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I am a junior Dev in germany who entered a new company about 6 months ago. The company seems nice overall, but I am getting more and more irritated by the standards of our work equipment. When I came in, they handed me a 11 year old Laptop (Thinkpad T400). I was a bit surprised but not really worried since I love Thinkpads. However working with this old hardware turned out to be very slow. At Times I have to shut down outlook and other applications, so my dev enviroment runs at an acceptable pace. Furthermore I was told on day one, that they ordered two monitors for me. After over a month I was working only on the small screen of my laptop. When I asked about the two screens, they told me they are waiting for them do be delivered. A while later the build in screen of my laptop failed. I was unable to work for two days until they came up with one very old screen "from the basement". Up until now I am working on this old screen which is very dark and at times really hard to see. The two screens they ordered have never showed up. I also aske for a docking station but they told me they had none and where unable to get one since my laptop is a very old model.

I recently bought my own keyboard and brought it into work, since the keyboard they provided was just worn-out. Some key labels where gone and it was one of the dirties I have ever seen. (Sidenote: I consider myself to have a very high tolerance when it comes to dirtiness)

I also recently moved into a new office, where the desks are very low and can not be adjusted. I am having trouble working on it since i barely fit under it and my monitor is way to low and can not be placed any higher. I tried putting it on a few cardbord boxes, but I got asked to take them away since it would look "strange" for customers walking in. I asked for any replacement but noone really cared about it. Also noone else has this problem since at this particular office there are mainly woman which are significantly smaller in size (i am roughly 1,90 meters).

I know its not a money issue, since my new company lately invested in som very expensive things. Also I would not consider myself one of those "hipster developers" who complain about anything that is not a MacBook Pro. As a Developer I see my desk and computers as tools in a way a craftsman would see his toolbox.

So I wonder at what point the quality of my office and especially the quality of the provided hardware can be considered unprofessional.

  • What has your boss said when you've mentioned how the hardware is affecting your productivity? Are there any ergonomic requirements for workers in your country? – thursdaysgeek May 29 at 20:32
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    What laptops/monitors do your coworkers have? Is it just you who has this issue or is it a general problem? – Radu Murzea May 30 at 10:02
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    When you say junior developer, do you mean Auszubildender or is it simply early in your career? – simbabque May 30 at 11:38
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    I'll never understand why a company will pay 40,000 a year for an employee and force them to work at 50% efficiency rather than pay 100 for a stick of RAM or a monitor. – user10399 May 30 at 13:26
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As you are in Germany there are laws and regulations concerning appropriate work equipment.

Especially appropriate monitors and height of your desk etc. are regulated.

Please see e.g. https://www.arbeitsschutzgesetz.org/bildscharbv/ for details. You may also want to google “Bildschirmarbeitsverordnung” and “Arbeitsschutzgesetz”.

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May I suggest you think like an owner of the company?

This business of substandard equipment is causing some losses.

  1. It’s wasting a portion of the wages of the workers because they waste their time compensating for slow and broken stuff.

  2. It has an opportunity cost. A company who gets things done quickly generally fares better in competition with others.

  3. When line managers cannot deliver what they promise to their workers, the company’s credibility goes down.

  4. It’s bad for worker morale, making people less productive.

Overall it causes a vicious cycle.

That’s the business case in favor of solving your equipment problem. You might consider working with your supervisor to make the case.

Another possibility: can you or your supervisor go and buy the equipment you need and ask the company for reimbursement?

(Speaking for myself, I’ve always considered it a good idea to pay for my own computer equipment rather than wait for a bureaucracy to get it right. Time is too scare to waste on bad stuff, especially when good stuff is so cheap.)

