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In a given company everybody arrives between 9:30 am and 10 am. Yet, the developer team (front/back) always arrives between 11:30 and 12 pm. If this is typical, why do people put fewer time constraints on development teams, or why do development teams put fewer constraints on themselves? Is this because of the work market? Is it part of the culture?

In this case people are paid by day of work, but arriving late make the manager lose money. If it is a general tendency, what lead people to accept that development teams put fewer constraints on themselves or have they fewer constraints in terms of work hours?

Are there any studies or is there any literature on this as a managerial specificity? I am looking for answers with strong references, not merely a norm, opinion or experiences.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Dec 4 '18 at 5:19
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    You mentioned this as a "managerial issue", but haven't said what the issue is. Is it that they have been asked to come in earlier but do not? Is it that two teams work different "shifts" so don't have much time to communicate? A team coming in later in the day in and of itself is not an issue. I don't mean that to say teams should be allowed to come in whenever, I mean that to say as your question is worded right now it makes it seem like there is some issue specifically that you are trying to deal with but you didn't say what it is. – Captain Man Dec 4 '18 at 22:30
  • Do you have flexitime? – RedSonja Dec 5 '18 at 12:26

10 Answers 10

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The main question is why they (or anyone) should be in the office at 9:30. Do you (or the customer) need to contact the developers in the morning?

Fixed schedules are mostly to make sure that people can be contacted or can meet each other and so closed groups only need to find a time that works for them.

I also don't think they have fewer constraints. They just have different constraints. You could also formulate your questions as "Why do developers have to stay so late in the evening when everyone is allowed to leave earlier"?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Dec 4 '18 at 5:19
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    Or, possibly, they come late to limit the time in which they can be contacted by the rest of the company. I'm a dev and work mostly remotely with one day per week in the office. On the office day I usually have very limited time to do development work between all scheduled meetings, calls and do-you-have-a-minutes. – Pavel Dec 5 '18 at 10:26
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    Something like that happened to me, @Pavel. At a company I worked in, the clients got used to ask stuff for the day end right in that afternoon, so the mechanics went from "arrive at 9, leave at 6" to "arrive late, leave when you finish". In a way, we couldn't control the leave time, but we could decide not to come early. – Korcholis Dec 5 '18 at 15:06
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Might be multiple factors, including:

  1. They work later in the evening.
  2. Development is creative and mentally exhausting work so efficiency typically start to go down somewhere around 4-6 hours. By having more time to rest they might actually be more effective by working fewer hours.
  3. If they get paid enough they might accept a pay cut to work less hours, getting more time to ... not work.
  4. Some devs (usually contractors) get paid for finishing their tasks on time. Why then stay in the office longer than necessary?
  5. In some circles this is part of the culture, I have definitely heard it from multiple people. Usually revolving around my points 2 and 3.
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    They could also be working remotely – GPPK Dec 3 '18 at 12:46
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    I would add: Working from home. I wake up everyday at 9, get online and reply to emails, chats, while having my breakfast and coffee. Then until 11:30, I go and sit on my office and do some work then leave whenever I feel like leaving, to then continue from home. – Sandra K Dec 3 '18 at 15:20
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    For 2: Bugs. When a developer is tired, they make mistakes. Mistakes that have consequences later on and more time has to be spent identifying and solving. – afaulconbridge Dec 3 '18 at 19:06
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    Or they may be managing or managed by an offshore resource. At times my work day has started at 5:00 am and at others at 2:00 pm. – John Wu Dec 4 '18 at 0:23
  • Something that relates somewhat to 1. and maybe 5. - the devs might be working closer with some other team in a different time zone. This might be to provide complete cover (9-5 in one timezone is 11-7 in another) or maybe partial overlap as a link between this office and another, e.g., if the offices are roughly 10 hours apart, then another timezone might not even have started their workday at around 17:30 local time. So in order to provide any direct communication time, you need to stay later. – VLAZ Dec 5 '18 at 8:25
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My company is similar, we have a dev team that can show up between 7am and 10am and leave between 2pm and 6pm, roughly. Our CTO focuses on accomplished tasks not really hours worked. That's not to say hours don't matter, but the key metric revolved on product completion, not time spent on product. The time spent metrics are typically used to deciding how much more work we can take on as a firm. But outside that, we're expected to just do our work. The sales / marketing / management side of the office are in at more stable times because their jobs requires them to be in during business hours.

Keep in mind, sometimes developers need to "percolate" their solutions. When it looks like their doing nothing or if their not in, it doesn't mean the problem isn't being worked on. I can't tell you how many times I've worked through a problem while in the shower in the evening... But that's sort of the nature of the beast.

