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Productivity

Vikas Kapoor
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 16, 2007
Posts: 1374
Hello All,

I think almost everybody here is in s/w field and many are plain programmers. Many a times,at JavaRanch, I have seen a talk about employee's working hours and productivity. Many programmers with huge experience (some sheriffs) say that daily working hours limit should not exceed more than 8 hours. But, for example, average hours/day for a programmer in india is always more than 8 hours. I am thinking of good discussion on that. Like how many hours, a programmers should work to maintain the quality of work and how many hours you are actually working currently? How much it affects to your professional life and personal life? What do you suggest for that?
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30370
    
150

While this has been discussed a number of times, I'm somewhat curious if the economy has affected the answers.

I work roughly an 8 hour day. I'm a developer/mentor/tech lead/etc. This means that I don't program full time; it is still part of my job though. What is interesting to me, is that working an excessively long day is a problem regardless of what you are doing.

I think most people here will agree that working an excessively long day on a regular basis is a problem. The differences of opinion usually come from how many hours are excessive. Is it 8, 10, 12?

I also spend about an hour a day reading something technical on my commute home along with some time on JavaRanch after work. I don't count this time as part of my work day because it is voluntary. Which means that when I am busy and have other things that need doing, those things are what get dropped. Therefore they don't contribute stress.

Of course, when there is a production problem or "real reason", I do work overtime. I use real reason in quotes, because that can get taken advantage of easily. There's also a factor of what you do while at work. I spend all of that roughly 8 hour day working - I work faster than most people and I don't do personal stuff at work. (If I need to, I work later to compensate. The company still gets 8 hours of work.) I like to think in exchange for this, my employer respects my time. I also think that some people who "work" longer days are present longer, but not actually accomplishing more.


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Sai Surya
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 08, 2006
Posts: 457

It purely depends on the kind of project we are in and the phase of the project. If we are in development phase we may work 6 hours a day (based on Agile's IEH) Since I am working in a maintenance project, I normally work 8 hours a day. Last week due to production issue I spent until 11:00 PM in the office. I don't get any money/compensation leave for the 5 extra hours I worked . Hence I am compensating this 5 hours my self by giving 5 additional hours of estimation for change requests

I've seen passionate people in Singapore who takes more responsibility on their shoulder than needed and work 15 hours a day on average including weekends. The two guys whom I mentioned about were joined in big companies with fat pay as Architects after working like this for few years. At one point of time they became one source for all the projects and when they resigned the CEO of the company requested them to stay back and even company offered them double salary. I take them as an inspiration and try to give the best. Sometimes we may need to put extra effort which is surely beneficial to us in near future.


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Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38483
    
  23
Sai Surya wrote:. . . I've seen passionate people . . . who . . . work 15 hours a day on average including weekends. . . .
Sounds to me like grounds for instant dismissal. It is not possible to produce software competently or safely for 15 hours a day; any developers who try to or any managers who allow it deserve to be unemployed for the rest of their lives.
Sai Surya
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 08, 2006
Posts: 457

Yes, it is true. If you work in Singapore you probably heard of the company these two guys resigned from was acquired by a british telecom giant an year back.
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38483
    
  23
Is that why British internet via telephone lines is notorious for being slow and expensive? ( )
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16019
    
  20

I learned very early in my career to pay attention to my biological cycles. Programming is not like grinding out hamburger where the longer, faster, and bigger you grind the more hamburger you get. It has been observed, in fact, that for just about any job, if you overwork, you start making mistakes and your productivity goes negative. In the case where you have to produce creative results, more than one of us have remarked that the best "workplace" for problem solving is in bed early in the morning or in the shower, not parked in a chair in front of a keyboard.

My own optimal programming time runs from about 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Given a midday nap I'm good for another stint in the late afternoon or evening, although this time is lost when I work in an office instead of out of my home. Unlike the stereotype, I don't do that well late at night. Anything outside this context is more the appearance of work than actual productive work, although I have been known to employ my post-productive periods with "people" time when I can. "People" time is time spent watching how users actually employ the software (which can be very educational) and meetings, when I can get them scheduled outside programming time.


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Ram kovis
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 23, 2005
Posts: 130
whatever it is, working for more 8hrs a day is not good for country's economy...( may be good for your company)
by spending 15hrs a day in office, you dont go to restaurants, movies, fitness centers... in that way, you are causing a serious damage to economy
Marcel Wentink
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 19, 2008
Posts: 157
May-be 10-12 hours but what about RSI? You cannot be behind the computer that long without physical discomforts.
Vikas Kapoor
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 16, 2007
Posts: 1374
CR wrote:Sounds to me like grounds for instant dismissal. It is not possible to produce software competently or safely for 15 hours a day; any developers who try to or any managers who allow it deserve to be unemployed for the rest of their lives.

