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This is NOT about how to ask for new equipment. They won't; that is out of the question.

My laptop takes around 15 minutes to boot, and 5 minutes to power down. It is an old model, and I use it heavily for software development.

Should I come to work early to make up for its power up/down time or is that the company's responsibility? If they want me to work more or better should they provide better equipment? By my calculations, the time wasted over a year easily pays for a new laptop.

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    @user1220 it's a frustrating situation. You might like this answer to a related question I had. Note that I now use my own, personal keyboard at work rather than a company provided one... :-) – enderland May 1 '15 at 14:03
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    Is the boot time the only place the performance is a problem? Or is the overall operation, opening programs, loading documentation, searching for files, etc. also slow? – Brandin May 1 '15 at 14:11
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    Do you fill out time sheets and do you have a billing code for IT support activities etc? Your wasted time becomes transparent. Also, as a matter of fairness, if customers are paying directly for your time, they shouldn't be paying for that time. – Nathan Cooper May 1 '15 at 15:08
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    @user1220 If it's slow across the board, then your estimate of "15 minutes lost" is probably too low. The overall slowness is going to add up to a loss of productivity, which must be part of your estimates. For example, for me personally I know if I'm working on a laptop with no extra screen and no mouse, I am definitely going to be slower as compared to working on a nice ergonomic workstation with multiple monitors with nice keyboard and mouse. – Brandin May 2 '15 at 8:35
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    @Dom learn to live in an imperfect world. Told to me my in a class about how to properly give class to other people. Computers break, electricity fails. If you want to show some important data, have some printed out material so you can keep the presentation working (even if it is not that pretty). If you have some important meeting, get there ready with spare time, do not assume everything (the computer, the car, the traffic, your kids) will behave perfectly. For job interviews, I often go to the place days before to be sure I can find it the interview day. Don't blame others/other things – SJuan76 May 2 '15 at 15:29

11 Answers 11

84

Should I come to work early to make up for its power up/down time or should that be the company's responsibility - if they want me to work more or better should they provide better equipment?

I had this situation before. "Hibernate" would consistently crash my machine so I had to shutdown/startup completely every day. I was also required to take my computer home at night, which meant I either had it crash or took 10+ min to startup.

This is even worse if you are salaried because you normally won't get any level of "compensation" for your time. You want to force this as an obvious problem. Likely your entire team is dealing with this...

Don't give your personal time to account for company stupidity.

Some things you can do:

  • Have your bios start the machine automatically at a specific time, 15 min before you get to work
  • Start your computer manually before you get to work (or when you are traveling there)
  • Find other things to do during the startup time
  • Leave it on at work (I found I could leave it on in a locked, ventilated cabinet at my desk)
  • Add this time as part of every time estimate you make (this will get attention)
  • Log a ticket with your helpdesk documenting the issue (potentially each time). This has some risk of annoying people, though it will certainty bring attention to the issue.
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio May 3 '15 at 4:26
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    "Don't give your personal time to account for company stupidity."... I think I want to get that as a tattoo. – GrandmasterB May 4 '15 at 19:42
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As a software developer, your employer should provide you with the tools you need to do the job. If they refuse when you have a good reason (wasting hours per week is a good reason) I would take that as strong indication that your company doesn't care about the needs of their employees and look elsewhere. As you've mentioned, the cost of a new computer is absolutely trivial compared to the cost of your time.

Do not start working extra hours to compensate for this.

If the machine takes a long time to boot, leave it powered on overnight to save time. You can also find other things to do during that time. Review any notes that you take, check your agenda (assuming you have a calendar you can see from a smartphone for example), make coffee, etc.

