I am working on a project and I'm paid by hours. The majority of my work is computational programming and I need to run not-very-light computational jobs each day multiple times. Quite often the programs take more than a few minutes to run and although I try to do something else while they're running, sometimes I really have nothing relevant to do before getting the results. If I add up the time I wait for the jobs to run and have nothing else to do, it could be more than an hour per day.

So my first question is: Should I count this waiting time when I report my hours or should I exclude it?

If I exclude it, there would be two subsequent problems:

Firstly, given that I have a limited amount of work to do in each phase, and transition to the next phase is dependent on meeting with my supervisor and aggregating the results, which happens only once a week, I can't fill in 40 hours per week (which is expected of me, given that I'm a full-time employee). Secondly, my wage would be lower, even though I'm actually fully satisfying all the expectations of my supervisor and reaching the phase goals on time.

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  • You are saying in aggregate it could be more than an hour per day. But you haven't specified how long each wait is. It does make a difference whether you have to wait for 8 minutes 10 times throughout the day or you have to wait for 40 minutes 2 times. – kasperd Aug 12 at 11:47
  • You should wear this xkcd t-shirt – Martin Schröder Aug 15 at 21:13
up vote 238 down vote accepted

The company would be well aware of this issue and I would imagine unless they say something you shouldn't either. It is clearly not a management issue so don't make it one.

On a side note, a few minutes is nothing. My code can take up to 40 minutes to compile and around 10 minutes to fire up the backends to run a regression test. Usually it's more like 10-15 minutes for each change I make but it can't be helped. I too am a contractor and the company is very much aware of how long things can take. No one has ever said anything and if they did I would just ask for a supercomputer.

Just do what you can and if you're really that bored you can try to multitask by reading other code (or coming to SE like I am).

PS: I wrote this while my code was compiling.

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    You forgot your obligatory xkcd: xkcd.com/303 – Belle-Sophie Aug 9 at 4:48
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    @UKMonkey: Maybe a better phrasing: "If it were an issue, then the company would clearly be aware of it as they'll be the one raising the issue" (e.g. point ought that OP bills too many hours, complaining that OP doesn't look like he's working, ...). – Flater Aug 9 at 10:45
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    I’m reading this answer while my code was compiling. +1 – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 at 11:00
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    A few minutes downtime at a time is a tricky period -- too short to get stuck into anything serious, but long enough to eat into your day. As a postgrad I had that experience in the dark (laser lab) and accumulated above 5000 Wikipedia edits. This is likely to be less advisable when you're being paid by the hour. – Chris H Aug 9 at 15:16
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    It never hurts to demonstrate the time things take to management. Until a manager had to wait for our application to run, our complaints were taken as just whining to get better computers. After the 15 minute wait for a simple demonstration, developers got upgrades. – Rob Crawford Aug 9 at 19:17

Should I count this waiting time when I report my hours or should I exclude it?

Yes, it's time you have to utilise for the job, so include it.

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    This. I once had a friend who worked for a salt company, and her job was literally to watch water boil. It's time out of your day-- charge for it. – John Wu Aug 9 at 20:47
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    The only thing I'd add is, if you can find ways that are useful to your employer to occupy that time, then you should try to do so. (This might include reading and improving your skills, updating documentation, figuring out ways to improve your processes, etc.) But either way, do charge for the time. It is time out of your life given to your employer. – Mark Meuer Aug 10 at 13:58

One possible view on this situation is - You sit at the computer waiting for things to finish that were part of your work moments ago and will be part of your work in a few moments again.
Would you consider this to be leisure time? Probably not.

What do office-working people do in such moments? I'd bet my *** they don't sign out of working time at each compilation :-)

  • At my workplace, the managers don't even bat an eyelid if they see you're not doing anything because your code is compiling/computer crashed and waiting to boot. The point is- these things are expected as part of a software development job and the company accounts for this. Each day each team member's capacity is set to two hours less than their work hours due to stuff like waiting for compilation. – cybermonkey Aug 13 at 6:34

As you are at work place and available, formally this is a work time and should be counted.

As a rule, normally just it cannot be there is no job remaining, even if some job remaining may have the importance and priority so low that would otherwise unlikely to be done. If the pause is too short for code cleanup or something similar, ideally the company would allow to read some technical literature that is closely related to your current task. If not, just clean dust from your monitor screen, you can do as often and as long as required. As the company pays you for this time, you probably cannot just browse websites that are not work-related or do anything the like.

I can't fill in 40 hours per week (which is expected of me, given that I'm a full-time employee)

As a full-time employee, you should count these hours, as long as you weren't actively spending them on another project. As the company requires you to be available for a certain period of time (such as 9 to 6), it's expected and in many cases required that it pays you for that time, including forced standby.

This could be different if you were a remote contractor, responsible for your own work hours, and were free to leave for hour+ breaks while the code compiles.

It would also be different in a full-time job if you had multiple projects, and spend the hours waiting on project A to work on project B. Then you would certainly have to separate and not double-log them. But with a single project, standby time pays.

  • To phrase this a little differently: as long as your focus is on the project (or you have absolutely nothing else do), book the hours. – Jan Doggen Aug 10 at 14:38

If you compile multiple times on a day and it takes only a few minutes (per compilation) I would think this is ethical, because in the end it would be nothing more then a cigarette/bio break or a time for a quick chat with a collegue.

If one compilation would take longer (an hour for example), then it would be a different story because you could be doing other things in this time (if it would be things for work it is work, if you go for lunch or do other private things it is no work).

Anecdotally: I did softwaretests that sometimes took 2 or more hours to run. So sometimes I started the run took my laptop back home, checked the test run maybe do some changes and restart it. I only counted the time I actively worked.

If you aren't enjoying personal time because you are working then you should be paid. You are being compensated for your skill as well as the time you spend working and not pursuing your own personal interests.

Not real sure why you are trying to override the manager's direction to allocate to that project. Maybe you are considering working for free.

As an employee you are not billing time you are allocating it.

These days lazy nomenclature can cloud the difference. If you're on a project and doing nothing you still allocate time to whatever project your manager has designated.

As an hourly paid employee the company requires you to be present a certain number of hours a day. Allocating your time to projects for all those hours is expected and the way they know you were there.

You do not get paid by the hours billed, like a consultant might. They bill time because it is undetermined each pay cycle how many hours they might work.

All jobs have some form of slack time. Slack time (down time) can range from a couple seconds a day to a few months depending on circumstances.

It is always much better to go speak with the manager on specific issues that deal with the unique company you work with. It's part of the manager's job description to help you understand the company policies.

Indirect Labour is factored into the cost of many tasks as a matter of course. Waiting for a scheduled job submission, you should be able to multi task.

Whilst the job is actually running (note the distinction) you might have a duty to monitor progress and detect unexpected behaviour, you are also standing by in case of failure to provide support or rework. In a timely manner this my be cheaper than raising another request/change and going through approval.

If your job costs $50,000 to run, your time is a fractional cost. You are worth your wage, but do not waste time if you can be preparing post implementation activities, emails, analysis in the "slack" before the critical path.

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