...Or hang them till death.

What is the conclusion of the example given by sai surya. To get the attention, it is important to work more hours per day. But from answers of Jeanne, Campbell, Ram and Tim I can say that this is not always the case all across the world. Still it happens in many companies in india, exploitation. and it is taken as casual, no wonder. I agree that it is intelligence that put more weightage to get attention than working long.

But Jeanne has asked a good question, How many hours should be considered excessive differ from person to person? Generally, it is more than 8 hours.
Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41603
    
  55
An important part of Jeanne's answer is the phrase "on a regular basis". There's nothing wrong or excessive in working 10 or 12 hours a day in exceptional circumstances. If there's a problem that needs to be solved ASAP then that's what needs doing; it's just part of the job. And if there's a problem, then the office atmosphere will probably induce enough adrenaline to sustain someone at productive levels for that long. But generally, productivity drops at some point; I'd say no later than after 10 hours. And that number will likely go down when doing that many hours regularly for more than a week or so.

Of course, if you want to get noticed, and possibly advance in the company, then you'll need to put in more hours (and I mean productive hours, not just hours being present). Even more if you're in a startup (where everybody is expected to do that), and still more if it's your own company.


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Jeanne Boyarsky
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Vishal Pandya wrote: I can say that this is not always the case all across the world. Still it happens in many companies in india, exploitation.

Oh don't get me wrong. It happens in many companies in the United States too. It's a lot easier to be present longer than show management that you are putting in less "extra" hours but being more productive during them.

Ulf Dittmer wrote:An important part of Jeanne's answer is the phrase "on a regular basis". There's nothing wrong or excessive in working 10 or 12 hours a day in exceptional circumstances. If there's a problem that needs to be solved ASAP then that's what needs doing; it's just part of the job. And if there's a problem, then the office atmosphere will probably induce enough adrenaline to sustain someone at productive levels for that long. But generally, productivity drops at some point; I'd say no later than after 10 hours. And that number will likely go down when doing that many hours regularly for more than a week or so.

Absolutely. Of course when there is a problem that needs to be solved ASAP, it's a production problem and everything else is on hold until it is resolved. In those situations, I'll do whatever is required. If it's management creating a false urgency to meet an artificial schedule, it's time to discuss what priorities really are.

Ulf Dittmer wrote:Of course, if you want to get noticed, and possibly advance in the company, then you'll need to put in more hours (and I mean productive hours, not just hours being present). Even more if you're in a startup (where everybody is expected to do that), and still more if it's your own company.

I'd rather get that attention by being really good at what I do. And I have been successful at that. If I get the attention solely through working extra hours, what have I gained? I've made an implicit promise to keep working extra hours and am likely to be expected to do this even more frequently. Is that a win? Whereas if I get attention for being a very strong techie, I haven't lost anything - I have no concerns about continuing that! I've never worked at a startup - in that case I agree it's part of the job and you know that going in. Same as for your own company.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16019
    
  20

Jeanne, the problem with that answer is that there's too much of the Hamburger Grinder in it.

Unquestionably, there are aspects of the job that can be addressed by simply applying more time and effort, especially the housekeeping parts. I will cheerfully confess that there are many times when I really do have to go kick myself to get up and "Git 'R Dun" just to get the annoying mindless stuff out of the way. Most of the documentation, cleanup, filing, file reorganization, and similar items are of that nature.

But the whole reason why we still have jobs instead of offloading the work to automated processors is the creative aspect. And creativity isn't something that can be forced any more than it can be automated. To the contrary. A lot of times, the best way to damage or even shut down the creative process is to put pressure on it, and that's been the case for a lot longer than computers have been around.

A really good creative drive can take control and compel you you put in 18-hour (or longer) days of your own free will, but that's not the same as the kind of 18-hour day that management imposes by main force. It cannot be coerced, only nurtured and directed. One's productive, the other just an illusion of productivity. And a bad one. Even a spontaneous creative binge can come to a point where you're doing more hallucinating than actually producing.

