I've heard through the grapevine that I'm likely to get a job offer from a company where a friend already works. Probably the most important thing to me is the hours I work. Not how many, but rather, which ones.

Specifically, I know that I would work "best" and have the least stress if I could work 8.30am - 4.30pm in the office and then at least 1 hour, often more after a 2-3 hour break, e.g. 8pm / 9pm at night. Sometimes I'll be up to 2am, as I am a programmer and sometimes problems present or I just 'get in the zone' for actual development.

I know the "standard" at the new place is pretty relaxed but it seems like 10am - 6pm is more common (same number of hours). However, I don't know the official "core hours" of the business.

My main question is:

  • How can I talk about this with a new employer? Should I mention it before accepting any offer?

I want to fit into their culture but also work in a fashion that is good for me. I do also worry that since I am relatively junior for some of the technologies I'd be using, some things will take me a while and I worry about the impression it gives if I'm slogging through learning things...but not staying late.

If it matters, this is a small company (<20 total), it's not a crazy-hours startup though, and I'd be working with seasoned developers who have lives.

  • 1
    You may want to reconsider your definition of "best" working hours. Once you start working more on a team you will find that working "off" hours may often actually hinder your progress by making it difficult to collaborate or get help from others.
    – Ken Liu
    Jul 4, 2012 at 3:28

3 Answers 3


If it comes down to it, just ask them outright: "What kind of hours do you guys keep in the office? Would you be OK with me working 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM? I find I'm most productive at those times." If they say "NO!", how willing are you to walk away from the offer if they insist you work the same hours as everyone else? Would you be willing to do 8:45 am to 4:45 pm?

I have often worked on teams where people stagger hours a bit at the start and end of the day. Some do it for commuting (earlier trains are less crowded) and some stay later because they like to sleep in later and get to work later. The only times it was a (relatively minor) problem was when an early person needed info from a late person and was blocked on progress until the late person came in.

Honestly, if the offset is less than an hour or two from the rest of the team, I can't see this as a major issue. Now, if they were all coming in at 11:30 AM and you wanted to start at 8 AM, that might be a problem.

  • 8
    +1 It is completely reasonable to ask about the core hours and work requirements before you take the job, and to attempt to negotiate (if you even have to). As a hiring manager, I welcome prospective employees having a very clear understanding of how they work best, and being able to articulate it. Now is the time!
    – jcmeloni
    Jun 6, 2012 at 18:31
  • 4
    I would add working space to this discussion too. In addition to asking about, and negotiating, working hours, you should also be sure that the physical work space, layout, noise and lighting levels, etc. meet your needs. I was sad to have to turn down a software job offer a few months ago because they wanted me to have a wide open desk with no privacy right in the middle of a large room full of other developers. There weren't even cubicle walls between them. The job seemed good otherwise, but I know I could not do good work or feel happy in a workspace like that, and they could not change it.
    – user12818
    Jan 27, 2014 at 14:15

Honesty is key here, along with concise to the point communication.

  • Ask what type of working hours the company keeps (policy).
  • Ask whether the employees are allowed to work out of normal business hours. e.g. provided that employees meet the deadlines, etc.
  • Explain your reasoning of such hours.
  • Discuss the working hours that suits the company and you, looking for solution (notice I've placed 'company' before 'you', not vice versa).

If you are absolutely set on your "best" working hours and they are not compatible. Find a job that is willing to be flexible to benefit both you and the company.


Considering time and health (plus productivity) as the most precious resources, I personally would start the question of working hours first on the agenda, without any hesitation, nor regrets if they refuse my candidature because of my requirements.

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