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    Alternatively, leave the laptop at the office powered up but logged off, or in hibernate mode, as if it was a desktop. – keshlam May 1 '15 at 13:52
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    Good idea. That may also prevent me from working extra hours from home. – user1220 May 1 '15 at 13:58
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    indication that your company doesn't care about the needs of their employees and look elsewhere. Duh? That's what companies do. They do care about profit, not employees. The companies care about employees only when they (or if) they find out that caring about employees improves profit (that's why the more specialized/difficult to replace you are, the more interested is the company in your satisfaction). I agree that time wasted due to company inefficiency should come from the company budget, but there is no need to get emotional (they don't really love you! Search your true love!) about it. – SJuan76 May 2 '15 at 19:00
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    @SJuan76 I would argue that it is good business sense to care about the needs of your employees. Even at a most basic level, it's often a good idea to keep up moral in the same way it's a good idea to keep a machine well maintained. It often heads off bigger problems that might happen later on. For example, it can be harder to get software developers to write maintainable software if they are are already looking for a new place to work. – Patrick M May 3 '15 at 22:55
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    @PatrickM - I would argue that it is good business sense to care about the needs of your employees. - sure, but only so far as it increases profits. Happy worker is productive worker, after all. But beyond that, it makes no sense for a company to care. – Davor May 4 '15 at 10:02
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Any time you are doing tasks assigned by your employer, as opposed to being free to do whatever you choose, you are working. This is the fundamental principle of work: your employer is paying you for the time doing which you are doing what they choose instead of what you choose. Whether what you are doing is productive or not doesn't matter: if you're doing what your employer tells you to do, it's work.

Preparing the tools that you need for productive work is work, since you would not be preparing the tools if it wasn't to use them for work. If you need to start a machine at the beginning of your work day, that's work. If you need to change into protective equipment, that's work. If you haul freight in one direction and come back empty, coming back empty is work too. If you need to clock in and clock out, your work time includes the time spent walking from the clock to your work station and back.¹

Managing productivity is, ultimately, your employer's responsibility. However, depending on your pay grade, it can be to some extent your responsibility too, to the limits specified by your employer. A minimum-wage employee is pretty much only expected to do what they are told. As a salaried employee is towards the other end of your scale: you're expected to be reasonably autonomous and in particular to have a good idea of how to manage your time.

Therefore you need to do at least one of three things, depending on what your productive work entails.

  • If you have some tasks that can be done at the beginning of the day and don't require a computer, schedule them for that time.
  • If you can arrange to have your computer automatically be ready when you arrive in the morning — for example by leaving it on during the night — then do so.
  • If you need your computer to start work at the beginning of the day, you should alert your boss about the unproductive time, and go through the proper channels to request better tools. If they say no, your responsibility ends here.

Things would be different if you contracted your services as opposed to being an employee. An employee works while they're contracting their time for the employer, and is free the rest of the time. Someone contracting their service only charges for the actual service, i.e. for the productivity that they bring, but they get significantly more money because they handle the unproductive tasks (preparing the machines, training, coming back empty, etc.) on their own time.

¹ That's the law in any country with decent labor regulations. Some countries have very liberal laws that allow the employer to fib on these kinds of definitions; in that case you have the choice between going to work for a less exploitative employer or struggling for social justice, preferably with your fellow workers.

  • "change into protective equipment, that's work" maybe, maybe not. There was a recent court case which said time spent going through security screening to leave your job for the day is not work and doesn't have to be paid for. – Andy May 3 '15 at 17:31
  • @Andy That probably depends on the country. In France, which loves to do things in complex ways, changing into protective equipment (as opposed to a uniform that can also serve as day wear) is not considered “effective work” but nonetheless must be compensated for (either by paying or by reducing the duration of work) if it's compulsory and has to be done on work premises. I'd expect that if employees have to go through security screening, similar reasoning would apply, but I don't know for sure. In the US, I suspect that like most things it's a matter of individual contract rather than law. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 3 '15 at 17:55
  • Is the time spent taking the bus or driving to your workplace work? – Lyndon White May 4 '15 at 1:29
  • @Oxinabox Traveling to and from work does not count as work in most models I'm familiar with. – Brandin May 4 '15 at 7:01
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    @Oxinabox No, traveling to work isn't work. I have no idea what makes you think I'm saying that. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 4 '15 at 12:38
11

Slow equipment - who's responsible?

The company is if they issued it to you. If you own it and are responsible for its upkeep then you are responsible, otherwise its the company's responsibility to provide you with adequate tools.

Should I come to work early to make up for its power up/down time or should that be the company's responsibility - if they want me to work more or better should they provide better equipment?

