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How do you make programmers work 60-80 hours per week? (brianknapp.me)
270 points by donnemartin 168 days ago | hide | past | web | 192 comments | favorite



I seem to be alone in this, but I actually do about 25-30 hours of actual programming work each week. And that's sit-down-and-concentrate-and-build-shit work. I'm pretty ruthless about declining extraneous meetings and I keep my door closed most of the time.

I think it's reasonable to have 25% of a 40-hour week be for meetings, helping other people, eating lunch, sitting in on interviews, and learning/trying out new things.

And yeah, 25-30 hours is probably a maximum, and it needs to be done in three-hour chunks at a minimum. As a manager you can easily destroy that by allowing an environment where a solid three-hour block of time never happens for a dev.


> And yeah, 25-30 hours is probably a maximum, and it needs to be done in three-hour chunks at a minimum.

There's a fascinating corollary on "effective working time" research. I've seen the numbers multiple times in Finnish press, but have hard time even finding them now - and can't recall ever seeing these figures in English media.

According to work wellbeing research done (at least partially) in Finland, knowledge workers can achieve approximately 5.5h of effective work a day. Any hours much beyond that are mostly wasted due to the level of concentration required.

This number chimes well with your estimate: 25-30 hours of effective work per week. I'm quite confident these figures would come up again and again.


I think there is a problem defining what is effective when talking about creative work.. I did some contract work a few years ago and while I worked from home and tried to be on task during working hours I was not always at the keyboard during that time. Sometimes I sat on the couch with my eyes closed, and I went for a walk on the beach regularly but I was always thinking about the way in which the code I was writing was developing, the shape of the algorithms and how best to interface to other modules. I even thought about that stuff out of hours (which was unbilled time, though I got a hefty bonus..).

When you take this concept of effective working time to the statistician who sees only the time you spent actually at the keyboard and tells the MBA that your effective time was 2-4 hours out of an 8 hour shift, and that MBA wants you to increase this effectiveness by getting it to 100% of the time that he is paying you.. then thats not going to work.


> Sometimes I sat on the couch with my eyes closed, and I went for a walk on the beach regularly but I was always thinking[...]

I worked from home for 7 years, and during the brief summers I took 1-2h biking breaks during the day when I was stuck and felt like my mind was grinding to a halt. Often enough I would get unstuck, or at least have lots of new ideas.

On the flipside, I also learned that one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in these circumstances is a lightweight dictating machine. Or a phone capable of recording on a keypress. The ideas would come and go, and if I didn't record them when they popped up, I would spend quite a lot of time trying to find them again.

Taking notes is underrated.


I do this with running from time to time. It's a great way to solve problems. Stuck on something for a few hours? go for a run! I'd usually have some sort of solution by the time I get back.


This is why I want an MBA. I know and respect these things.


A huge time sink is thinking. I just mentally plan the most effective and long term solution before coding the task at hand, so whatever I write doesn't come to bite me later. From the outside, it looks like I'm fiddling. And most of the time, it goes on even when on in office because the mind can't be turned on and off easily it goes on and on ever at home


> From the outside, it looks like I'm fiddling.

Indeed, sometimes I'm stuck "watching" something on the screen (it looks like I'm watching a movie) maybe for extended periods of time. Then suddenly I jump and grab a pen and paper, and in a couple of minutes I get everything I've been building up written down, which helps me in solving the last details.

The opposite is true too, sometimes I'm in a bind and can't get myself to work on some task trying to get into flow, and it turns out fiddling like that (opening random terminals, typing useless commands, navigating some code and skimming through some source file) definitely looks like I'm frantically working.


What are you guys coding that makes you think so much? Most of the time I either code or research a particular tech. I rarely have to think about stuff too much...


when the codebase is old enough, you need to think about all the dependencies of every component you change when adding features. that's the major drag to me.

also, browser compatibility, that also requires load of prep work because of the layers of workaround to get stuff working right.


I am the same. I'll just fiddle around with boilerplate code or procrastinate off other tasks, but that is only semi-consciously. What I am really doing with like 60% of my focus is trying out different designs/architectures around a problem. This might take a few days until I figure out a design that fits the task, but once I'm satisfied, it's usually only a few hours to code the thing.

Worth noting, this process can be significantly sped up if you have a set of peers (or smarter) people to discuss with.


You have a door: there's your 50% productivity boost.


Seriously. Every day I go in I think about how much more productive I could be if I could literally shut out distractions with a real live door.


You have a door?! Is your company hiring?


Not with this hype for open office space you don't! ;)


The cynical side of me interprets this as: you can leave if you don't like it.


That is so awesome... you have a door?!?


I have an office. Intermediate dev/ba.

I've gotten a taste for it now. I could reluctantly work in a small shared office with other programmers, but I would have to be desperate to ever go back to an open office. That or get paid a lot.


Good headphones work to some extent too.


That's only a part of it.

It's also a sign you're not valued. Let's see how many of you we can cram in there.


Many buildings in areas with lots of defense and medical industry will be set up to be all offices.


I'm glad I get to work in a hybrid environment. We all have laptops for the actual coding. Have a number of rooms, lounge areas and meeting spaces as well as a central open area for coding. I usually code collaboratively with some of the team members in open space. Sometimes alone in lounge with good music in background, sometimes in a closed room whichever gets me in the zone. The rule is if you don't see someone in open area then you gotta slack.

I absolutely believe giving developers the freedom to choose a personal space with walls and doors is very essential to productivity.


Being able to actually program for 25-30 hours per week sounds like a dream. I'm lucky to get 5-10 solid hours of programming a week. I still refuse to work overtime.

/team lead


You're not alone. I, and everyone at work except perhaps our CEO, get probably 30 hours of focused programming done, with the caveat that probably around 75% of that programming is done in pairs. Which still feels like very productive programming most of the time. We do this by using the pomodoro technique and TDD (although I'm sure there are lots of other ways, and that it's mostly a combination of company philosophy and a fitting business model and product).


I've always liked pairing because it ensures that you're both there to get the thing done, and generally I've found that it keeps both of us from goofing off (until the thing is done, then it's time to play). While the theoretical throughput would be 50% (two people doing one thing), it ends up being greater than if we had both tried to work on different things, since the one thing we're doing comes out better since it's getting reviewed while written + any problems which come up can be solved much much faster. Plus, both people always learn at least one little thing, typically more.

Pairing is just great. Works well for sysadmin stuff too, even if I'm mostly leading that and just bringing someone else along for the ride.


I like pairing for those reasons as well. Also, I can keep my concentration up more easily when there is a requirement for me to do so, e.g. when I'm intercommunicating. It's when I talk to myself that I get distracted the most.


I used to do the same as a defence contractor. We coded in a team of two, or sometimes with a third wheel who was learning. About 1.2x more productive, but rewrites and dead ends became rare.


What kind of business are you in that the entire company except the CEO is programmin full time?


Online productivity tools. No investments, profitable, linear but steady growth, minimal marketing, small team size, close to zero process. Works great for us programmers. And the CEO does a lot of programming as well, if I'd venture a guess I'd say about 40-50%.


I still can't imagine that this makes sense. Even if everyone is a developer on paper, you should be spending more time on all the other parts of running a company. CEO still writing code half of the time when everyone else is writing code all the time puts it over the edge. Don't you also need Designers, QA, Ops, Marketing, or CFO?