We've got an awful lot of big-name software out there that looks and behaves like it was created by drunken sleep-deprived underskilled baboons working under pressure, and I give a lot of the credit to the attempt to treat software like it's hamburger. Well, in the end, that's what came out. Hamburger.
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30370
    
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Tim,
And that's why good ideas often come when not at work. I can't count the number of times a solution came to me in the shower or when I wake up in the morning. This happens because I let my mind relax. If I'm "present" more, it's less and less likely to happen. Which is why I don't consider more face time to be the best way to be productive.
Vikram Kohli
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 27, 2005
Posts: 174
Economic slow, more competition and companies struggling to get projects in there kitty has increased the pressure on development team. Companies are bidding for project and promise to deliver the project in less time. Unfortunately most of the projects which I have worked on till date is like that only. Where as the same project delivery time was 1year/9 months or 7 months, now we are delivering the same thing with in 3 to 4 months. Result is team is working from 9 AM in the morning till 10:45 PM and working on weekends also. Working like this surely effects your personal life. And slowly and steadily you will no longer love your job. And one fine day you will be spiritually awaken, will go to Himalayas and will write a book like "The Monk who sold his Ferrari".


Vikram PracLabs
Deepak Bala
Bartender

Joined: Feb 24, 2006
Posts: 6661
    
    5

I can't count the number of times a solution came to me in the shower or when I wake up in the morning


Tell me about it !

The economic slowdown has forced some companies to enforce a 45 hour work week. There is a huge difference between productive time as opposed to just being there. I find the ideal working time to be somewhere between 6-8 hours a day. As pointed out by many you can sustain a hectic schedule (> 10 hours) for about a week or two after which your productivity will sink.


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Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38483
    
  23
Vikram Kohli wrote: . . . And slowly and steadily you will no longer love your job. And one fine day you will . . . write a book like "The Monk who sold his Ferrari".
If you don't wrap your Ferrari round a tree at 95 mph trying to get to work on time
Maneesh Godbole
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jul 26, 2007
Posts: 10268
    
    8

What is "work"? Something you are hired to do? Is it quality or quantity? How does one quantify an idea or a solution?
"Being there" cannot be counted as "work"

How many of you recognize this pattern?
Come to office.
Coffee.
Chitchat.
Check mails.
Smoke break.
Plan your day.
Actually get down to "work".
Somebody interrupts with a silly question.
Lunch.
Post lunch smoke.
"Work"
Smoke break with coffee.
Chit chat.
"Work".
Time for all the calls to start (For Indian/Asian guys only)
Chit chat (because people on the other end of the call are just starting their day.
Notes for tomorrow, so you can plan your day tomorrow morning.

As you can see its mostly "being there".
I seldom get any creative or complicated work done in the office.
My experience is that one hour at home, with peace and quite, is much more productive than 4 hours in the office.


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David Hawkins
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 20, 2009
Posts: 11
So here is the problem, from a management persepctive.

Your team is operating with fewer people than ever, you still have customer commitments, you still have projects, you need revenue to keep your remaining team employed, and there is a hiring freeze which means no additional help.

So you buckle down, plan out your projects, try very hard to enforce a 40 hour week but then find out that people are falling behind. When they fall behind they aren't getting caught up. They aren't putting in that extra effort during their normal 8 hour day (and as a former developer I am very familiar with this trick. The one where you just make sure you're much more focused and heads down) and they aren't putting in any extra time to get caught up. I am very aware that we have other teams where people work 10 hour days but don't get much done, so I am unimpressed. However, upper management sees the other team working 10 hours days, real productivity be damned, and my team is still working 8 hours days but complaining they can't get caught up and no one seems to be voluntarily doing what needs to be done.

What do I do? I can't have the perception that I have a team full of slackers and if a handful of individuals would put in a couple of 45 to 50 hour weeks we'd be caught up. Instead, I am going to have to intervene. They will be forced to work more hours and it will spill over to other team members not involved in the project. The other alternative is for me to get questions from my boss (Remember: Your boss has a boss!) as to why Team Member A is complaining about being behind while everyone on Team B is working 10 hour days. It is not good business to mention that Team B needs 10 hours to do 4 hours worth of work, that helps no one.

I'm not saying bad business decisions do not abound and I have worked with management who believed "Work more hours!" solves all problems, but a little more initiative from a handful of individuals would prevent me from having to do what I am probably going to have to do next week.

Remember that not all problems have to be solved by management. In fact, you're almost guaranteed not to like the solution we come up with.
John Kimball
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 96
Regarding productivity & long hours with shortage of staff: Imho, it largely depends on the type of work involved and knowing how to prioritize by the workers.

Sometimes, there's a backlog of brainless rote work which can't be automated. Easy bug fixes, conversions, support questions, etc. Put in more hours and pick off the easy stuff and whittle that list down!

Work that requires some serious consideration in design or reengineering, on the otherhand, shouldn't be rushed or crammed. I've been in that situation a few times and it has never turned out very well. For that sort of work, if the client MUST have something I've found it's just better to offer an easier interim solution, with the understanding that "interim" may be much more permanent than you'd like!
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I have yet to see evidence that 8 hours is a magic number and personal productivity would fall off after that (or any other number for that matter).

