Ayende @ Rahien

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Get out of the way, we are coding, Part II

Another thing that is pretty common in development cycles is the notion of who can do more. Hours, that is, rather than work. That is a pretty important distinction.

In general, I appreciate Work much better than Hours. For the simple reason that someone doing 12 hours a day in the office usually do a lot less actual work. Sprints are possible, and we do that sometimes, usually if there is a major production issue or we are gearing up for a release.

Then again, we have just released RavenDB 2.5, and we haven’t had the need for doing that. It was simpler & easiest to push the date by a week than do long hours just to hit an arbitrary point in time. I think that in the last six months, we had people stay in the office past 5 – 6 PM twice.

There are three reasons for that. The two obvious ones are:

  • people doing 12 – 18 hours of work each day turn do crappy stuff, so that is bad for the product.
  • people doing 12 – 18 hours of work each day also tend to have… issues. They burn out, quite rapidly, too. Leaving aside issues such as this one. People crash and burn.

I know that I said it before, but it is important to note. Burn out will do nasty things to you. Leaving aside the proven physical and mental health issues that this cause, it boils down to this. I’ve burned out before, it sucks. Let’s us not do that is a pretty important aspect of what I do on a daily basis. That is why I turned to building products, because being on the road 60% of the time isn’t sustainable, and if it is something that I feel, this is certain for other people who work for Hibernating Rhinos.

But I said that there are three reasons. And the third might be just as important as the others. Hibernating Rhinos was built to be a place where people retire from. This is the ideal, and we are probably talking 40 years from now, considering all factors, but that is the idea. We aren’t a startup, chasing the pot of gold for that one in a hundred chance to make it rich.

And that is why I had to kick people out of the office and tell them to continue working on that issue tomorrow.

Comments

Bob
09/02/2013 09:43 AM by
Bob

Ayende, I thought you are doing at least 16 hr, but it seems you are slacking and delaying new RavenDB features ;-)

Krzysztof Krol
09/02/2013 11:41 AM by
Krzysztof Krol

So it seems that it's nice to work @ Hibernating Rhinos ... where can I sign in ... ;)

Jon Samwell
09/02/2013 12:13 PM by
Jon Samwell

I couldn't agree with this more! It's just a shame most managers / bosses / MD's think that working for 12 hours+ of being in the office is better than 6-8 hours of quality work.

Someone once said to me that I shouldn't bother coming in early as no-one see's my overtime in the morning and it is better to do overtime after 5pm as it gets noticed more. My reply was I come in early so I can leave earlier and that I rarely do overtime (especially since becoming a contractor!). Too many people fall in the trap of living to work not working to live. Of course programming in your own time, on your own stuff after work is a different story!

Stacey
09/02/2013 02:23 PM by
Stacey

Programmers get to leave the office? Is this posted somewhere that I can print it out...

Sam
09/02/2013 03:18 PM by
Sam

Even 4 hours of productive work is actually a lot, considering the nonsense that is done in any office. But that is not nonsense it's just realistic what people can really do.

Matt
09/02/2013 04:29 PM by
Matt

It's also bad for company motivation. When people put in long hours, they can end up grouchy and bad tempered. They often need to vent and this can end up being expressed as bitching about fellow colleagues. Both of these can lead to a sour working environment crashing morale.

I've recently joined a company who have embedded the idea of working office hours only into their values and the motivation here is very high. Its rare to meet someone who looks exhausted, at previous companies its been very common.

Trusting employees is also very valuable. Treat your employees like children and watch their every move and they grow to resent it.

Daniel Lang
09/02/2013 08:54 PM by
Daniel Lang

12 hours! Are you kidding me? I'd be happy to do 6-7 hours of concentrated programming per day. 12 hours sound like, a lot.

Stuart
09/02/2013 09:04 PM by
Stuart

It's good to know I've got a 40-year window of opportunity to join Hibernating Rhinos!

I try really hard not to have to work extra hours, so I can get home to my family, who are far more important. If I'm gonna get paid overtime though...

Ayende Rahien
09/03/2013 07:20 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Daniel, People doing 12 hours days usually don't get 3 hours of concentrated programming

Edward
09/03/2013 08:35 PM by
Edward

Ive been there. Working all the hours, living on caffeine, chasing deadlines. Lots of websites were build under deadlines and stress. It was fun until it was too much. Burn out is no small issue. There are limits and costs.

Luckely we could also turn our company into a product company. We have normal hours for years now. Ok sometimes a sprint but only for one day. Today I'm the one trying to take their lunch brake on time and get them out of the office at 17.00 too. Working with fresh people is so much better.

One tip: a time management technique like the pommodoro technique can help a lot.

Dorin
09/05/2013 09:58 AM by
Dorin

100% I agree with you.

but what about those american millionaires and newspapers telling us that if you want to be successful you have to sleep less :) well Donald Trump claims he sleeps 3-4 hours per night. so they are not telling the full story :) or they are liars.

Ayende Rahien
09/05/2013 12:01 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Dorin, Trump is also a double divorcee. Anyone who works insane hours is putting a lot of stress on their life, on their relationships and on their body & mind. There are a few that can do that, sure. And there are a few that are willing to accept the costs associated with it. Hibernating Rhinos was explicitly NOT set up to be a Get Rich Quick style of company. It was setup to be a long term company with the explicit intent to allow us to have a good time at work, but also have a life. I want it to be a place where people retire from and have good memories of. Money is required so we can pay the bills, and pay everyone, but we aren't doing full time chasing of it at the expense of all else.

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