You might find it hard to imagine, but that's how it is. I can't say exactly how much time the CEO spends on other tasks out of office, but I know that he at least does a lot of coding while he's at the office (which is most of the time). As I said, we have a minimal amount of support issues and marketing. We also don't do meetings. We don't spend a ton of time on design, and when we do, everyone participates. But that's a very small amount of time compared to the time we spend writing (or thinking/talking about) code. QA is part of the coding process. CFO is outsourced/done by the CEO. The point is, all the developers except the CEO spends at least 90% of their time coding (in pairs).


It's basically a matter of how much control one has over their work environment and distractions.

I work from home, and I have a high enough social standing in my company that I can simply decline incoming phone calls whenever I want. As a result, like you, I can get a shitload of work done.

Most developers aren't so lucky though. That's why the productivity norm in our industry is closer to 10 hours per week, maybe 15.


I went from a fortune 500 to a self-supporting start-up. I was surprised not to have a phone on my desk. It didn't take long to realize how great it is not to have a desk phone.


This is my sentiment exactly. The stuff I produce in the 30-40 hour segment is significantly worse than the first 30. Also, meetings/helping out is perfectly fine, but maintaining 3-hour chunks are still crucial to productivity.


Putting in 25-30 good, quality hours at work each week and then 30 more hours a week on my pet project, I would not classify an hour as good depending on if I produced code or not. A good hour too me is one where I could keep my concentration on work, thinking or coding.

It's doable, working two shifts. It takes a 30 minute walk from work to home to reset and prepare myself for shift #2. If my boss want both those shifts though I shall ask for double the money. I don't see how I could be working any more. This is my max. Both shifts require a creative and hungry mind. I'm very hungry at the moment but I suspect this is a phase.


Most jobs require 8 hour day. If you add 6 on top of that, plus walk to-from work, that's 15 hours per day on just work. When do you sleep and eat?


> I keep my door closed most of the time

What I wouldn't give for a door... I'm not even allowed to wear headphones, so I get to field constant walk ups whilst listening to an entire high ceiling-ed office full of executive assistants all screaming at each other across the floor.


Do your worst, skeptical HN, but I swear on my life I've been maintaining more than 80 hours of ridiculously productive, focused coding time per week, for about a year. It so different when you love and believe in what you're working on. I literally can't wait to get out of bed and start working, and the entire day goes by before I notice. The thing I'm working on is a sheer joy to work on, and the conditions are ideal. I'd wager the inability to focus for N hours is related to the stress of having to force yourself to focus on something you wouldn't be focusing purely for the sake of it.


I love and believe in what I am working on, I usually can’t wait to get out of bed and start programming, and that’s exactly why I force myself to stop after a reasonable number of hours. Because I know 80 hours a week (or 40 hours a week) of programming would not be sustainable for me. That much work would simply destroy my life outside of work and harm my productivity at work. Short-term gain, possibly, long-term loss, inevitably.


An interesting exercise is to run RescueTime for a few weeks and see what your daily average is. I'm reminded by this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=208818

I certainly believe people can be extremely productive for, say, 100h/w. For example, see Elon Musk for a straightforward counterexample to the "40h/w is peak absolute productivity on a sustained basis"-crowd. But it is useful to separate effective coding time from other productive, and not so productive, time. Empirically speaking, as evidenced by the thread and its sampling of highly motivated YC founders, few people average more than something like 4 hours of effective coding a day.

EDIT: I mean what I say in the first paragraph quite literally. Run Rescuetime for two weeks. See what it reports for Software Dev. That is close enough for effective coding time. It isn't rocket science. Self-reported numbers are almost without fail vastly overestimated, even for expert practitioners.


Well, everyone's different. I don't know what kind of gotcha is hiding in the word 'effective'. It's routine for me to spend 14 hours in a day actually writing and refactoring code, and it seems pretty wildly effective to me.


You need to be thinking of a career of 30+ years rather than a 3 year sprint.

It's cool you're spending your time producing, but don't forget you need to take care of yourself and hone your fundamentals (linear algebra, data structures, algorithms, your field).


Well... As pg mentions in one of his essays: the startup game is about getting the rewards of a 30 year career out of 4 years. If you truly believe that you are building something that matters and you are going to win, 80 hour weeks make a lot of sense.


As pg doesn't mention though, statically you won't reap "the rewards of a 30 year career out of 4 years" regardless of how hard you work and whether you "truly believe that you are building something that matters and you are going to win".


I've already had a career of 30 years :) (really, 25)


Sounds great. But how many years will that carry on for? Surely whatever you're choosing will be complete in the next month or two of 80 hour weeks?


It's been going on for a year, and will likely be done this month. So yes, there's maybe an end. Maybe. But it was extremely enjoyable, not something I'm looking forward to ending, like a crunch at an employer.


Do you have a family?


Noop!


I've bursts. Sometimes I can work three days non stop and sometimes I strugle to write any good code. Luckily I've some margin to decide on what to work every day so I do documentation or unit/integration testing the days my brain is downclocked.


I both agree and disagree with the premise that programming is a creative process. Donald Knuth calls programming “an aesthetic experience much like composing poetry or painting.” The most creative work can be done when it's not clear if something will work or not, that is it might fail, and it requires the ambition of a mad scientist to succeed. The individual programmer must have autonomy and not be micro-managed or ruled by a committee, otherwise they will resort to being creative in ways that are petty and insignificant, like naming conventions, syntax formatting, arbitrary rules, etc.

99% of programming jobs are not creative jobs. Most problems aren't that unique, and most programmers work within well-established boundaries and frameworks. Step out of line or take unconventional risks, and you may find yourself unemployed. This is not necessary bad, it brings stability, but also stagnation (it is why enterprise IT culture is so soul-draining, from first-hand experience). Not only enterprise but many startups operate this way. There is overwhelming cognitive bias towards doing what other people are doing, which will only lead to the same results.


A: you hire young one that have no idea what they're doing and jump into problems both feet without thinking a path ahead

and for every programmer claims to work that much, you also get two of them complaining on the costant shit the overworked one produces and have to fix strange bug half their time

eventually the software becomes a mess of tangled issues and advancement grinds to an halt irregardless of amount of time spent


My last job was exactly that. I was dropped in as an almost-30 year old, working with young 20 year olds still in school.

I was fired a few months later, with the main reason being that I usually left the office 9 or 10 hours after coming in and only occasionally worked the 12+ hour days that the rest did.

With a small codebase and self contained projects, I can't really say quality suffered. Only the employees.


>I was fired a few months later, with the main reason being that I usually left the office 9 or 10 hours after coming in and only occasionally worked the 12+ hour days that the rest did.

Such practices are illegal (or at least frowned upon) in most of the civilized world.


> Such practices are illegal (or at least frowned upon) in most of the civilized world.

It's called "employment-at-will", and it's not that uncommon.


There may be a few exceptions, but by and large a young inexperienced programmer's 80 hours will be worth an experienced programmer's 40 hours... plus the cost of the fact that the inexperienced programmer will make mistakes which will cause your code to quickly become unmanageable without oversight. Churning out code is quite a bit different than churning out good code.


I am 27 and am fighting those same 24-year olds that want to code before they think.

They call it refactoring, I call it fixing a design issue. The code is no longer fit to fulfill the requirements of it's task and must be altered.

Of course hacks are fine, but they must be reserved for when the fan is blowing shit. It's not for cramming in just one more meaningless task into the sprint.


on the other hand, I'm fine with hacks and shortcuts as long as they're hidden behind a sane, non-leaky interface. Not everything needs to be utmost perfection, especially on the outer layers of the app


The "IPO-ing will make me exceedingly wealthy" scenario is certainly one way to get an 60-80 hour work week.