--Mark
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38483
    
  23
Mark Herschberg wrote:I have yet to see evidence that 8 hours is a magic number and personal productivity would fall off after that (or any other number for that matter).

--Mark
I am sure it varies from person to person.
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
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Posts: 30370
    
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Mark Herschberg wrote:I have yet to see evidence that 8 hours is a magic number and personal productivity would fall off after that (or any other number for that matter).

Yet surely you have some limit for yourself. I'm sure all would agree that working 20 hour days for an undefined amount of time (or any time in my mind) would affect productivity. While the number may or may not be 8, I think it exists. It may vary by person; it may vary by company.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Let's consider the statements that have been made so far...

Vishal Pandya wrote:
Many programmers with huge experience (some sheriffs) say that daily working hours limit should not exceed more than 8 hours. But, for example, average hours/day for a programmer in india is always more than 8 hours.


Campbell Ritchie wrote:It is not possible to produce software competently or safely for 15 hours a day; any developers who try to or any managers who allow it deserve to be unemployed for the rest of their lives.


Ram kovis wrote:whatever it is, working for more 8hrs a day is not good for country's economy...( may be good for your company)


Tim Holloway wrote:
A really good creative drive can take control and compel you you put in 18-hour (or longer) days of your own free will, but that's not the same as the kind of 18-hour day that management imposes by main force. It cannot be coerced, only nurtured and directed. One's productive, the other just an illusion of productivity.


Deepak Bala wrote:As pointed out by many you can sustain a hectic schedule (> 10 hours) for about a week or two after which your productivity will sink.



Aside from the first statement which was put for as the topic of discussion, the others have been given as fact when indeed they are opinion.

I can refuse each one from personal experience (as I suspect most people can) and Deepak's statement is clearly refuted by economic data on economic productivity by country. I'm not saying that we should run people at 16+ hours a day merely, nor do i claim my personal experience is evidence of that, merely that the unsubstantiated statements that it is false is not actual evidence.

There's also a false assumption that all hours are equal. There are such things as deadlines--legal constraints (regulatory compliance, court deadlines), strategic reasons (announcement at a conference before a competitor), timing issues (hitting a Christmas release schedule for consume products, releasing in time for a conference)--and sometimes hitting the deadline is more important than maximizing productivity. In other words, it may be more important to put out a product on time with bugs and an "officially" complete feature list, than it is to make sure developers are fully rested to make every working hour as productive as possible but miss a deadline.

--Mark

John Kimball
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 96
So you can regularly work 15 productive hours a day? If you can do that and still maintain your health, family, etc., then you're the man.

I suspect that for most people, the ceiling is closer to 10; with that one or two days where an extra creative & productive hour is put in. And also with the understanding that marathon spurts are called for on occasion.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
John Kimball wrote:So you can regularly work 15 productive hours a day? If you can do that and still maintain your health, family, etc., then you're the man.


I'd be very surprised if you couldn't. I would guess that most people can do 15 hours straight.

Now you're making the claim that it can't be done repeatedly. Again I would suspect that some people could do 2-3 days in a row if necessary without too much loss of productivity (I would put myself in this category). (I would say asking me to do this for 6 months is more than I am willing to take on.)

I know lawyers and finance folks who would do such long hours for a week straight. Ask the first 10 employees at any successful startup, odds are they put in long hours regularly.

Again, the managers asking them to do this may not be trying to maximize the overall per hour productivity but rather some gross output by a deadline.




For the record, many organizations ask people to do this in situations more critical than software development. Ask a combat soldier on patrol (the guys with guns who make decisions to pull a trigger on a split second's notice) how many hours a day he works. Ask a medical resident if he's ever worked more than 8 hours on a regular basis; ask that of someone in an ER or OR.


--Mark
John Kimball
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 96
By regularly, I really mean regularly. As in every business day until the day you're fired or quit. I've done several 30+ hour stints with micro sleep. And it's not fun. And productivity drops fast.

I've also worked 12-13 hour shifts for a year, and burn out sort of creeps up. And unlike lawyers or day traders, the pay just isn't enough for me to put in those sort of hours for the long haul.
Gabriel Claramunt
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2007
Posts: 375
A while a go I remember reading a study about how productivity and quality falls after 45 hrs a week, but I can't really remember the name.
Is not hard to imagine that there's a normal distribution on how many hours a person can work and still being productive, we can find examples on both extremes of the curve.
In my case, after 40hrs, the first casualties are creativity and quality... if you don't need them in the project, fine by me, just be aware that by working overtime regularly, you're increasing the risks of the project. Moreover, when I'm fully rested, I can work better and faster making overtime a loosing proposition.
IMHO, demanding overtime is the cheapest cover for management failure: unless there's something truly unexpected ("we just found that the competition is launching the same product next month"), a looming deadline that requires overtime is a project management failure, something went wrong with estimation,resources,scope,change management, etc. and the root cause should be addressed instead of *just* work overtime.