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    I am afraid the problem is that, when there is a certain bureaucracy in place, trying to bypass it could be even harder and might not be welcome. I would still have to run my own computer through our internal IT department for installation of software and certificates and they might come up with some dubious security reasons for not doing that. Also it may be be perceived as some kind of "shaming" , making it look like they cant provide for their employees...even if it is true. – MrTony May 30 at 10:06
  • Yes, that's why I suggested buying your own as a possibility, not a must-do course of action. Whatever you do, work with your supervisor. – O. Jones May 30 at 10:09
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    Don't bring your own computer to work unless you have explicit permission. Especially in Germany, and at an established company (if they have 10+ year old stuff, they have been around long), data protection is a big thing. I know companies that do not even allow you to bring your own keyboard or mouse because those could be tempered with to contain malware. Always ask if you may use your own stuff at interview stage if that's important to you. Don't run work software on your private computer without explicit permission. That's how data breaches happen. – simbabque May 30 at 11:42
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If the equipment (or lack thereof) gets in the way of doing the job, it is unprofessional. You were hired for a reason, and your manager should be doing everything in his/her power to make sure you are as productive as possible. Your salary + benefits are worth WAY more to the company than a measly monitor or two.

To quote https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/08/09/the-joel-test-12-steps-to-better-code/,

Top notch development teams don’t torture their programmers. Even minor frustrations caused by using underpowered tools add up, making programmers grumpy and unhappy. And a grumpy programmer is an unproductive programmer.

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You haven’t indicated a region in your tags, so I’m going to use the Australian terminology in my answer because it’s what I’m most familiar with, but most other first-world countries should have similar laws and protections in place.

Make a Workplace Health and Safety complaint to your office’s Workplace Health and Safety Officer. Research has shown that poor ergonomics in white collar offices are a significant health risk that could potentially cause musculoskeletal issues that your employer would be legally liable for, and for which they would be financially liable for any resulting medical bills or Workers’ Compensation claims.

Similarly, straining your eyes to see a poorly lit monitor could lead to eye damage that, again, they would be liable for due to being a workplace injury.

You may be able to deal with the monitor issue simply by buying one yourself and bringing it in; depending on your country, you might be able to claim it back on your taxes if your employer isn’t willing to pay for it, though purchasing and installing a new desk is probably beyond what you would be able to do by yourself.

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Apart from the above comments (O. Jones make great point that you can use when talking to your manager) I would add that anything that compromise the security of data you use in your company is unprofessional.
In most companies IT care to change hardware regularly not because they want new stuff but because the hardware allow to keep software up to date. For example my IT informed me that I can use my Win7 machine for 6 months because Microsoft end support on January 2020.
In your case using a 11 old machine force you to only certain programs, browsers. Which are less safe to use just because of the time to find theirs weak points.
Forcing you to use obsolete software on broken hardware leave you and your company at risk of only being slower than competition but more vulnerable to attacks and malicious software.

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Why you don't get a better laptop, it can have a lot of reasons. The most likely is not unprofessionality, but that acquiring a new laptop would require such a complex process what was somehow missed until now.

There are companies where making a 15EUR investion takes two weeks. It would be easier if you would pay it from your own money, and it would even worth, because working better would improve your bonus much more. But you are not allowed to do it.

Another possibility is this: development environments, like Eclipse or newer MSVS, need a lot of RAM. The laptops of the non-IT employee use only outlook, excel, word and chrome. Their 4-8GB of RAM is enough for that. If they would give you a better laptop, they would need to give a better one also for the workers above you in the hierarchy or in seniority.

You can politely warn your boss that the hardware limits of your laptop make your work slower. Don't do it regularly, do it once! Any time if there is a major problem caused by your old hardware, you can say it to them. But never pressurize them. Not you command them, they command you! But you can keep it in their mind.

The business reality is that the probable price of a good laptop is a third or fourth of your monthly wage, and it is possible that the hierarchy reacts slowly, but they are not enemy of their own money.

You can also try to use the company infrastructure for everything what you can. For example, you can avoid to install an RDBMS by asking for a remote DB connection to one of the company servers. You can avoid to use outlook by using the webmail frontend of the company.


You can also reconfigure your laptop; for example if it has an SSD and also a HDD, you can configure it to use swap only from the SSD.

If you are developing some app, you can do that you use your laptop only to develop it, but you try/deploy it on a company server.

Rarely it is also allowed for you to make hardware changes on the laptop. Such a laptop is surely long out of any warranty, altohugh company policies might still avoid to do this, but sometimes you can do that with permission. For example, if another laptop is being written out due to a hardware failure, you can ask your boss for permission, to insert its RAM into yours.

These strongly depend on the circumstances, sometimes it is possible, sometimes it is not.

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