The other is to be in a business that the employee is passionate about for intrinsic reasons. If the employee is a "true believer" in the company's mission, that can be a motivator to go above and beyond.

Using technology and/or techniques that the employee is interested in learning can be a useful driver. Someone who wants to learn machine learning, for instance, will put in the extra hours if they're given a chance to do it at work while working on a project. Granted it's not a way to get 80 hours from an expert in the field.

Another is to give an employee a great degree of freedom or responsibility in a particular role, and emphasize its importance to the company. Giving a programmer absolute technical authority over a critical project, with high visibility, can motivate them to go hell for leather for a few months.

Ultimately I think working 60-80 hour weeks over the long term, for any reason, will cause burnout. But you can get some short-term boosts if you align the employee's passions with your business needs.


Yeah, I hear a lot of people saying essentially "40 hours is the most anyone can be productive for in a week". My more realistic rule of thumb is that people can tolerate maybe 20-30 hours of doing things they don't intrinsically care about.

So, if you give a shit about 20% of your job, and your job tolerates you doing personal stuff (slash miscellaneous browsing) for a few hours a week, then sure, 40 hours can be sustainable. On the other hand, if this job is your passion, work is stimulating, and you've got things you feel positive ownership over, then having 60-80 hour work weeks isn't necessarily unhealthy (so long as you're aware if and when those drives start to dwindle).

The other upshot of this theory is it dismantles argument that side projects hurt employees' productivity. The extra time spent pursuing your own passions simply isn't draining in the same way implementing others' ideas is. If anything, it adds motivation to the day-to-day stuff, knowing you'll learn skills at work that help the side project you really care about.


> The other is to be in a business that the employee is passionate about for intrinsic reasons. If the employee is a "true believer" in the company's mission, that can be a motivator to go above and beyond.

Some of us are also fiercely competitive. If I had the chance to compete with another company that (in my opinion) is full of idiots, I would probably work day and night to one-up them with my team.


My first programming job (actually, just my first job) was technically a 40 hour/week job, but in the employee handbook it said something along the lines of: "The <company name> day is typically regarded as 8AM to 8PM." They didn't pay very well either. Brian is right, I totally hated my job, hated my boss, hated pretty much the entire company, and quit in 5 months. I was pretty disappointed. I'm still cautious about getting back into the industry. I'm at school now, not studying anything CS related.


> "The <company name> day is typically regarded as 8AM to 8PM."

correct me if I'm wrong, but usually such statement means that you can choose your own 8 hour timeframe to work. So you can work 08 AM - 4 PM, or 11AM - 7 PM, or whatever. It is not expressing expectation of 12h workday.


That's how I would take that too. It sounds like it's okay to come in at 11 as long as I work until at least 7 pm.


They definitely meant 12 hour days. I got there at 9 and left at 6:30 for the first few days (I hadn't read the handbook) and got an email from my boss about "leaving early"


> "The <company name> day is typically regarded as 8AM to 8PM."

Did the building have nets under the windows?


That's pretty SOP for the video game industry: low wages and insane work hours.


No it's not. Infrequent "crunch time" is the norm in the video game industry, with regular hours outside of crunch time (if you're lucky enough to be employed at that time).

Standard expectations of 12 hour days is most certainly not the norm.


I don't want to misread "if you're lucky enough to be employed at that time"; are you saying that the games industry now hires labour for crunch time and then fires everyone afterwards?

The games industry has had a poor reputation for a long time but I don't want to unfairly interpret people if things are better these days.


As a game moves toward completion they will hire up. As deadlines start coming up (e.g. milestones negotiated with publishers) you'll experience crunch times. When the game finally is released, they have a swollen staff that they don't need anymore as they transition into the planning/exploratory phases of the next game. They absolutely lay people off at that time.

This has been the case for a long time and is no secret.


That's how I read it. Clarify OP?


It was the first floor! No need for any nets.


That sounds horrible. I'm still at university anyway, but it seems to me that there should be a mechanism for detecting these companies and shutting them down, if they don't recover. I sincerely hope you'll find a job (industry, academia or otherwise) doing something you like doing in a place that you like. Good luck!


Let's be clear. By "shutting them down", you mean legally prohibiting anyone from voluntarily agreeing to work differently than one university student (who doesn't even work there) would prefer, am I right?

What should be the penalty for those who try to do it anyway?


Because "voluntary" is only just that as long as you have many other options and can easily get away from such a place. In most industries that kind of job security/market fluidity that just isn't the case. Workplace standards are there to protect workers from being exploited. In much of Western Europe the work week is standardized to 40h/w.You can work overtime, but only within certain boundaries for shorter and longer aggregated periods to avoid every day being crunch time.


If you need your employees to work 60-80 hours per week, you need to evaluate your business plan and if it's actually viable.


Yep!!!!

Lets imagine that overtime gets you 50% more productive output.

If your business plan requires 50% more output and you cannot afford to just hire 50% more people then it sounds like you are running a business with very tight margins.

Plenty of other things could raise your staff costs 50% and put you out of business. How about the higher staff turnover from burning out staff? Now you're paying your recruitment consultant more in fees and the extra cost of training and on-boarding new staff.


In case an employee has little overhead, get 2 "part-timers" and let them each work 30-40 hours per week. And cut all other distractions where possible.


I'll never work in a place that considers 40 hours "part time".


Answer:

Be in America where employees are close to slaves, and people are scared of losing their job, so you can force them to do these kinds of atrocious things.

My brother lived and worked in North America for 7 years before returning to Australia. He'd been in Australia for a few months when I asked what the biggest change was. He didn't say no snow, he didn't say driving on the wrong side of the road, food or attitudes.

He said in North America people are scared of and slaves to their jobs because of Health Care, student loans and debt in general, where-as in Australia employers are thankful to employees, and nobody is scared of their job.

I think it's a powerful statement when it's the most noticeable difference after 7 years.


Pretty much this. A few years ago, I used to work for a small-ish American company that had offices in my corner of the world in Europe. They tried to pull this sort of crap in our office -- everyone except the guy in charge of the local office (who was a VP of something something -- his company had been bought some time before) quit within months.

The occasional week-long sprint before a release is one thing. I think better management/planning would avoid them, but they're normal in such a competitive industry, I guess. So I've worked 80-hour weeks at times, no complaint here. In fact, I think they're healthy now and then, I like the buzz that I get at 3 AM, it's good concentration exercise...

Constant work at this pace though, no, can't do. First, that's how bad software gets written. You literally get worse at your business for doing it. Second, those additional hours per day aren't just family time hours. They're also learning-new-things hours, reading hours, keeping myself informed hours, debating stuff with friends hours and so on. Not having them further decreases my chances of getting better employment somewhere else (or even getting a better position where I work right now) and slowly turns me into a social retard living in a bubble made out only of headlines. That can't be good for me.

Oh, and without additional pay, it's illegal pretty much everywhere around here.

It's probably like getting drunk -- getting shitfaced once a year with your old highschool friends to celebrate the anniversary of when you all got arrested for egging the principal's house is kind of a healthy social activity. Chugging a bottle of Jameson every day because that's how we do things around here is called being an alcoholic and it's really bad for your insides.

I've had colleagues who glorified this sort of work. It does create some amount of peer pressure (unsurprisingly, the managers are quick to praise this sort of stuff), but after the ripe age of 17 I've learned to deal with that.


In India, most of the students get a bachelors degree without any loan. No one in India becomes homeless in a week if he loses his job. This loan and debt thing is really messed up in the US.


