But, I would say that my productive time is less than 50% of my work week. I'll do a 4 hour burst and get 90% of my weeks work done, and the rest of the week is touching up a few things and browsing HN/Reddit or whatever else.
I remember reading a short article that introduced (to me) the idea that something like 30% of corporate jobs aren't required by any means. It's just "job creation", all fluff work that could be automated or simply isn't needed. As time goes on and I get more looks "behind the curtain" so to speak, the more inclined I am to believe this. I'll look around for the article and edit it in if I find it. It articulates the idea much better than I.
Article for reference: https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/
Specifically, the passage:
>Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.
A sincere thank-you for finding it for me.
A simple example would be the receptionist at a non-customer facing business. At least where I work, we have zero walk-ins and maybe 5 phone calls a day. We pay someone well above minimum wage to simply answer to phone - despite our VOIP provider offering (for free) an automated system to route calls.
Even if just one CEO decided to prefer profitability and market share over... bragging about employee count (seriously?), they would steal market share from their competitors over time.
Perhaps rather than give some off-the-cuff (and admittedly fairly weak) examples, I should have said that I don't think these companies view these roles strictly as inefficiencies - but that they offer some secondary or tertiary value to the company such as boosting various job metrics. (Think not just employment #'s, but things such as diversity metrics, wage metrics, etc.)
This also assumes that the company even recognizes that the job is not really required. I would hazard a guess that, especially in large corporations, many of these jobs fly under the radar. Perhaps something that was essential 20 years ago is now mostly or completely automated, but Mr. Smith has been with the company for 15 years, and isn't going to tell the boss that his position should be eliminated.
Edit: I was slow to catch the reference. I'm avoiding watching that movie again because, as much as I loved it the first time, I know my brain would just use it to reinforce the idea that my job is a joke.
But to fix the root cause, you need to have activities outside of work, that you do with friends you don't know from work, that you're excited to get started on when you're done for the day - music production and lifting are what I do. Working remotely is another way to fix it, but your company might know about this and ban it like mine did.
I doubt I could cope with what you describe.
I get 95% of my work done in two or three 3 hour deep works block per week. The remaining 5% happens when free time arises randomly and is usually trivial work.
I definitely strive to get everything done that is "required" and also strive to get this done in a typical 40 hour week.
Now I'm back at coding 80% or so and actually feel much more productive, more important to the team and have a lot less stress.
With programming, I work at nearly full capacity until I'm almost done with the task, and then get sort of distracted during that last little bit of testing and documenting.
Writing I find far less conducive to a "flow" state though. I alternate pretty much the entire day between 30-60 minute chunks of working and 10-20 minute chunks walking outside or checking HN.
In the rare instances when I have to switch between the two modes, my productivity basically collapses.
When I was working as a chef: out of a 12 hour shift, perhaps 9-10 hours were full on.
When I worked on the docks(forklift driver/unloading by hand), 7-8 hours full on out of a 10 hour shift.
As an eikawa teacher, a little better, 40% full on teaching, 20% prep and the last 40 bullshitting.(I hated that job).
My current job, 9 hour shift, 4-5 teaching, 2+ prep and creating future classes, rest meetings or bullshitting/lunch.
Today: 5 hours prep for current week/future courses, 3 hours classes, 4 hours meetings(random day today).
I was thinking tonight about how my workload had changed and it seemed much better, but damn.
I don't even know how to put this into words at this point, without sounding too conceited, but I cannot fathom a reason for anyone here to complain about overwork :-p
When I get home I find myself dying to do something menial. It takes me more effort to program for two hours than it does to, like, 12 hours of physical labor. It's not as physically exhausting, but it wrecks my brain.
I work remotely, minimize distractions, have few meetings, and I’m generally working 10-14 hours a day - without making any time for growth, HN, etc. That is all focus time, and fast movement. EDIT: That’s the baseline... “Overtime” is that plus nights and weekends. These remarks are about USA-based companies, and salaried positions.
Have learned that at some of these smaller startups, the devs have different capacities, but the company just learns what each person can do and asks for (at least) 120%+ of that. And people play psychological tricks to keep people cranking it.
I have puzzled about who this arrangements benefits... As the turnover is more costly than the illusion of getting a bit more done today. FWIW, The best readings I’ve found about it are on DaedTech and Ribbonfarm.
Some larger Cos. do the same but sometimes they also have the budget that can support people coasting as others have mentioned in this thread. But many of those rely on “office traps” and expect a lot of performative presence (50+ hours a week or you’re negatively judged). And even if some people are coasting some of the time, they find ways to burn people out in bursts.
It burns people out and it seems to be a bad deal for everyone involved.
Currently figuring out how to get back to a healthy and sustainable balance, but without talking explicitly about it with people at work, as it is a taboo subject. This is my Nth job as a dev where I’ve been in this situation.
I’m only recently starting to accept there are not consistently available jobs/employers who allow transparency about work/life balance or burnout; at most they pretend to but it is translated to negative marks on you. Both in the interview process and on the job...
What I've noticed is that stress/overworking comes when the team is pressured for time. As a mental, as opposed to physical laborer, sometimes less is more, and sometimes that means leaving an hour early just to figure out the solution to your problems on the drive home.
Managers who think "butts in seats, hands on keyboards" equals "more productivity" can't effectively manage programmers.
I work for a bank, and internally, we refer to ourselves as the worst run software company possible. You could remove 80% of our staff and our clients would not notice at all - the remaining 20% are all that's needed to support the services and make quality updates.
