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Many times job listings for computer-related career proudly display a "Work From Home!" perk.
However, can this "perk" become abused by the employer?

For example, is it common for computer programmers (or anyone in a computer-science field) to take home work over weekends and vacations because it was not finished over the work week? Do managers expect computer programmers to take home work that they have not finished at the office?
Or is this usually employer specific and I should quickly leave such a job if I find it happening?

It sounds like something that is unprofessional for managers to expect computer programmers to sacrifice so much time to work, however even though it's "unprofessional" doesn't mean it's not common in the real world. Could anyone share their experiences with this?

I am graduating from high school this year and I have a talent for computer programming and I do enjoy it, however I am split between attending college for computer science or for an engineering field. A point that drove me away from computer science was because of fearing that I would have to take home work constantly and lose lots of my time.

closed as primarily opinion-based by mcknz, gnat, user34587, IDrinkandIKnowThings, sf02 Feb 7 at 15:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • One point, as is often mentioned on this site, getting a "real" engineering degree is generally a benefit, not a negative, if you want to work as a software engineer. That is, if you anyway have a natural talent as a programmer, and of course, you independently put in the 3000 or so hours it takes to form basic programming skills. (It's exactly like becoming a guitarist.) – Fattie Feb 7 at 13:08
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    @Fattie not to nitpick, but I know plenty of great programmers who work all night and produce great code. They typically are ones that just like to work at night, and don't log on until the afternoon. Your point is still correct, that pulling 80 hour weeks isn't the norm anymore, I'm just saying that if anything the SW industry is more forgiving to folks who prefer alternate sleep schedules. – Paul Feb 7 at 16:03
  • hi @Paul , I think to not confuse the issue, I'm, just sticking to "how many hours worked". ("Whether you work on the same world time zone as the rest of the team" is a whole other interesting issue!) Cheers! – Fattie Feb 7 at 16:10
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Those are two completely different issues.

Working from home is a great perk, I often use it for a variety of reasons (ie it might be pouring down rain, the trains might be having issues or I simply don't feeling like putting on pants on a given day). I have never once been asked to work on a weekend or asked to work late. But then again I have been picky about the companies I work for. This is not always the case with all companies. Generally I think it is safe to say it shows mutual respect and trust. A company that lets you work from home is probably less likely to be hounding you to do extra unpaid hours.

Companies are as unique as individuals and even then a company culture is a very fluid thing and can change over time. This is why it is important to research a company and its culture and use interviews to your advantage, it really is a two way street.

Again, in my experience, the companies where they were watching over my shoulder and raising eyebrows if I only worked my allocated hours without putting in "extra hours because I love my job" have all been smaller companies. Companies like that never ever would let me work from home because I might be slacking off and not working.

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    +1 from someone who didn't feel like putting on trousers today :) – rath Feb 7 at 13:13
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To clear up one point "Work From Home" is not "Homework".

Work From Home generally means you are full or near-full time at home or really any location you choose. This very often means you will not be anywhere near an actual office or other corporate facility.

The expectations though remain largely unchanged from an office based job. You are expected to carry a certain work load and manage your time accordingly. There are several ways the usually manifests, here are two common ones:

  1. Be available during certain times during the day for chat, calls, meeting, Scrums, etc. This could be 9-11 and 2-4, the rest of the time is yours to manage.
  2. Be responsive to communications, email, chats, meetings during normal business hours. The day is otherwise yours to manage. Note, you don't necessarily need to be at home to join a conference call.

Some companies offer flexible office hours where your are expected at the office at specific times while the rest of the time is yours to manage. This could be certain meetings, Tuesday and Thursday, and all sorts of combinations.

But, you should expect the same workload. There should never be a scenario where you work in the office a full day, then have to take home another workload. They pay for roughly 8hrs of your day. If you finish that at the office, you're done. Nothing to take home.

Now, if you take a 4 hr lunch break, but don't want to fall behind on you project, then you can/should work those 4 hrs at home, provided the company has the facilities to actually do that. Unfortunately, some companies don't have the systems necessary for productive Work At Home.

  • Right. This seems to be the answer which best discombobulates the somewhat confusing question here. – Fattie Feb 7 at 13:06
  • @Fattie Yup, the "graduating from high school" was the tip-off. Why it's so important to carefully read the Question. – Johns-305 Feb 7 at 13:08
  • Sound advice from a QA master! :) – Fattie Feb 7 at 13:09
  • I don't disagree, but I think there are some subtleties here that should be mentioned, and perhaps it's not as standards as this answer suggests. For example, I've worked places where "Work from Home" is an option that you can select on any given day or part of the day, and it's very adhoc, while what you're describing (where you're full-time at home) is a Telework arrangement, and is far more formal (usually requiring a written agreement that includes the points you mention, and also has the company provide certain hardware and software to support the remote work). – Paul Feb 7 at 16:00
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I want to add something to the already good answers. On rare occations, depending on your responsibilities, you might need to work overtime (could be at home or the office). This is because unplanned or urgent stuff comes up, and if you are not just to warm the chair you should take care of things when most needed, this will show to your employer how much you are worth and help in your career inside your company. Now in reality lots of companies would abuse of this, and pretend you do the extra mile even for planned work, and this is plain wrong.

So you should be proactive and helpful when most needed, but defend yourself when they are just asking you to do free work.

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