In India slightly over a quarter of the population are illiterate.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_in_India

The World Bank, in 2011 based on 2005's PPPs International Comparison Program, estimated 23.6% of Indian population, or about 276 million people, lived below $1.25 per day on purchasing power parity.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_India


What's your point? They are talking specifically about students a.k.a people who are literate and have a degree. How's citing literacy or poverty statistics relevant?


India has real problems. Needing to take out a large loan to get a tertiary education when you have completed secondary education in a country where a quarter of the population are illiterate is not a problem.

The money that is spent on making education free for students at a tertiary level could be spent on improving primary education and it should be. No state in India is as rich as Ireland was in 1970. That's around when Ireland made secondary education free to students. To spend money on what is almost entirely a subsidy for the middle class when it could be used to help the wretchedly poor is an abomination.


> The money that is spent on making education free for students at a tertiary level could be spent on improving primary education and it should be.

Sources on that? Education is not free at a tertiary level. It's just really cheap. Also, your premise is completely opposite to the reality. Primary education in India has seen huge progress. Yes, there's still room for improvement, but the plans are in place. For example, public schools are mostly free and girls below a certain age gets free education. The concern is about low higher education enrollment levels, which stood only at about 24% in 2013 [1]. If tertiary education was free, this should've been much higher.

Coming back to the original comment, people usually don't take huge loans for education in India like in the US. So the chances of you being homeless if you lose your job is lower.

[1] http://data.uis.unesco.org/


> In India slightly over a quarter of the population are illiterate.

Most of them still aren't homeless. They somehow have a house to live in. Most illiterates still don't go for a loan to educate their kids, they try to educate with hard cash although they do not get very good education but loans are a big no no(mostly)


I recently read an excellent book on the lives of the extremely poor, Poor Economics, Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo. The authors are development economists at MIT. If you think that poor people don't borrow money you should really read it. Anybody who's secure enough to make it a blanket rule not to borrow money is well above the kind of insecurity that those living on less than a dollar a day deal with.

As far as homelessness goes a homeless shelter in the first world is better than a lot of people's homes in the developing world. There will be clean drinking water, a toilet, almost certainly hot and cold running water, a sufficiency of reasonably nutritious food. One of the facts about the lives of the extremely poor I learned by reading that book is that it's common for migrant labourers in India to sleep on the street or where they're working rather than pay for accommodation. Mostly at work does not mean dorms, it means on a building site or on the floor in a store room.


> it's common for migrant labourers in India to sleep on the street

but not all poor are migrant workers. Most poor people live in villages made by their forefathers.

Poor people borrow money but they do not have to give their house in return and become homeless in case of non payment.

> who's secure enough to make it a blanket rule not to borrow money is well above the kind of insecurity that those living on less than a dollar a day deal with.

But in the US, even people with degrees from good colleges become homeless because of debt. I will be surprised to see many people in India becoming homeless because of education loan.

edit: Just to make my point clear, there is a difference in mindset of people in India and the US. Indians do not risk taking huge loans just to be able to have a job at the end of college or take huge home loans to live a posh life and later become homeless in case of a job lay off.


How many Indians with bachelors degrees are illiterate?


It's true. I love the US, but our student loans and healthcare systems just flat out suck.

As a country we've slowly-but-surely gotten so many things right, but we have a god damned long way to go, and it just feels like we're crawling. I guess with a population of 320 million it's kind of like trying to turn the Titanic.


Exceptionalism is a strange beast. Thinking this way only hurts society at large.


Thing what way? How is this exceptionalism? How have I implied in any way that the United States is different or better than other countries?


Sorry I was agreeing with you... Can see how you could read that in a way I didn't intend. My point was that by thinking the American way is the best already it stops healthy feedback loops.


"Usura rusteth the chisel. It rusteth the craft and the craftsman."

There were a few decades the country wasn't a glorified sheep shearing operation, but those days are long past.


The problem with this is it creates many dead weights who work to rule as the rule if even that. I can't wait for basic income so finally only the people who want to work do. There is nothing more frustrating than working with someone who doesn't cooperate because they know firing them isn't worth it. Europe and Australia have plenty of these cases.


Nobody outside of NA are scared of loosing their jobs, is what you believe, because of how enslaved to the system Americans are?

Households in Sweden take on heavy debt. If we loose our jobs here some of us fall back for a while on a (voluntary) system which from an angle looks like a basic income but that cover only a fraction of that household's mortage, enslaving us to a system in the same way Americans may seem enslaved in their.

I always though Americans were used to and didn't have a lost sence of security when job-hopping, the way their employment system is designed.

Edit: clarified the opt-in nature of such an insurance


> Nobody outside of NA are scared of loosing their jobs, is what you believe, because of how enslaved to the system Americans are?

I didn't say nobody, and I didn't say everywhere outside America. Don't exaggerate what I said.

I used an example that Australia Vs. America is a vast difference.

In my experience (and that of my brother), Americans not having maternity leave, sick leave, decent holidays etc. and having student debt and health care tied to their work means they are treated much more like slaves than in other high-performing OECD countries.

I'm curious about Sweden now.

- When one does lose their job in Sweden, what happens when you break your leg next week? or get cancer?

- How much student debt to those in Sweden incur for a 4 years bachelor degree?

- How many weeks of leave does Sweden mandate by law from full-time work?

- How about maternity leave and sick leave?


>Don't exaggerate what I said

Alright then.

>When one does lose their job in Sweden, what happens when you break your leg next week? or get cancer?

Care for children is always for free in all clinics except private ones. Care for the rest of us cost 30 EUR, no matter if you have a job or not. There is an upper roof of how much your yearly medical bill is. This roof stays the same if you have a job or not. I have it that roof a couple of times but never for acctual medicine bills, so I don't know exactly how it works for medicine, but doctor bills, the upper roof is 10 doctor visits for 30 EUR then a year of no doctor bills.

Many have extra insurance to conver for events where you loose your ability to work.

>How much student debt to those in Sweden incur for a 4 years bachelor degree?

One part of the debt you take on you never pay back. That part is like a carte blanche check that students get to spend on whatever education they like, at University level. Second part is a loan. Some work part-time while at University and others hit the roof which would be something like 17 semesters and 17*2000=34K EUR. Then you start paying that back as soon as you take on your first job but never over ~1% of your income.

>How many weeks of leave does Sweden mandate by law from full-time work?

5 weeks. Many have 6 weeks. You can get those in money instead of as vacation. 4 weeks is around a months pay.

>How about maternity leave and sick leave?

Everyone have sickleave. First day: no money for you, poor sick fellow. Next day its around 70% of your pay. If you are chronically ill a special incurance takes care of you, puts you in early retirement.

All mothers: around 300 days of leave per child. You get goverment money during those days. All fathers: minimum is 3 months I think? They can also use some of the mother's days.


Thanks for the detailed reply, I appreciate it.

As a thought exercise, answer all of my questions above for the USA, comparing the answers to those you gave for Sweden.

Now you know why I said workers in the USA are akin to slaves compared to high-performing OECD countries.


Yes, in Sweden we have laws that protect the employer to a much higher degree and we also have a very static work force. You can easily go this route: learn something, get a job, don't steal or do anything criminal, keep that job until you die or get replaced by a robot. And many do. And get very anxious at the prospect of ever changing occupation because of their mortage. I job-hop alot though (without anxiety, because I'm in demand).