Gabriel
Software Surgeon
Gabriel Claramunt
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2007
Posts: 375
Mark Herschberg wrote:

For the record, many organizations ask people to do this in situations more critical than software development. Ask a combat soldier on patrol (the guys with guns who make decisions to pull a trigger on a split second's notice) how many hours a day he works. Ask a medical resident if he's ever worked more than 8 hours on a regular basis; ask that of someone in an ER or OR.

But when they're done, a high rate of soldiers suffer post traumatic disorder, and during combat they respond by the training drilled many many times.
Lawyers work a lot of overtime, but If I recall correctly, the burn out rate for them is very high, and I would be very wary of overworked doctors...
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Gabriel Claramunt wrote:A while a go I remember reading a study about how productivity and quality falls after 45 hrs a week, but I can't really remember the name.


This is meaningless not only because there is no reference but also because we'd have to understand the specifics of the study. A study of runners would show a very different yield than that of artists.



Gabriel Claramunt wrote:
In my case, after 40hrs, the first casualties are creativity and quality... if you don't need them in the project, fine by me, just be aware that by working overtime regularly, you're increasing the risks of the project. Moreover, when I'm fully rested, I can work better and faster making overtime a loosing proposition.


As you note that's you, it's not only the hours but the tradeoff that differs for different people.


Gabriel Claramunt wrote:
IMHO, demanding overtime is the cheapest cover for management failure: unless there's something truly unexpected ("we just found that the competition is launching the same product next month"), a looming deadline that requires overtime is a project management failure, something went wrong with estimation,resources,scope,change management, etc. and the root cause should be addressed instead of *just* work overtime.


Fair enough although IMHO most non-managers don't understand the complexities of management. I'm the first to say that there is no shortage of bad managers and I agree that long overs may not be correctly used by many of them. But there are also many good managers and many times they do know what they're doing asking for overtime.



Gabriel Claramunt wrote:
But when they're done, a high rate of soldiers suffer post traumatic disorder, and during combat they respond by the training drilled many many times.


And let's not forget that they also have more artificial limbs per capita than civilians. Of course, both points are irrelevant unless you can show that the long hours are the underlying cause and I have yet to see a study that confirms the hours are the reason. (I have seen studying suggesting the stress of a combat situation is the problem, for example, but nothing that it's the hours they do.)

Gabriel Claramunt wrote:
Lawyers work a lot of overtime, but If I recall correctly, the burn out rate for them is very high, and I would be very wary of overworked doctors...


Again, you try to raise a point that is irrelevant because it doesn't have a proven correlation. There are lots of articles on burnout but very few actual studies. I have not seen any evidence proving a high burnout rate (just articles sans evidence). While lawyers may leave their field (and the number leaving may not excess those leaving professions like IT) many women, for example, leave due to family obligations which is not the same as burnout.

http://www.abanet.org/barserv/barleader/22-6dev.html cites a Johns Hopkins study on depression. However I did not see any evidence citing long hours as the root cause in any reference to the study (in any links I could find on that or related studies). In that article the author cites a number of reasons none of which are inherently long hours. (Note that that list is speculative I don't consider it actual evidence either.) Airline pilots are also high on the list of stressful career and their hours are federally limited which would suggest that it may be something other than hours causing the stress.


My point in this whole discussion is if people want to say "I do worse after X hours" fine you know yourself better than I, but to say "workers in general shouldn't work more than X hours" is a statement you need to back up with proof and as of yet I have seen none.

--Mark
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30370
    
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Mark Herschberg wrote:
Again, the managers asking them to do this may not be trying to maximize the overall per hour productivity but rather some gross output by a deadline.

I don't think the goal is to maximize per hour productivity. I think it's to maximize per week productivity.

It's easy to maximize short term productivity at the expense of the future. Unless you meant average per hour productivity?
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1671
    
  14

Have to disagree with Mark H. and agree with the majority here who reckon there is a realistic limit of 8-10 productive hours a day on average, although this may vary for individuals, as will the willingness to work to your limit and give up on your personal life for years on end just to make somebody else rich. Entrepeneurs often work much harder, for example, but then they also reap all the rewards in the end, so it's different if you're doing it voluntarily for your own benefit.