You should not work more time to make up for their inadequate tools.

Depending on your job, they may save significant money by providing lower quality tools. If they are a contract house, paid by the hour, then you working more slowly will earn them more money. Further, depending on how the accounting and IT department are set up, how budgets are allocated, and how they depreciate tools and equipment, they may be able to minimize their financial losses by providing inexpensive tools that they rarely upgrade.

You've undoubtedly expressed the problem of the slow tools to your manager.

That is all you have to do. Once you've made them aware of the problem, continue to work according to your schedule and your own personal decisions, and don't factor their poor tools into your decisions - these are what's provided, use them to the best of your ability and don't stress about it.

8

There are technical issues/resolutions here:

  • No computer should take 15 minutes to boot. Unless you're being perversely hyperbolic, you have a serious issue. A lot of operating systems support charting boot times to work out what's taking so long, but it's probably easier to reinstall.

    Given your entire question is about whose remit this falls under, it's really your IT department's responsibility*.

    *Unless it's personal hardware or there's a policy which makes loaned equipment hirers' responsibility. There may also be cross-over of responsibility if you are directly responsible for this 15 minute slow-down.

  • If it takes this long to boot, why are you booting? Suspend/sleep. It should take seconds to go to sleep and seconds to resume. On a good computer this should take a fraction of a Watt.

If those don't work on their own, for whatever reason, you've identified a problem, you may or may not have taken reasonable steps, so notify your manager, suggest a resolution (eg getting IT to reformat and get it back into a reasonable state) and get the manager's name on the work order before you go to IT.

If they aren't up for that, your productivity is their problem to fix. A sane manager should see these wasted hours-a-week as an opportunity to get more from you without spending any money.

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    +1, I agree - a 15 minute boot time indicates a bigger problem than just slow equipment. Its probably time for a full reinstall of the OS. Windows in particular gets sluggish after a couple years. – GrandmasterB May 4 '15 at 19:53
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You are not going to get much traction with management if you present this as a problem of lost time at the beginning and end of the day. Unfortunately, they view that as your problem, not theirs.

What you need to present to them is lost time while you are trying to work. For example, how long do you have to wait for a build to complete? Given the normal edit, compile, test, repeat cycle of development, that lost time will really start to add up. And that is impact to the product, not to you personally. If that doesn't wake them up to the problem, I would be concerned about the bigger picture.

Just because there is some policy about machine turnover, that doesn't mean you can't get something done. Often those are in place to simplify machine management and to block people who want a new machine every 6 months. If there is a real problem, they should react. My company has a standard 3 year EOL policy which is built into the IT process plan. However, when I showed that my machine was running sluggishly during builds because of the number of apps I had to run, I had a memory upgrade from 8GB to 16 GB within 2 hours. You need to present real impact and get a manager involved.

2

Well, an employment contract could in theory say a lot of things, but under normal circumstances it's the company's time. Your commute is your time, but operating the equipment they supply, in the office, once you've arrived, is part of your work. If it takes 15 minutes a day to boot your laptop, or calibrate the phase angle of the proton flux, or any other time-consuming task necessary to start work using that equipment, then doing those things is work.

However, beware employers who talk about "working the job, not the hours" in the context of something that you'll have to do every day forever. What this means is that, although it's the company's time, there is no upper limit to how much time is the company's, and no lower limit on how much time is yours. Therefore, supplying you with this computer is equivalent to extending your working day by 20 minutes compared with what you thought it was going to be, because they'll still expect you to get "a day's work" in. If they behave like that, then they will continue stretching your working day until you're on the edge of burnout, because they don't really believe in "your time" to begin with. So, good luck with that.

Since this is taking an unreasonable amount of time compared with how long a laptop "should" take to boot, I think you have two responsibilities:

  • ensure there's visibility of the fact that your work time (i.e. the company's money) is being spent on something that shouldn't require it.
  • do your best to find productive work tasks to do during that time. Then it isn't wholly wasted, it's just not spent on the best thing it could be (which, first thing in the morning, I expect would be checking your email and schedule for the day).