I thought the American system would at least to some degree make job-hopping a non-issue, giving you a much more flexible work force, not anxious, since the fact that you can get fired and have to leave the same day goes both ways. But perhaps that worry comes from not having any type of security nets where we have at least a few. So sure, I see where you come from when you say an American employee is a slave to the corporation that gives him health insurance. He can hop only to other employers with health insurance. He will have less options than me.

We are healther in Sweden, perhaps, but slaves to the money system like everyone else.


I think you mean employee (arbetar), not employer (arbetsgivare).


Yes you are right. I mix up those to.


I'm currently studying in Sweden. I think mack73 comment was slightly exaggerated.

- Health care insurance is not (as far as I know) provided by your employer.

- If you take the maximum amount of student loan from CSN (http://www.csn.se/en/2.1034), you'll end up whith ~70 000kr debt per year

- Swedish law mandates 25 day of paid leave per year for a full time employee. https://lagen.nu/1977:480 (in Swedish)

- We have parental leave with some compensation for 480 days, you can find more information here: (http://preview.tinyurl.com/ktgsyyg)


Yes and it was also a while ago since I studied. Your numbers seem correct. Extra health insurance is often provided to you by your employer though. With standard health care a broken leg is the same price as an ear infection. Extra insurance in some cases equal a doctors apointment within the hour instead of waiting a day or so. 25 days = 5 working weeks. Our parental leave is outstanding.

My point was not to say we have not come a long way in Sweden. It was to question if that really makes us feel less like slaves to the system. My view is we have built this system to make sure we have a happy work force. Allthough that might not sound sinister, it does make me feel part of a system that it is hard to opt-out from.

I definetly feel like a slave to the monetary system. But this is already way off-topic.


I live in Sweden myself, having emigrated from the Netherlands. With the proceedings of my relatively modest house in the Netherlands I could buy a 21 hectare farm in Sweden, no mortgage needed. Mind, this is after I paid off the remaining mortgage on the Dutch house. That house was in one of the least popular 'cities' in the Netherlands, the scare quotes around the word city are because many people consider the place (Lelystad) to be a failed city - it was an experiment in city planning in the 70's, a totally new city concept built on totally new (reclaimed) land. The place feels like an agglomeration of suburbs without a real 'living' centre.

The point of this is that I wonder why Swedes get into so much debt. Housing is (apart from Stockholm and Göteborg and some popular areas in other cities) affordable by my Dutch standards. Wages are on par with the Netherlands, taxes are comparable (both are high-tax countries for wage earners), cost of living depends very much on your life style but is comparable to or slightly higher than the Netherlands. Still, Swedes seem to take on enormous loans for some unfathomable reason. Unfathomable, because it certainly is possible to live free here, without that yoke of debt. It might be a status thing, people want to live in those expensive areas even though you can get more space for half the price only a few kilometres away.


Dutch here. We also have huge debt, on average. But if we lose our job and don't find one within 1 year (of unemployment benefits) and welfare after that isn't enoughh you can still sell your house. You can't really sell your degree to make up for the debt.

That being said, someone in the US also easily earns double salary compared to Europe and has lower taxes.


What is the nature of the debt? Housing?

As an aside, I once saw a homeless man in a Scandinavian country. Someone actually stopped their car to check on them. As a tourist from NA, my mind was blown. Was impressed by that but not having to pay 10 bucks for a cup of tea :p


I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden and used to live there until a few years ago. There are plenty of homeless people in Stockholm nowadays. There's one outside almost every grocery store in the city center. For comparison, I'm currently living in Taipei, and I can count the number of homeless people I have seen in the last few months on one hand. They probably exists but they are definitely not visibly present.

As to the nature of debt, it is almost entirely in housing. It is currently a big debate about whatever there should be laws on private cash investment and mortgage repayment rates.

Homelessness example from Sweden's public radio (2014): http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&art...

OECD private debt: https://data.oecd.org/hha/household-debt.htm

EDIT: Almost all the homeless people you see in Stockholm are Romani people. They are one of the five officially recognized national minorities in Sweden, along with Jews, Sami, Sweden Finns and Tornedalers (https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&pr...)


Are the homeless in Stockholm Swedish or Roma?

EDIT

> EDIT: Almost all the homeless people you see in Stockholm are Romani people. They are one of the five officially recognized national minorities in Sweden, along with Jews, Sami, Sweden Finns and Tornedalers ...

Please refer to my post below replying to this same assertion from another poster.


Those are not mutually exclusive options: there are plenty of Roma who have been in Scandinavia for centuries.


Yes I know, but to pretend that the number of Roma begging in city centers in some parts of Scandinavia has not increased by orders of magnitude in the past decade is pointless.

My point is that the OP was attempting to construct an argument about the supposed failings of a social structure based upon an anecdote about people that were never part of the social structure in the first place.

(NB I never said that they aren't welcome to join the society just that they haven't done so.)


I think (another) root cause of the problem is the education system in America. People go to great lengths (i.e. playing "slave" in High School) to get into great colleges which are often privately funded. This means that high performers go to good colleges and some of them score big and give back to their alma mater which reinforces the school with money so they can hire better people etc etc. Disclaimer: European and total outsider so please correct me if my views are wrong I am very interested in how Americans see this system. Do you think it's unfair?


That is a bit simplistic. The social pressures to get into a great college have increased greatly from when I went to high school (and I was in a good school district, most in America are horrible or substandard). But the fundamental purpose of American education - to socialize kids into cannon fodder for the Industrial Revolution - has always been the driving force behind educational practices in America. Read up on the works of John Taylor Gatto [0] if you want a critical analysis of the American educational system.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Taylor_Gatto


If an employer is expecting this, they are setting themselves up for failure.

> No programmers really work 60-80 hours a week, especially in a 5 day span

There are cases when we are required to deliver athletic/marathon-like performance and it can be achieved for a shorter timespan

I have worked on multiple occasions, 14-16 hours per day to achieve 98-100 "productive" hrs per week, working 120 hrs a week for 3-4 weeks. I know it was productive, because I installed time-tracker and used a personal notepad too to track my time. I was invisible to my family, sleeping just 4-5 hours a day and sometimes I could not sleep after the first week. Also note, doing this as a freelancer I was getting paid for all that extra time - and I have a premium price attached for quicker results. I would not recommend doing this if you are being paid peanuts or being paid regular rates because that opens up a world of abusive managers/biz-owners.


When I really like the work that I am doing and there are some real challenges, I can get up to 6 hours of work done before I have to take a break for a few hours. Not every day, but 2-3 days out of 5. It means that there is no point in making an appearance before 10 am or working past 4 pm. But when I am really smoking I can put in another 2-4 productive hours in the evening after 7 pm or so.

Of course, few employers understand this kind of work pattern, and most of them prefer having a developer spend more time in the office, even though it results in less productive work getting done. This is often enforced by people who are unable to correctly assess technical skills or the outcomes of technical work. Since they have no clue who is competent and whether any of the work output is usable, they compensate by forcing people to spend more time doing useless activities that they can assess. Like sitting at a desk, having meetings, raising an issue and setting up a meeting of stakeholders to discuss how to solve that issue. Many of us have to work in environments where these enforcers create a lot of churn to make it seem like the enforcer is a valuable member of the team.

I suspect that there are more such useless people in the workforce nowadays because companies no longer try to hire good competent people who will work for one company their entire career. As a result, there is nobody in the company long enough to identify and get rid of incompetents while at the same time, the truly skilled people give up and find a new opportunity every 2 to 3 years.