The point here, is the development position has a lot more flexibility because software construction allows for the flexibility. Also, because that's the case, it allows firms to offer flex hours which is always welcome. Since the knowledge economy is about autonomy, mastery and purpose. The more autonomy someone has in doing their work the better and since software is the product, then making sure the people who build it have the flexibility (in terms of time) to think about it, the more likely you'll be able to deliver something worth selling.

  • This is a normal culture from my experience. I've seen a few businesses give this type of freedom with a value on accomplishments. But, I can't imagine getting to work at 11:30 or 12 every day. That's not normal from my experiences. – Nathan Goings Dec 4 '18 at 17:44
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Depends on the company. Dev work in general can be done remotely - it isn't unheard of for people to start the day at home, then drive in to the office and finish the day there or vice versa. In the company I'm currently working in, this is actually quite common.

It isn't unusual for devs to have to work late - I've been in the office from 9am until 3am and back in again at 9am when there was a critical issue which needed to be fixed to get the company back on its feet. Similarly I've also worked 70+ hour weeks for fairly short stretches when something had gone terribly wrong.

Lastly, it could be that customers or team members could be operating in a different timezone and so the dev team is synching with those working hours - for instance I'm in Europe and work with people in both India and the US. The Americans are in early, and the Indians are in late so we can have a team meeting together.

The above can lead to management taking a more relaxed attitude to hours in office.

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Developers tend to prefer to come in late and work late. We tend to be an independent, introverted bunch. Things that a normal person would prefer to do face-to-face, we often prefer to do via email.

Personally, I have found that if I get in to the office mid-morning, I do what interaction is necessary (meetings, dealing with email, etc.) before I eat lunch and then get down to the actual work by getting into deep hack. Much of my best work has been done well after 5 when the office is quiet.

It often starts unintentionally. When you become very absorbed in a problem and suddenly look up from your computer to find that it's 10PM, you're not terribly motivated to be in the office early the next morning. You get to work later and find yourself still at the office at 10PM again the next night.

Managers accept this from developers who deliver the goods. You can get a measure of how good a developer is by how flexible his schedule is.

The Tao of Programming has an illustrative passage:

A manager went to his programmers and told them: ``As regards to your work hours: you are going to have to come in at nine in the morning and leave at five in the afternoon.'' At this, all of them became angry and several resigned on the spot.

So the manager said: ``All right, in that case you may set your own working hours, as long as you finish your projects on schedule.'' The programmers, now satisfied, began to come in at noon and work to the wee hours of the morning.

The Tao of Programming 6.4

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    uh, not in my experience. Me and many of my colleagues prefer to start very, very early and be home mid afternoon if not earlier. I currently start work most days around 0545, and it's not uncommon for half the people to be in well before 7. I've pondered starting at 0500 but that'd leave too little time to spar with others who come in later because they live further away and/or depend on public transport. – jwenting Dec 5 '18 at 11:46
  • Like a lot of things it really depends on the individual person. We have an amazing developer that's here before anyone else and gets a lot of stuff done in that time and leaves early. Then we also have a different developer that is supposed to get to work at 10am, but often arrives well after 11am. but then stays late, works from home and also delivers just as much as the first guy. People have their own habits and get into the flow whenever it suits them. Early or late or somewhere inbetween. – TheEvilMetal Dec 12 '18 at 10:02
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Also may depend on the local. For example, in the Los Angeles, CA city, traffic is horrendous. Developers came in anywhere from 6:00 a.m. to Noon; to avoid the traffic.

I remember the manager calling all of us to a meeting and basically said he didn't mind us coming in at different times, but wanted to know a time when we would all be in so he could schedule meetings.

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    Doesn't even need to be LA. In a small badly designed city like Helsinki, I've often noticed that it doesn't matter whether you leave for work at 7:30 or 8:30. You often end up arriving to the office around the same time :D – Juha Untinen Dec 4 '18 at 23:13
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The answers above are excellent. I am just adding my own observationnal experience. This tendency is not only found in the software industry. When working temporarilly in an industrial company (metal coating), the technicians in charge of production chains (who were basically self-reliant) came in at 5-6AM and left in the early afternoon if all went well.

The main points for why this arrangement worked are:

  • They were always there for at least some of the normal office hours.
  • They were output oriented, although there was a system of punching in and out.
  • There was enough direct communication so that everything ran smoothly (just 1 small site)
  • Interesting comparison – ThePassenger Dec 3 '18 at 14:34
  • What answers? Please link to them sine the order of answers is random. – Kyslik Dec 4 '18 at 8:35
  • When I worked with computer games we typically came in at 10 and worked til 7pm. – vikingsteve Dec 4 '18 at 10:47
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As a dev myself, if I can't think, I can't code. Sleep is vital; being "on time" could mean wasting a work day. Some devs can show up at 7; I wake up at 5; it depends on many things. The question should be whether they work late in order to finish and if they get the work done on time.