This seems reasonable, especially if you accept the estimate that our hunter-gatherer ancestors probably did no more than 20 or 25 hours of "work" each week finding food and shelter etc. Who wants to work all the time anyway, and why?

Meanwhile, the issue of stress in the workplace has been linked not just to hours worked, but also to the position of the individual in the hierarchy and whether they feel they have control over their working patterns, so people at the bottom of the heap may suffer more stress-related illness than those at the top, even if they're working the same hours.

The question of "productivity" is also interesting - is it actually related to hours worked?

For example, I used to work in Germany, had a 32 hour working week, 35 days' annual holiday plus about another 10 days public holidays. This was generous even by German standards, but other places I worked in Germany had 35-40 hour weeks and at least 30 days holiday per year.

Back in Britain, 40 hours plus is the norm (although the "plus" won't be paid), with 20-25 days' annual holiday. Still better then the US, of course.

Yet my own experience is that the places I worked in Germany were generally much more productive than those in the UK, because when you go to work in Germany, you are expected to work productively for your 7 or 8 hours a day, then go home and do something else.

In the UK, people may be in the office for 10 hours a day, but they're rarely "productive" for more than half that time. This kind of "presenteeism" is endemic in this country, yet our productivity is still pretty poor (I know the US is better than the UK in this respect).

Plus the management is generally much better in Germany than in the UK, where you get a lot of short-termism and "willy-waving" by managers out to assert their authority by insisting people work extra hours and so on. Despite this kind of pressure, I can usually get more done in 6 hours at home than 9 hours in the office.

As for lawyers, my wife is an ex-lawyer and used to share an office with a guy who was always "working" 12 hour days. He used to mess about all day listening to cricket on the radio and chatting to colleagues, then phone his wife at 5pm to say he had to "work late" again. But his bosses were very impressed by his "commitment", and his "productivity" was measured mainly by the fact that he was charging his clients for all those hours wasted at their expense!

So it's as much about the working culture as the raw hours worked. "Work smarter, not harder" may be a cliche, but it still seems like good advice in general, especially when you remember Jeanne's point about allowing time to be creative, instead of simply grinding out the hamburger. After all, Albert Einstein wrote 4 papers including the one on Special Relativity in his spare time during a single year while working at the Swiss Patent Office. If he'd been working hard 15 hours a day, he wouldn't have had any spare time in which to be creative.


No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1671
    
  14

David Hawkins wrote:
What do I do? I can't have the perception that I have a team full of slackers and if a handful of individuals would put in a couple of 45 to 50 hour weeks we'd be caught up. ...
Remember that not all problems have to be solved by management. In fact, you're almost guaranteed not to like the solution we come up with.


I hear what you're saying, and I certainly don't envy your position, but a number of questions come to mind.

Why are some of your team members falling behind in the first place? Is this because the plan was over-optimistic, because they're slacking as you suggest, or because of some other factor?

Have you talked to them to find out why they're behind? Given your own commitment to trying to keep the working hours reasonable for your team, have you challenged them to explain why everybody else now has to work extra hours to make up for their delays?

If your boss insists on comparing your team's hours unfavourably with the (less productive) hours of another team, why don't you speak up for your team if you genuinely believe they are more productive? If the boss doesn't know better, and you don't put him straight, who else will do so? Not the manager of the other team, that's for sure!

David Hawkins
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 20, 2009
Posts: 11
chris webster wrote:
David Hawkins wrote:
What do I do? I can't have the perception that I have a team full of slackers and if a handful of individuals would put in a couple of 45 to 50 hour weeks we'd be caught up. ...
Remember that not all problems have to be solved by management. In fact, you're almost guaranteed not to like the solution we come up with.


I hear what you're saying, and I certainly don't envy your position, but a number of questions come to mind.

Why are some of your team members falling behind in the first place? Is this because the plan was over-optimistic, because they're slacking as you suggest, or because of some other factor?


Outside factors put them behind. For better or worse, the people responsible have been dealt with but we still have to get back on schedule.


Have you talked to them to find out why they're behind? Given your own commitment to trying to keep the working hours reasonable for your team, have you challenged them to explain why everybody else now has to work extra hours to make up for their delays?