By the way, the incompetents that I talk about are not skilled developers who make a mistake or two, or who get stuck in ratholes solving the wrong problem. I am referring to the people that are weeded out with fizzbuzz. Unfortunately there is no fizzbuzz for project managers, business analysts and a whole range of other support roles, including managers.

So my take on how to get developers to work at a high level of productivity is to make the environment excellent. Get rid of the people who waste other people's time. Cut way back on meetings and replace them with a good ticket system and some people who make sure that tickets are properly sized with clear requirements including context and acceptance criteria. This pretty much means a mature Agile shop. Focus on all the stuff around the developers and make sure that the retrospectives are as brutally honest as possible, and follow through on fixing problems that are brought up in the retrospectives.


The danger here is that this ideal environment created requires external meaning and tasks. Exploratory movement is messy, painful, and inefficient. It often requires you to learn new things on the fly and punishes severly for understandable mistakes.

Most of upper management and management involves strategic plays. Exploring a jungle, trying to find treasure, and doing so while other tribes are out there to kill you. Allies can become enemies and vice versa. Reality is cruel.

Triabl power is amassed through followers, and one of the best perks you can provide for followers is meaning. A cultivated environment where they can do what they want to do and is often what they do best. The messiness of dealing with what makes them feel like fools is hidden away.

The end result is that strong tribes (also known as insitutions or movements) can deploy "happy" specialists defeating other tribes, be it seige mechanics, hackers, or priests. The specialization is possible because they are shielded.

This specialization defines the middle class. Comfort within a bubble. A bubble that depends onthe existence of the institution or tribe they subscribe to. The overspecialization that is a strength ONLY as along as the rules don't change. The disruptor unwittingly becoming the disruptee. Twitter giving rise to Trump.


Funnily enough this is how athletes work. Most athletes start with a 2-3 hour session, then eat, ideally nap, and then a second 1-2 hour session at a low intensity.


I think it follows from Brian's point that only founders may ever put in that much work, maybe very early employees; as he said, the trick is to be painting your own house...

Having said that, I completely agree that long hours are overrated and maybe unhealthy. Burnout will follow. Everyone has to recover. Such long stints can only be kept up for so long!


Is that true? I avoided ever joining startups because I assumed everyone worked 60 hours every week.


Having been based in various co working spaces where many startups work from I can definitely say most work regular work weeks!

As the other reply says, usually you find people doing longer hours in a few selected periods of a startups life. E.g. First MVP, first big client... crunch time!


To an extent, yes.

However, I would say typical early stage startup work is 55 hours/week.

Basically 10 hours day through the week, and a couple hours on the weekend.


What's your experience on the average workweek for mid/later stage startups?


Again, n=1 but I've experienced and have friends who have experienced around 50 hours/week for mid/later stage startups.

The stress is lower because you usually have more cash flow or significant rounds that make the work more enjoyable and you have a better comfort of working overall.


This sounds true to me, but it would take a very uncommon executive to put it into practice. MBA types won't do a thing without quantitative data behind it and attempts to measure real productivity in creative fields usually turn into meaningless self-fulfilling prophecies. I wonder what it would take to break the dogma of the 40-hour week?


Running teams of contractors for years, I disagree it's uncommon. I let my guys do whatever they want as long as the work is being delivered.

Sometimes I have to have a standoff with some salaried dragonwoman or other who takes offence but that's on me and doesn't run downstream -- as long as everything is being done why should this be a problem?

Productivity drops when you force people to work outside their peak schedule and as soon as you force school rules you immediately deteriorate your relationship with a subordinate because you're saying you don't trust them from the outset.

Someone takes the piss then reign them in. Starting from that position makes you a bad boss and an unhappy team is much less likely to scrape across the finish line each sprint than one who isn't...


> Running teams of contractors for years, I disagree it's uncommon. I let my guys do whatever they want as long as the work is being delivered.

I agree with this statement. I would amend it to say "As long as the work they signed up for is being delivered."


Who is 'they' in that case? They for me is whoever is paying us to help them with their business.

If it's the contractors/team members then no. Ive unfortunately had several highly paid (4 figures uk/day) contractors who think themselves above certain tasks, or who refuse to do anything they didn't agree with who seem surprised when they get told to fuck off.

You're an overpaid contract dev and you're refusing to implement your points because you disagree with the architecture even after it was discussed fully, while on a k a day? Fuck those ballerinas. They won't be getting more work with us then.

We are there to help a business achieve a goal, nothing more.


In the United States there are strict definitions between contract roles (1099) and employees because it determines how you are taxed . I agree about the above certain tasks thing though.


Same in the UK. It's called IR35. Most contractors in the UK are Ltd companies and are structured as such to avoid a large amount of tax/National Insurance.


I downvoted you for arrogance. You obviously think your are better than those you "manage." Are you technical? Can you sling assembly? Ok, what about C? C++ maybe? I'm guessing you can't do any of that. Can you back up your talk?


Sounds like a good boss to me, and I know good bosses. Sounds like he doesn't have a lot of time for the kind of prima donna architecture astronaut who can't convince anyone else on a team that he's worth listening to but wants everything done his way anyway. Shall I tell you what you sound like right now?


I don't think any of your questions are relevant. He has expressed protecting his employees and he protects his work contracts. That's his job. If an employee cares more about getting his/her way than serving the customer, the manager has the right to not put up with that. And that has nothing to do with how technical either of them are.


Well fair enough.

I don't consider myself better then my team when taken as a whole, however I am the lead for a reason and I'm much closer aligned on how to maximise what we're delivering to the client as I have to actually deal with them. The reasons why I sometimes have to pick a worse solution to a problem are obvious to me but not always to my team, but that's the way it goes and I'm the boss.

An example? Once we had a requirement to have a user store for some group of apps and we came up with a really nice ldap solution, and two members of the team were really invested in the solution and the debates were endless on some technical details of the implementation. It was beautiful, as these things go.

Then I find out that there's an existing AD environment we can just hook up to instead of reimplementing functionality that already exists so I shitcan the project.

Does that make me arrogant or good at my job? My job is to help my clients, spending a few months implementing something that already exists just because some of my tech staff prefer our solution is not helping my client, yet these two members refused to implement the Code to interface the existing environment.

Disagreements happen, but refusing to do work you disagree with when you're a contracted professional is unacceptable.

As for my tech credentials, yeah I did a bit of ia32 back in the days where one might want to use 16 bit registers to avoid nulls if you get what I mean, wink wink, but never for profit. C? Yes, I was a c developer and I maintained boost on Solaris for a few years while maintaining as much ingnorance of c++ as possible and not really understanding any of it (mostly a packaging gig).

Today, we are further up the stack but I don't think it has much relevance.

I don't make unpopular decisions because I don't understand what the consequences are which seems to be your take; I just pick the battles we should be fighting for our clients and my comment was that I have little time for people who can't put the client ahead of what they want to work on.

You are hired for your technical ability but that's to further the goals of your client. You aren't working on your side project and refusing to work on things, even those we all don't want to be doing but which further our clients goals is unprofessional and I have no problem saying goodbye to those who do.

Its good to be strongly opinionated. Discussion is great. Multiple solutions and experimenting are good. Your design doesn't happen for some reason (and like above, it might not be because it's not the best solution) that doesn't mean you don't look like a spoiled child refusing to do what you're getting £1000/day to do, and unfortunately this attitude is more prevalent than you'd think.


Still trying to apply manufacturing or construction work practices to IT in 2017.

The people of talent and intelligence, like poets and writers, work due to their own vision and inner values to make money as a by-product of their chosen occupation.

