get the same hours as for banks (something like 9-4, except on Mondays, when, like most shops, they don't open until the afternoon). Public transport stops for a few hours--for about 5 hours in the city I live in. Try getting a pizza at 4 in the morning. Now it's probably clear why I said in my other post that I need flexible hours just to get anything done for myself.

      Will this change? It's already changed a little bit, and it will probably change a bit more, but it will take a while before there is acceptance for even the amount of night jobs in the US, in my opinion. I believe that working at night is considered unpleasant and therefore people who work at night get extra pay (Jouke or ar0n would be better at verifying or refuting this). It just costs more to have people work at night (you need more lighting as well).

      But the main reason shops aren't open at night is that it isn't seen as fair and isn't allowed without a special permit. It's thought that if large supermarket chains can be open all night, smaller grocery stores wouldn't be able to compete (which is probably true). It's also thought that if smaller shops were forced to close it would be a loss to the community. This viewpoint can also be seen in the US: for example, many communities have objected to the establishment of Barnes & Noble bookstores on the grounds that the company deliberately pushes local bookstores out, thus robbing the community of the culture surrounding these bookstores.

      The future could hold a 24-hour monoculture. But it might not.

RE: What time do you think geeks should have to get to work?
by She-wolf (Sexton) on Sep 11, 2000 at 20:40 UTC
    Personally I think it's not a question of interaction or efficiency in the workplace but more a question of personal energy.

    I, personally, am a night person, I hit my peak energy at about 10PM, and mornings are my slow point. However the rest of American society dictates working while the sun is up(ugh).

    Geeks(and just about everyone else) should be allowed to get to work whenever they want, work the standard amount of time, and leave. That way, us nocturnal's can work at night, when we'll be at our most efficient, hard working, and energetic. This would also promote higher morale because we wouldn't be forced to work against our own body cycles.

    All in all, leading to happier people and better work. It is a bonus that people would work with less morning managerial types too.

    "Wha? I don't get it."

      Personally I think it's not a question of interaction or efficiency in the workplace but more a question of personal energy.

      Drink coffee, go to be early, get rest. It is a question of interaction and efficiency (maybe not personal efficiency), unless you are an island at your workplace.

      That way, us nocturnal's can work at night, when we'll be at our most efficient, hard working, and energetic.

      If everyone on your team agrees to be nocturnal, sure. Otherwise, you need to rework your body clock to not hinder others, or find a night job (I hear 7-11 is hiring).

      This would also promote higher morale because we wouldn't be forced to work against our own body cycles.

      No it wouldn't. I would get pissed if I needed to ask someone a question, or needed their piece of the puzzle done before I can do mine and they don't come in until 6pm. It would raise your morale.

      Your reasonings are pretty self-centered and not team oriented like the others. I agree with another sentiment that people should be 'on the job' for at least 4 hours of the companies regular work hours (assuming a standard 8 hour day). Flex time can boost morale, and make for a happy hacker... but having 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift programmers who all work on the same projects can only lead to hassles, IMO.


      The answer is pretty simple, really: just move!

      Start telecommuting from a country in the appropriate time zone: if your company is on the West Coast then the 9 hour difference with Western Europe will let you work from 5pm to 1am or so and still be at work at the same time as the rest of 'em morning managerial types. If that's not enough, just move East, easy non?

        So this is why you moved? Waough! I thought you missed your French amis, not that you hated alarm clocks and breakfast!

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