Multiple meetings with the group and individuals have commenced. We are back on track since I originally posted my reply. Maybe I'm used to a different standard, but when I was a developer and I would say I'd have something done in two weeks then I would get it done in two weeks regardless of whether or not I was interrupted in that time, had to put in longer hours to get caught up, or maybe even work a weekend. To me, when I commit to a date it means I will do what it takes to get it done. As a developer I was pretty good at making sure I worked an 8 hour day and got my work done, but even when I was in control of the estimates I did get it wrong occassionally. That is the case here. I met with the team lead, I worked out the dates in advance, and he committed to them. I didn't tell him when he would deliver, we came to an agreement. However, the project now rides on us delivering on time. Other teams and other projects will suffer if we don't make our commitments.


If your boss insists on comparing your team's hours unfavourably with the (less productive) hours of another team, why don't you speak up for your team if you genuinely believe they are more productive? If the boss doesn't know better, and you don't put him straight, who else will do so? Not the manager of the other team, that's for sure!


Perception is reality. If we were on target the whole time and working 2 hours a day less than the other team, we appear to be more efficient and a better team. If we are not on target and the other team is working 2 hours more, then we appear to be less dedicated. Without playing office politics and potentially putting my team at risk, I cannot accuse the other team of being less efficient while my team is behind.

All that aside, I do just have a philosophical disagreement that we must keep to an 8 hour schedule. I believe people need lives and they should have a work environment that is conducive to a family life if they so choose. At the same time, this or any other job allows them to put food on their table and software development is not a low paying field. Sometimes you do have to put work first and get the job done. I see developers complain about lack of career advancement as they rush out the door at 5pm. I've seen this over the past 10 years in technology. Moving ahead in your career doesn't require long hours necessarily, but it does require a dedication to the company goals. I can't just walk out the door if a teammate is struggling with a problem that I can help them with. If I can't help, I'm going home, but if I can help then I feel like I'm abandoning them. If working a long week helps keep my project on track, I'd do it.

Building a rapport with my fellow developers, helping the company meet its goals, and showing that I would do whatever I needed to make projects successful is what helped me bridge that gap between development and management. I want my team to have good morale and not work themselves to death, but at the same time I think that sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves and get the job done.
John Kimball
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 96
Asking for a short-term commitment to extra work & longer hours is perfectly reasonable--say, a few weeks.
Once you start looking at months, then I'd say it's time to hire some outside help.

Also, I take it the delivery is all-or-nothing?
That is, it can't be staggered & phased at this point, to keep most of the projects & teams happy?
aditee sharma
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 22, 2008
Posts: 182
Vishal Pandya wrote:.... Like how many hours, a programmers should work to maintain the quality of work and how many hours you are actually working currently? How much it affects to your professional life and personal life? What do you suggest for that?

From personal experience, it depends on reward . If you are amply rewarded, you get geared up for harder and better work.
Otherwise, its very demoralizing to work for more that 8 hours a day for a long period of time.
When I started my career, there were times when I did even up to about 48 hours continuously in office (not including the time for shower, meals etc.).
During those days, 60 hours per week was more the norm than exception for me.
Whenever I felt not being rewarded enough, I felt tired, depressed and angry.
However, when I did get rewarded, I felt like being a work horse and that "work is worship" etc. I believe that made me more productive.

Today, it feels like nothing is worth more than a work/life balance.
I have come to understand that the human body is programmed for demanding the right mix of nutrition, rest, work, family time, exercise and play.
If we sway more on anyone side, its going to have ill effects in some other form that we may not realize instantly.

However, I understand that all of this talk is pointless if the worker is not in a position to say "NO" to overtime.

David Hawkins
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 20, 2009
Posts: 11
John Kimball wrote:Asking for a short-term commitment to extra work & longer hours is perfectly reasonable--say, a few weeks.
Once you start looking at months, then I'd say it's time to hire some outside help.

Also, I take it the delivery is all-or-nothing?
That is, it can't be staggered & phased at this point, to keep most of the projects & teams happy?


I agree that you shouldn't plan to work 40+ weeks for months on end. Unless you're a start-up and everyone has a piece of the pie, then I'd expect a lot more effort.

At the same time, what's all this talk of staggered and phased development? There are only so many days in a year and constantly pushing deadlines and reducing scope will have long-term impacts. Is it so important to work an 8 hour day that it's worth risking customer commitments and possibly revenue?

The underlying frustration is that people complain when they have to work beyond 8 hours but they also want job security and upward mobility. Employees complain that companies have no loyalty anymore but when it's time for a layoff, promotions, or any other organizational change the management team will remember those people that showed some dedication to generating revenue and keeping the company successful.