Coding factories would inevitable fail like any other kind of a manual labor sweatshops.

To make intelligent people do their best (intelligence implies that this is the only way they approach any task) is to motivate them for the cause. Any kind of naive manipulation, primitive deceptive practices and employee-morale bullshitting would surely fail with reasonable smart people.

There is an economic law - a forced labor is not productive and it produces a lowest quality crap the whole system could get away with. That's why communism failed.


I find the numbers somewhat off compared to how it is where I work. We are a small team mostly working remotely.

I would estimate that my team puts in (per person) on average about 5-6 hours per day writing code. About 2 hours go to emails, daily meetings, demos and architecture discussions etc.

I have very few interruptions during the day and usually 1-2 meetings pre-scheduled that are 30 min in duration each.

My phone is usually on silent for all notifications except calls and I turn off email as well when I need to focus. I take a short 5 min break every 45 min or so. I avoid HN/Facebook etc during the work day.

There is very little stress, we work towards a defined goal and have daily updates on the progress and what everyone focuses on. Deadlines are very rare.


Fully agree on the office hours aspect of it, but not necessarily on the "you can't get your best work done by someone else's specification" aspect. Either I'm missing some point, or this sounds rather egocentric to me. What is "good work"? Beautiful code? Difficult code? Or is it code that is actually of utility? I'd argue the third. If your code isn't doing anyone else any good (and hopefully enough people to make it a viable business and thus "work". And if your code is supposed to help anyone else, you have to build it to someone else's specifications, implicitly or explicitly.


I somewhat agree with the author, but I have some comments.

I do agree that programming is a creative profession and that creative "energy" is limited to just a few hours per day/week.

However, most programming doesn't require constant creative insights. Even if you have to be creative (IE thinking of fancy features/implementations or something yourself) the most time is spent actually writing code.

I tend to think of something (requiring intense creative energy), planning what I'll be doing and when my creative energy is lower or I have plenty of planned work, I actually execute these plans. Writing code based on earlier made plans requires little creative energy usually. Additionally, the "executing" phase usually takes many times longer than planning.

For me, for a 40 hour work week, about 8 goes into planning, 24 goes into actual programming and 8 goes into useless meetings/e-mails/blablabla. Then I have creative energy to spare on my side projects for about 20h/week.

Tbh, I did spent a lot of time figuring out how to optimise workflow privately and professionally, figuring out why sometimes I could get stuff done and sometimes I couldn't. A separation of "creative time" and "doing time" helped a lot.


Implementation may be strictly mechanical if you have everything planned out NASA-binder style, but surely there'll still be a need to adjust the plan from time to time? Then there's debugging and maintenance, both of which may not require all your creativity all the time, but if you're creatively sapped, you're walking into it with a few tires already slashed. At least that's what I've found in my own experience. It's not that you have to be creative constantly, it's that you have to be able to summon up the capacity to be creative at any given time.


If your plans work first time, sure. Mine never do.

I'll spend half an hour working out how I'm going to solve this problem, write code for 15 mins, decide that the solution won't work, try another approach, experiment with that other thing I read about, get something working, then clean it up and write some proper tests, etc.

I need real focus and concentration for a few hours to make this happen, even if it's just implementing yet another login system that I know the logic for completely.

YMMV


My problem is typically that I'll have my work day planned out at the beginning of the day, around the known interruptions. Then I'll get in and there's an urgent problem report from some customer. Then that turns into an hour-long internal meeting scheduled before I actually get to look through the diagnostics, and then an hour or two with the customer, mostly placating, because there's been no time yet to actually do anything. Then it's 3:30, I'm burned out and grouchy, and whatever I thought I was going to do gets pushed back, while I try to figure out and fix up whatever the firedrill of the day was.


Also a lot of time is spent on investigating issues and fix those.


That how I would maximize developer productivity (but NOT working hours) if I owned a company:

- Let them work at home, at any time they want. Just reserve some hours for meetings or stand-ups if you want. Don't control the hours, control that the tasks are progressing.

- Open source parts of the codebase, let the developers own some modules or components on their github accounts. This way the quality of the code will be a personal matter to them.

- If shit goes down or hard deadlines approach (this happens) pay overtime and do a post-mortem analysis of what happened but DON'T turn that into a blame fest just cold analysis because most often than not its random factors of life (downtime for family or health reasons, whatever) and of coding not being a hard science (that external library that looked so sweet turned a minefield for example ) the real causes. Anybody trying to do that in the postmortem should be called out.

- If the last point happens too much, fire the manager/lead/CTO (normal programmers should be fired too sometimes but only when their performance is substandard and this is sometimes that will be easy to see day by day).


Brain Knapp is so on the money here.

So, if attendance is your key metric the best way to get them to attend 60-80 hours a week is pay them by the hour, plus allow them to "work from home" half the time.


To answer the actual question:

1. Pay your programmers per hour, and pay them very well. For example many people who are paid $200/hour would work 80 hours per week.

2. Provide free taxis or have easy public transportation to their homes.

3. Offer to pay for their children's daycare if they work extra hours.

4. Provide free food delivery from nearby restaurants.


Alternative answer: Ensure that the implication that "The IPO" and every individual's "exit" depends on those 80 hours is widely heard and vaguely understood. Hire people who believe that.


If you tie it to an exit, you're setting up for tension. "If we exit, you'll get one hundredth (or even far less!) of the payout that I will, but my payout may be immediate while you're transferred to the acquiring company. Still, I need you to work as hard as I do."


Those are answers to the question "how can I keep my employees in the office longer without increasing their productivity?" The answer to the actual question is "you can't."


Why would you work 80 hours per week when a couple of hours a day is enough to get by? Or even encourage that? There's plenty more important things in life than work and funny money, and plenty more important things in work than number of hours spent behind the keyboard.


Because you know that you go full throttle for 3-5 years and then you have the possibility to retire.

I would sacrifice 5 years of my life in order to get financial freedom for the rest of it.


Would you sacrifice five years of your life if the odds of a financially independent exit was less than 10%? Less than 10% of startups succeed, and that's before breaking that cohort into startups that barely succeed and ones that'll leave you independently wealthy.


If you're being paid $200/hr it doesn't depend on the exit.


Don't know many startup employees making $200/hr


Except for every needle that will give you that is buried in a haystack of failed ventures and empty promises.


And then you get run over by a bus.


I guess the alternative is to learn very little, have fun, run up huge debt, because why not, you're going to get run over by a bus tomorrow. But, then you don't. Well, crap.


Go ahead and postpone life then, no one will stop you; life still doesn't give a shit about plans. You should try being close do dying a couple of times, that will align your perspective with reality in no time at all.


Statistically speaking the odds are that in 5 years I'll be 5 years older, not hit by a bus, nor killed by some disease.

I'd love to be 5 years wiser and richer also :)


Some people are motivated by different things. No rate would get me to 80 hours a week: that's over 11 hours a day, every​ day which isn't healthy for any length of time. But 60 hours a week at 75% of that rate for a year or a year and a half would for me mean the ability to augment my stock and mostly passive residential real estate investments to the point where I wouldn't need to have an employment derived income. I'd strongly consider it. I'd rather be there in 18 months than 48-60, or never if I worked just enough hours to "get by" as it were.


They might do it for short stints to "get ahead" if their scheduling allows it. If I know I'm going to get that extra time off in the future or I'm getting paid for it (garaunteeing I was compensated for it) I might do it for a week or two to save up for a nice vacation or time off to do my own thing. As a manager or business owner... I'd never encourage it and possibly not allow it. The hours worked beyond 40 in a week often have drastic diminishing returns and increases in mistakes or poor thinking.