Depending on your company's attitude to IT, possibly you should also look for technical fixes yourself. If part of your job is to maintain the laptop then you definitely should. If you're not allowed to do anything to your laptop by your compay's IT policy then you definitely shouldn't.

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    The whole "a day's work" theory is bullocks. You're the only person who knows whether you've put in "a day's work" or not. Nobody can estimate the work you did down to the accuracy of 15 mins worth to conclude that you booted the laptop on company time rather than your own. – Atsby May 2 '15 at 5:36
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    On the other hand, they can and will compare your productivity with that of others having similar assignments. Don't panic, but don't take it for granted either. If you're losing time to boot-up (or compilations, or anything else) consider trying to find something productive to do with that time. – keshlam May 3 '15 at 2:43
  • That's just a matter of accuracy of measurement, though. If you can't believe it could make a difference, because "it's only 15 minutes and they can't tell", then instead believe that there's a 25% chance each day for ever of them expecting you to put in an extra hour to "get the job done". Or a 12.5% chance of 2 hours, whatever granularity you can believe is visible. The point is, if your responsibility is to get particular things done and your time is being sucked by this problem, then eventually it's going to turn out to be your time you lose. – Steve Jessop May 3 '15 at 13:49
  • ... this is on the same basis that if some medieval grifter removes 0.1g of material from a gold coin, which then is weighed on a balance accurate to 1g, there's a 90% chance of getting away with it and nothing happens. But on average and in the long term, coin clipping is detected by weighing, so to maintain that as a career you'd need to take more care than just assuming "ah, it's probably not enough to notice" ;-) Similarly, your lost 15 minutes on one day is negligible, but a lost 15 minutes every day bites eventually. – Steve Jessop May 3 '15 at 13:57
2

In the US, this has been decided by the Department of Labor:

Covered employees must be paid for all hours worked in a workweek. In general, “hours worked” includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal activity of the workday to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered or permitted) to work. An example of the first principal activity of the day for agents/specialists/representatives working in call centers includes starting the computer to download work instructions, computer applications, and work-related emails.

This followed a US Dept of Labor investigation of Hilton Reservations Worldwide, Inc, which "found that the company failed to pay employees for work performed prior to clocking in at the start of their scheduled shifts, such as booting up a computer, opening programs required to assist customers and reading pertinent emails. Consequently, the employees did not receive at least the minimum wage for this time, as required by the FLSA."

1

Not all companies pay you for how much work you do. For instance, a security guard is not paid per thief he catches, he is paid to be there 8 hours every night so that management can rest easy in the knowledge that there is at least 1 guard present on the premises from 10 pm to 6 am every night. Or a receptionist at the front desk: They are not paid by the number of visitors they help, they are paid by the hour because it is crucial that there always be a receptionist manning the front desk at all times, no matter what, even if nobody shows up.

Software development is often a "paid for work" field where the key thing you provide to the company in exchange for your pay is not availability, but completed work. However, this is not always the case. You can tell by the attitude of the company:

  • Do they care if you show up late, leave early, etc?
  • What is the attitude to working overtime? Do they pay for it? Do they prefer that you not work outside normal hours?
  • When there is concern over someone not pulling their weight, what indicators are looked at? Lines of code or hours of work?
  • When a project fails to deliver on time, are you held responsible for the delay?
  • Are you often given deadlines, or are there frequent discussion like "by when do you think you can finish this task"?

If they only care about you showing up, forget it. Show up at the usual time and patiently wait while the crappy laptop wastes 15 minutes of company time. Maybe bring a book to read while you do it or make some coffee in the meanwhile.

If management is very strict, work on something else (check your emails on your phone, look at your calendar/agenda) so they can't badger you over it. The company has their own accountants and productivity experts, if they care they will see the inefficiency reflected in their data and independently solve the problem. Maybe they will even ask you if you have suggestions to improve productivity.

Let's say you work 40 hours a week and get $30/hour. Let's also pretend that you spend 20 minutes every day, waiting for the reboots and shut downs, so that you could be spending 15 minutes less if you had a modern computer. That means 3% of your 8 hour day is wasted: The company is paying you $240 for the day and getting 97 units of work, whereas they could be getting 100 units instead if they gave you better equipment. Effectively, they're wasting $7. Is that your problem? Hell no. Your job is to show up at the time the contract says, take the tools the contract says they'll give you, do the work the contract says you will and happily take their money. Budget consulting is extra.