Also, about your request for "study on this managerial issue", this may relate to the academic topic "Working with Talent"; search Google and Amazon.


And, thanks for asking about this, also everyone for great answers. Lots of good value here! This Question can help many, many people get along better

  • @Agent_L I agree with you. I envy your 8 hours of sleep, though. I don't say that it must be later hours, only an explanation of why it might be. – Jesse Steele Dec 4 '18 at 13:10
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    @Agent_L – one of reasons why devs can be working into late hours is that they set a milestone "I want to finish this today". If you tried to program anything (or just create a few somewhat complex Excel formulas you never used before) you will find that many times it takes longer than planned. Devs face this regularly. 2 hours can become 5 and sometimes there is no time "tomorrow" to finish it. For such situations, night can serve as a buffer to catch up. – miroxlav Dec 4 '18 at 16:24
  • @miroxlav Following your logic, devs should push for the earliest possible hour to start, in order to have the largest possible buffer for overtime. But it's a fallacy: whenever your shift starts at 6:00 or at 14:00 is irrelevant, the day is always 24hrs long no matter when you start it. Keep in mind that we're not talking about working 6, 8 or 16 hours a day. We're talking about working 8hrs from 10 or 8hrs from 12. You insisted to make it a personal beef: I'm a programmer with 17 years of experience. If you tried to program, you'd know to understand the problem before you start typing. – Agent_L Dec 6 '18 at 15:36
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[Some teams]

arrive between 9:30am and 10am.

[other teams]

arrive between 11:30 and 12pm

The constraint in both cases is "30 minutes". All teams obey precisely same constraint.

Do dev teams put less constraints on themselves or have they less constraints in terms of work hours?

The example you've brought proves they don't.

  • So if I always arrive 10 minutes before end of work I still put have constraints on myself or have constraints in terms of work hours ? True. Sophist Reasoning but true. – ThePassenger Dec 6 '18 at 15:52
  • @ThePassenger This sounds like a fundamental misunderstanding. You never said when your teams leave the office. I assumed that "regular" teams work 8hrs since 10 and "dev team" works 8 hours since 12. It's not possible to "arrive 10 minutes before end of work", because by law you always arrive 8 hrs before end of your work. If devs work only 6hrs, then ask a question "why they work 2 hrs less". – Agent_L Dec 6 '18 at 15:56
  • Yes, I don't have this information. So I can't conclude to your conclusions. – ThePassenger Dec 6 '18 at 15:59
  • @ThePassenger So, what are you asking then? What do you mean by "constraint"? For me, "constraint" is the time window when I can adjust starting of my workday freely. So, if I must arrive between 11:30 and 12:00, that's 30m constraint. If I must arrive between 8:00 and 10:00 that's 2 hour constraint. Whatever the time I make it, I sit 8hours. – Agent_L Dec 6 '18 at 16:03
  • The unspoken rule is here, but I think most businesses looks more or less the same, is that everybody arrives between 9:30 and 10:00 Yet, the dev team (front/back) always arrives between 11:30 and 12pm. Therfore they seem to be less constrained or have less constraints. To what extent dev have less time constraints is my question. – ThePassenger Dec 6 '18 at 16:10
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As a developer who works very irregular hours, the reasonings are numerous, but all of them are valid:

Long commute times

Arriving later avoids major traffic jams. Example: Spending 30 minutes in traffic vs. 30 minutes at home then leaving later avoiding traffic jam means I can spend 30 minutes at home productively.

Poor office environment

Noise disrupts development work badly. Arriving later and staying later means you can catch a quiet period as people start to leave.

Lack of reasonable justification

Not attending on time is more beneficial, and most 'on time' arguments are 'because I said so'. I'd attend emergency meetings, but if it's more productive to be late or flexible, then I should be.

Developers already 'works' outside of hours

Managers might feel 'ripped off' by late arriving devs, but developers are still thinking of the problems and solving them outside of hours. In one case I came up with a solution in a dream at night - do I bill you the 8 hours? Being reciprocal in flexibility works both ways.

Majority of development work (for me) is mental

Externally, I might look like I'm procrastinating (videos, Stack Exchange, irregular hours, etc.), but I'm giving my brain fuel (external input) for creativity and keeping it in good condition (lowering stress).

Before writing any code you have to design it first. Any stressed mind is not going to work ('Ugh, they're still playing that awful music!').

It's no different to how I'd normally work (as a hobbyist)

Tackling my own development problems, I behave the same way. I don't force strict times, nor force myself to keep hammering away at a problem. Going away, destressing, and talking about it, gives me the room to think of solutions.

Externally, it looks unprofessional in a work environment. But it's always gotten me results.

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