Working extra hours a few weeks to keep a project on track is not a huge sacrifice and helps the business as a whole. Having to rearrange schedules, impact deliverables, reduce scope to prevent people from working late has an impact on the business and could affect our numbers. If my responsibility is to help keep my team employed I'd rather ask them to work the additional hours and see to it they have jobs by the end of the year then play the nice guy and have senior management give us a pass and tick off customers so we can potentially lose sales and possibly have another lay-off. Which option should I go with?
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
Mark Herschberg wrote:
Again, the managers asking them to do this may not be trying to maximize the overall per hour productivity but rather some gross output by a deadline.

I don't think the goal is to maximize per hour productivity. I think it's to maximize per week productivity.

It's easy to maximize short term productivity at the expense of the future. Unless you meant average per hour productivity?


Ah, managers don't care about per week productivity. They try to maximize achievement of business goals in the most cost effective way. The actual time frame can vary and may not follow a regular schedule.

--Mark
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16019
    
  20

One of the big myths in business is that people who do what's good for the business will prosper and enjoy job security.

Businesses are run by people. As we've had ample proof lately, some of those people are idiots. However, those idiots are the ones who determines who gets fired and who gets raises. So it's not really correct to say that you can ensure success and happiness by doing what's right for the business. You ensure success by doing what the people in charge want. At least until they end up out of business. Or fired themselves. So if you want real security, try not to work for idiots.

Back in the '80's, I was a collector of works by Ed Yourdon. I may be mis-attributing, but I think it may have been he who said that "If we designed and built skyscrapers like we do software the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization as we know it." Yourdon has his detractors, but his works are based on real-world studies of real software projects. He determined that productivity can vary widely from programmer to programmer, and even for the same programmer (what he termed the "Goldilocks" effect). Very widely. And he didn't attribute any of that productivity to simple raw hours worked.

I feel compelled to reiterate: We're not grinding hamburger here. We're implementing a creative process. Only a Lines-of-Code Bean Counter would claim that a person who took a source module, reduced it to 1/3 the size and 1/20th the system overhead while improving reliability had negative productivity. Unfortunately, false metrics abound, and not just in the software development field (ever been frustrated getting technical support because the "productive" phone reps were the ones with short call times, versus say, actually resolvinfg the issue?).

There are no simple solutions. I worked in a shop that attempted to prove Brook's Law wrong. They failed. But even Brook's Law turned out to be less simple than the the original one-liner. This is why good management - and better, good leadership is critical to success.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Wow, there are so many inaccuracies here....

chris webster wrote:Have to disagree with Mark H. and agree with the majority here who reckon there is a realistic limit of 8-10 productive hours a day on average


With which statement of mine do you disagree? I don't believe I made any claims, I merely refuted those of others.


chris webster wrote:Entrepeneurs often work much harder, for example, but then they also reap all the rewards in the end, so it's different if you're doing it voluntarily for your own benefit.


Everyone is an entrepreneur as you describe it. I had friends who had a choice... work for some big corporation for 50 hours a week for $100k or work 80-90 hours a week on Wall St for $500k. They decided to reap higher rewards for long hours on Wall St. Everyone has a choice how they want to dedicate their hours; the only thing entrepreneurs do differently is trade risk for equity and usually additional hours hep to minimize the risk while increasing the value of the equity. The time-benefit system may differ but everyone faces the same question.




chris webster wrote:
This seems reasonable, especially if you accept the estimate that our hunter-gatherer ancestors probably did no more than 20 or 25 hours of "work" each week finding food and shelter etc. Who wants to work all the time anyway, and why?


This is flat out wrong. Check with historians.



chris webster wrote:
The question of "productivity" is also interesting - is it actually related to hours worked?


It's related to the method used by researchers. Check the particular report to understand it. Most that I've read are hours in the office, as opposed to standing over people with a stopwatch and deducting every coffee break.



chris webster wrote:
Plus the management is generally much better in Germany than in the UK, where you get a lot of short-termism and "willy-waving" by managers out to assert their authority by insisting people work extra hours and so on. Despite this kind of pressure, I can usually get more done in 6 hours at home than 9 hours in the office.


I have seen no evidence to support this. It does seem pretty close to violating the be nice rule, so please either provide evidence or stop criticizing other countries.



chris webster wrote:
As for lawyers, my wife is an ex-lawyer and used to share an office with a guy who was always "working" 12 hour days. He used to mess about all day listening to cricket on the radio and chatting to colleagues, then phone his wife at 5pm to say he had to "work late" again. But his bosses were very impressed by his "commitment", and his "productivity" was measured mainly by the fact that he was charging his clients for all those hours wasted at their expense!

So it's as much about the working culture as the raw hours worked.


I'm not sure that you're referring to with "so it's" but certainly not productivity because in national economic studies it's measured by economic output which is pretty objective and the culture has nothing to do with the evaluation.


--Mark

 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: Productivity