You could indeed show up early, and make sure they get 100 units of work like you think they expect. However, if you do that, you will also be working 8.25 hours a day, not 8. This means that you are now spending 41.25 hours at work and getting $29 for each of them (maybe there's another company that would have hired you for $29.5?). Technically, it's not breach of contract since no one asked you to do it, but doing it essentially amounts to giving your company a donation in the form of unpaid volunteer labor.

Presumably, your contract does not say anything about mandatory unpaid volunteer work (I don't even think it would be legal) so that you are under no obligation to do it. If you know the manager or owner personally, then yes, it's nice to do it, but so would handing him a $100 bill.

On the other hand, if you do get paid for work and not time, it's different: Do whatever it takes to complete your part of the project before the deadline (although this isn't matter of ethics, but practicality: You'll get fired if you don't). If you feel you are forced to spend too much time because of this slow booting, then take it up with management. Even if they are not cooperative, consider just buying your own laptop, and then mentally discounting your salary accordingly when you get competing offers from rival companies.

Lastly, a tangent: This company is doing software development, they hire you at a rate high enough that even a few minutes of your time can pay for a laptop, and they hand you a potato that takes 15 minutes (!!!) to boot? Sounds like management needs to get a clue.

  • The problem is usually that capital resources and manpower come out of different budget categories, so spending a small amount on hardware to save more on work-hours doesn't always look like a good idea to the manager who controls the capital budget. Figuring out how to get the request up to the level that owns both budgets and an see the advantage can be a challenge. – keshlam May 3 '15 at 2:47
1

If your company has a "punching a time clock" for programmers, then you have a real problem. They'll expect you to be working every second of your working time and will take micromanagement steps in order to check up on you. There is nothing that you've mentioned in the question that leads me to believe this is the case.

Many people at my company use the free coffee from the machine. No one gets chastised for standing there waiting for the coffee to finish. The company knows people drink coffee and have to wait for it to finished. I'm guessing the break in the day along with socializing and connecting in the coffee room pays for the missed time.

There are probably many things you could be doing while your computer is booting to make you a more productive programmer. Spending more time hitting more keys is rarely a better solution unless your someone who is habitually reluctant to code. Sometimes it is better to grab a chair and think about a problem than to grab a hammer and start banging away. Unless someone in your company starts complaining about your lack of coding during laptop boot ups, stop stressing about it and get yourself into a better frame of mind to work. You'll be way more productive in the long run.

-5

This is where you earn your leaving so BUY A LAPTOP YOURSELF. REGISTER IT AS YOURS. DO YOUR JOB BETTER. EARN BETTER PAY. BE HAPPY. companies are always slow to respond to the need of workers. I bought some gadget myself that easy my job. I found that soon my boss will respond by buying the gadget for everyone who need it, then I will retrieve my.

Do this only if it wont cause trouble for you. As for me a like trouble! as am always on the neck of all my boss.

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    Startups aside, I've never worked for a company that would allow me to put company-proprietary data (like the source tree) on my own computer. Especially a laptop (theft risk). – Monica Cellio May 4 '15 at 18:45
  • Okay. It may be as a result of incomplete OS update or some virus activities. I had this issue before. Try updating the OS first. – Timothy Nwanwene May 4 '15 at 20:38
  • It's not a question of physically being able to, it's a question of permission. It's a very bad idea from a company point of view to have their sensitive data in a place they cannot control and a personally owned laptop is exactly that. – Cronax May 6 '15 at 11:46
  • @Cronax, you are right. But what if the employee works remotely from a distance country? Why company do their part to secure their data, INTEGRITY is needed from the staff. – Timothy Nwanwene May 6 '15 at 22:29
  • Where they are working is irrelevant, as long as they are using company controlled hardware the technical possibilities exist to keep that control. Integrity is always needed, but cannot be depended on when it comes to sensitive data. – Cronax May 7 '15 at 8:47

protected by Monica Cellio May 4 '15 at 18:46

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