10

The company I currently work for has always had a very lax attitude about what time their developers arrive and leave at. Since software development isn't time-specific the way customer-facing positions tend to be, it's never been a problem. We need to get 40 hours in each week to be full-time, and however we accomplish that is usually fine. I'm regularly 30-90 minutes "late", without so much as a comment from my boss about it. He, too, arrives any time within an hour-wide range most days.

I recently applied at another company, and found out they have a very strict 8-5 schedule for their programmers. Apparently it is a ghost town by 5:05pm every day. A friend who works there said it basically is their response to being burned by their developers and company culture in another location, who would abuse their previously-lax policies.

Is it normal for developers to be expected to follow a strict hourly schedule (typically 8-5 or 9-5)? Is is normal for developers to freely determine their own schedule with little consultation about it with their managers?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Lilienthal, gnat, Rory Alsop, Jane S May 29 '16 at 7:13

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.

19

From my couple of decades in software development, I would say that both the lax hours and the scheduled hours can be found often enough that I would describe both as "normal".

The pattern that I have observed is that the role of developers within the company is the main determinant of how things work.

When I've worked at companies where the developing of software is the company's core business, then it has usually been the case that hours are very flexible. There is usually some core times people are expected to be present (e.g. for standups), but outside that, there is often a couple of hours variation between when the earliest and latest people arrive and leave.

However, when I've worked at companies where the developing of software is a service one department provides to the rest of the company, whose core business is not software, then things are much more likely to be standard office hours. In such companies, developers are often expected to arrive punctually at 9:00am, when everyone else starts. And as a result, they are much more likely to down tools and be straight out the door at knock-off time.

(A third case is when the business of the company is developing bespoke software for clients - at companies like that, developers are generally expected to arrive early, leave late, and work as much unpaid overtime as possible. I avoid that industry nowadays)


Edit: @Patrice commented that this could be a pattern of smaller and larger companies. This may be true - the software companies I have worked at have all been small, the non-software companies have all been larger. I haven't worked at a large software company nor a small company in some other field.

  • This has pretty much been what I have seen as well. Sometimes it also depends on the path the boss took, whether he came from development or not. – Kilisi May 27 '16 at 2:25
  • Worked at a software company with 10,000 employees, and very flexible working time. – gnasher729 May 27 '16 at 10:08
  • Both styles definitely happen often enough to be "common" - I'd put it at close to 50-50, myself. There's definitely a range of flexitime "styles", too - from "Everyone is here 9-5:30 religiously", through "Up to an hour either side", via "Be in the office from 11-3 but flex whatever you want around that" and into "We really don't care as long as you're here an average of 37.5 hours a week and get your work done" – Jon Story May 27 '16 at 14:26
  • "A third case is when the business of the company is developing bespoke software for clients - at companies like that, developers are generally expected to arrive early, leave late, and work as much unpaid overtime as possible. I avoid that industry nowadays" Yep :) – DVK May 27 '16 at 19:15
7

Is it normal for developers to be expected to follow a strict hourly schedule (typically 8-5 or 9-5)?

No, it's not. It's common for developers to attend stand-up meetings, finish their assigned work, and communicate with the team. Yes, these expectations are very broad, but all development shops are different. And yet, very few development shops insist on very specific working hours. This is because software development ebbs and flows.

  • Sometimes you're racing to meet deadlines.

  • Sometimes you're staying late to fix critical bugs.

  • Sometimes you're working late at night (or early in the morning) to deploy a production build.
  • And sometimes you're not as busy.

Being a stickler for punctuality doesn't make sense for software development.

Is is normal for developers to freely determine their own schedule with little consultation about it with their managers?

No, it's not. There needs to be at least some agreement between a developer and his/her manager about working hours and/or availability. Otherwise, it becomes near impossible to estimate the time and effort it takes for developers to finish the work.

6

Is it normal for developers to be expected to follow a strict hourly schedule (typically 8-5 or 9-5)?

It's far less typical than it used to be.

Long ago (back while the Earth was still cooling) in my first software job, I worked for a mainframe shop that had a formal 8-5 schedule. But I've never worked for a company where developers were held to such a schedule since.

I know of one company where a friend works where the manager "kicks people out" before he leaves at 6:00. Apparently, he doesn't think developers working late is good for them or the company. In my experience, that's an exception.

Is is normal for developers to freely determine their own schedule with little consultation about it with their managers?

That's more common. But "normal" depends on the locale, the domain, and of course the specific company.

Most shops where I've worked, folks were reasonably free to arrive when they chose and leave when they chose - except that they were expected to be there for "core hours". Those core hours were when the companies hold their meetings, and other tasks where folks' physical presence was optimal.

For my teams, I tell them that I don't care when they show up or when they leave. But I do require them to attend all important meetings. And I want them to set a regular schedule that meets their needs, and let me know when they are planning to deviate from their normal schedule. That way, I can plan my work and meetings accordingly, and I don't get worried if they aren't around when expected.

That said, it matters little what is "common". The only thing that matters is what is expected at your company. If you are interviewing at a company whose schedule requirements don't meet your needs or preferences, you are free to pass on the job and find one you like better. It certainly makes sense to ask about their scheduling during your interview, if it's something you care about.

  • 2
    I like your management style, Joe! – Carson63000 May 27 '16 at 22:24
2

I agree mostly with Carson63000's answer, though in my experience, it's more role-based than size-based.

When your main role is to make maintenance of systems used during the day, you've got to be there when people begin to work, and are no more useful once they're back home.

In the same firm(a big bank), I've been assigned(at different times of my career) project development & software maintenance tasks. For Project development, noone cared my schedule, as long as I was doing the job. For software maintenance, the requirements were extremely strict : "arrive at 0800, have finished the checkup at 0900 to be sure users can work, stay up to 1700 when the users stop working with the system". Strict schedule was perfectly justified. Though those situations are not that common amongst developpers. But it happens. Happened to me a few times.

For freedom, well, if the only thing that matters is that the job is finished, and up to the standards of quality, who cares if you work 0700-1600 or 1100-2000 (or 0700-2000 if you are badly organized)? But it's not freedom to finish when you want. The deliverable is due for the 24th of June, you'd better deliver something that works well the 24th of June.

  • 1
    Good point on the maintenance / development split. I suspect that you're more likely to be working maintenance at a non-software company, too. – Carson63000 May 27 '16 at 22:22
0

It's not uncommon. It's not very common, but it happens.

Things tend to be more flexible with purely software development companies, and less flexible with companies where software is just one small department among other departments with fixed hours, where management may feel it is difficult to explain why software developers may have more freedom than others.

Flexibility is a perk that people value. As a company, by offering flexibility you will get the same employees for less money, or better employees for the same money, compared to a competitor not offering it. What's bad is when a company hires a new mini-Hitler manager who wants to take that perk away and doesn't get that this was a reason why people work for this company and not another one, that's going to cause trouble.

You just need to decide: How much is this flexibility worth to you? Due to traffic it may be worth a lot. Having a commute outside rush hour may be very valuable. Or if you can arrive by train at 9:05 am and to be there at 9:00 you need to leave home an hour earlier; that 5 minute flexibility would be very valuable. Also check with the company exactly how flexible or inflexible you are.

(The company may not care that you leave an hour earlier; not their problem. But in reality it may determine whether you start there or not. Or you may be saying to yourself: I would start with this company for $X if I can take the later train. If I have to leave an hour earlier, I'll only start for $X + 5000. So you ask for more money).

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