Unfortunately you are not representative of the market rate for salaried employees. Smart tech companies don't hire contractors at such an unreasonable price. They just hire another employee.


Agreed to a point, but there's also several hours a day of non-programming that just has to get done which never features in these SV conversations. Dealing with network guys to get the firewall exceptions you need, getting the DBA to actually do the indexes you asked for, endless ticket updates, meetings, more meetings, timesheets, checking the contractor's deliverables, production issues, interuptions etc. etc. Then add understaffing, UAC policies, sanfus and shifting requirements. So sure, 3 or 4 hours in the programming zone easily becomes a 55hr week.


Early in my career, I worked at a few different businesses where management expected us to work 12+ hour days. Mostly web development & design.

We did it, but the secret was that we didn't spend all of that time actually heads-down, working. (Surprise.)

We were in the office for 12+ hours (sometimes until 3am, having client calls and presentations at midnight), but how much of that time were we actually getting creative, productive work done? Maybe half.

And here's the problem: The hard part was, I was managing projects, and I had developers putting in 12+ hour days against my budgets, when I knew that maybe 6 of those hours were actually productive work time. Everything went over budget, across the board, for everyone's projects. At least on paper.

'Moral' of the story: you can require people to work whatever time frames you want. And if you pay well enough, people will do it. (At least until they burn out, or find a more prestigious/higher-paying job.) But it's a waste of everyone's time and money, and it creates more problems than its solves.

Worst of all, you're creating an environment where the culture of working 12+ hours is nothing but theatre. You spend half your time creating and carefully cultivating an artifice, just to meet management's expectations... which they know are unrealistic. Talk about being unproductive.


This article also leaves out:

- waiting for compiles

- waiting for the CI server to finish running tests

- waiting for network transfers

- waiting for VMs to spin up

- waiting for slow algorithms to process data

- et cetera

Even if it were physically and mentally possible to problem-solve 16 hours a day, we are still not at the point where our processes and machines can keep up with us, and we probably never will be. The dev-test cycle in itself is very time-consuming and repetitive. I don't know any way of solving this that doesn't involve spending even more time writing a lot of unit tests.


provided there are a few tasks to handle at once, some of the time under the general "wait for compute" heading can be reduced by switching between tasks ... just recently (my dumbfoundedness over why i didn't think of this sooner being the main reason i'm posting) i realized "hey, why not clone the local repo into _another_ local repo?". the thing to figure out is how to decide whether waiting for compute or context switching will be more boring (or "less productive").

while i'm blathering, this too:

"good programmers are lazy." -- anon


Yeah, you can demand that people get shit done. But in the end, shit is what you will have.


WakaTime is great for tracking time actually spent typing: https://wakatime.com


Good article but disagree with one of the main arguments that programming is creative work.

Maybe 10% of programming is the creative part,if you're not building artificial intelligence, but for instance consumer apps or UI.

20% is reading the technology API doc to understand how it works, 50% is writing the code down and the rest is bug fixing, so not so much creativity.


Title should include (2016). I remember when this went around last year.


Why should it include it if you remember when it was ?


Because I didn't. It's mostly as a courtesy to me.


Quote: "No programmers really work 60-80 hours a week, especially in a 5 day span."

Wow -- this person doesn't know about hackers (granted that it's a term with multiple definitions). The problem with hackers is not getting them to work, it's getting them to stop.

A true hacker will work on a project far beyond any practical termination point, perpetually thinking of ways to improve the code in ways that meet private aesthetic goals unrecognizable to others and having no bearing on earthly considerations.

Programmers that quit after eight hours and go home may fit well into a corporate culture, but they're not the kind of programming addicts about whom legends are born.

Poets have a saying that poems are never finished, they're abandoned. It's the same with programming, but only if you're a hacker.

p.s. found the original quote:

"A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned." -- Paul Valéry


His point is that developers can work a lot on their own project, but you can't get them to work that much on someone else's project.


Steve Blank has a nice article about this: https://steveblank.com/2016/09/07/working-hard-is-not-the-sa...

“Our team knows this isn’t a 9-5 company. We stay as long as it takes to get the job done.”

...the front door of the company opened – and a first trickle of employees left. I asked, “Are these your VPs and senior managers?” He nodded looking surprised and kept watching. Then after another 10-minute pause, a stream of employees poured out of the building like ants emptying the nest. Rahul’s jaw dropped and then tightened. Within a half-hour the parking lot was empty.


Work or sitting at their desk? (or staying in office doing 'stuff'). From my experience and some studies knowledge workers peak at around 30-35 hours a week.

Astonishingly still many client CEOs ask me how they can make their developers work more, marketing also works 60h they claim.


>Astonishingly still many client CEOs ask me how they can make their developers work more, marketing also works 60h they claim.

Some larger software firms try to capitalize their R&D costs by developers to enter timecards. If the CEO doesn't prioritize work culture and labour norms appropriately, it's easy to make the case that developers aren't working hard enough (i.e. >40hrs/week) against anecdotal claims from other departments.

One might think the easy way out of this is to fight data with data and ask the marketing teams to enter timecards. But I've never seen or heard of any marketing department enter timecards, primarily because marketing is considered an operational cost to the busines from an accounting perspective, as opposed to Engineering being classified as a more favourable capital cost.


20 hours sounds right. I don't think I could gain more actual productivity forced by someone even myself to work long hours. Often time, when it feels right, the code just spills itself like charm, and after that my brain just turned south for distractions.


Question itself strikes me as only slightly better than "How do you make workers indentured servants?"

Thankfully the article itself proposes the questioner reconsider the realities of programming work.


Pay them double the money for half the quality.


Few can do real programming work over 30h a week. If you force people, you'll get fake work. Specific individuals can work more, by themselves (challenge, pride, try to show whatever, etc.), but are the exception. And of course, that effort level can not be sustained forever.


I wouldn't trust the creative work of someone who does over 35 hours a week. Creative problem solving requires the ability to switch into a relaxed state at will, and I haven't yet met anyone who can do it while under pressure to work 60 hours a week or more.


Do people who work like that actually get valued by their employers? To me it seems like they'd be treated as expendable and easy to push around - not a valued trait for promotion.


I'm curious — are there any companies who have their programmers work ~4 hours a day? How does the work output compare to more traditional companies?


Almost thought that was Ask HN and was terrified


35-40 hours, but we have some guys who work extremely long hours, showing their effort out, which is fair enough


Stupid (not very intense) bug fixing > 50% of the time.


yeah, I practically don't do meetings (I'm not in USA) and I do 40 hours a week of almost pure programming.

It's very hard


> No programmers really work 60-80 hours a week, especially in a 5 day span. That is a 12-16 hour day, 5 days a week.

Who works only 5 days a week? Saturday... sure take the day, but many of us end up working Sundays to get everything ready for Monday mornings. Making sure all the issues are prepared, reports for the past week have been written, all of our tasks for the week are defined and prioritized... 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week... seems common to me.


You're (presumably) being paid for 5 days a week at 8 hours per day.

If you cannot manage your time reasonably within this period, consider doing some research into that. If you can and yet your employers expect more time, then you're probably being exploited.

Either way this is not normal.


I think it's very normal for anyone who owns their own business.


You're being taken advantage of. Someone has convinced you that this is normal and acceptable (quite possibly you have convinced yourself).


This sounds awful. Work to live, don't live to work, etc.




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