I spend a lot of time keeping that 80% away from the 20% so that stuff actually gets done. I don't really do any work per se, but if I didn't do my job, nobody else would be able to do theirs. It's hard to quantify.
Many roles are needed to counter-balance others and implement good governance, although they look like they are just getting in the way. As I've gained more experience in senior roles, this becomes more and more obvious and choices that would have been baffling to me when I started out as a dev make total sense now. So... quantifying usefulness is not a numbers game and any opinion here is subjective and biased.
We are currently facing threats from "online only" banks, where you can sign up and use a bank account without ever talking to a person or stepping foot in a building. This is a threat because banks make their money on transactions and if everyone goes to the cool smartphone app bank, what will our bank have left?
We'll be left cashing cheques for blue collar workers. We'll be left doing phone support for geriatrics. We'll be left giving loans to refugees. We'll be left with safety deposit boxes. We'll be left with all of the unprofitable parts of the banking market that the online only banks say NO to.
And that's where that 80% of our staff comes from. Branches and call centers to manage the small, unprofitable sector of the consumer banking market. To my point, our bank has a long running project to shut down branches across the country. We realized that profitable customers only come to the bank to sign papers, and unprofitable ones come to harass the bank staff.
There are staff needed for good governance and to manage regulations, but those staff do not make up the bulk of our labour.
And banks wonder why credit unions and the like are growing.
And actual harassment of staff in banking is a real thing, as is occasional criminal activity like keying employee cars. This must be dealt with on top of robbery training (varying your commute, etc.)
“Well Jim, you spent $100 at McDonald’s yesterday and the day before that you spent $500 at a shopping mall. That’s probably where your pay cheque went!”
“My wife and I just can’t understand how we’re in debt, we make 10k a month.” “Well you spent 15k on your 6 credit cards last month, that’ll do it!” “Oh”.
It's not that the other 80-95% of the people in the firm or league or field don't have value, it's that they're 100% fungible.
The dog to keep the the human away from the automation.
The human to feed the dog.
Since becoming a coder/developer a lot of times I will do all that work as soon as possible. For example in April I had to learn EmberJs. So I worked real hard to get a base level. Since I worked real hard and am ahead of schedule, I kinda skated for two weeks. (I was ahead two weeks) So I kinda work like that and always have since I have been a developer.
The funny thing is that I actually hate my job, but when presented working with a new challenge, I become very interested in it. So I guess I like coding in sprints and then standing at the finish line, waiting to cross. So I have waiting for assignment for the last week, so I have generally just doing my own side projects...
But generally at work, at this point in my career. My job (contractor for the federal government) is do a professional level of work in the least amount of time possible, then start working on my side projects. I don't have a vested interest in this job as there is no room for promotion. This might sound kinda contrary to other people, but I have already retired from one career. (Retired USMC) I have nothing to prove, been there done that. My only goal is get ahead in entrepreneurial career or work at a firm/company/start up where I have vested interest.
On a good day I can work a full 8-10 hours of billable time (which includes not only writing code but researching APIs, documenting infrastructure, etc).
But on a day when there's a lot more unknowns that have to be waded through (when it feels like running through molasses), I end up getting distracted more easily and have a harder time hitting 8 hours. Still doable, but I need to do things like work from home (where there's no internet to be distracted by) instead of at the library, and lock myself in my home office so I can focus.
Speaking of which, have to get back to this configuration task  . I have half a mind to write a blog post about it, in the hopes of inspiring others to help move this front-end JS ecosystem forward, which it still needs.
I have a BAU cycle that spans a week. Every week I take on something to do (either by stakeholder priority or from backlog) and try to complete it before the release train departs. This is 30% of my work and I get 100% of it done by mid-week and put it up for review, feedback, and corrections.
The next 45% of my effort changes weekly and I try to get 90~100% of this done on time; it has its own backlog. Towards the end of each quarter this is spent in strategic planning. Towards the end of each month its spent on a mix of management work and clearing technical debt. The default state however is a focus on helping other teams and stakeholders improve. I maintain a lot of the statistical and quantitative models for other teams (segmentation, propensity, etc.), this I update in light of new data or when they become stale. I also try to automate their process continuously. I make improvements to tools, processes, and frameworks (seldom) to keep us up-to-date and get rid of things slowing us down. If there's a new tool or project, 100% effort is poured into that instead.
I usually have on-going initiatives and duties that affects our entire company and this is usually 10%-15% of my total efforts. I can't compromise here so I try to get this done 100% with highest priority.
The last 10% is personal growth, either its optimizing the way I do things, learning a new language or picking up an entirely new discipline to add to my domain/skill set (I have a comb-shaped skill structure). A good portion of it is spend on reading, writing, and practise. I slack a little here and I get 80-100% of my goals completed. This part is chaotic sometimes and I leave chaos as is but cause it to evolve.
That’s less than 50% of my work day, but actually feels like a solid amount both by fatigue, and by comparing with friends and colleagues. My distribution is fairly bimodal, I’ve noticed I usually do 2-3 hours or 6-8 depending on the day.
Clearly I’m somewhat crazy (semi joke!), because I actually keep a running timer on my desk to measure this...
Though I haven't had the need to use it since I changed jobs and now spend a lot more time coding and with fewer context changes.
I think it's a fallacy to think of work this way. It doesn't really matter what % of your time you spend "working". What matters is the results you achieve. These can only be measured in periods longer than 1 day, so I wouldn't trust any recommendation or finding based on the answers of this question.
Before, I would say about 50% of “in chair” time was work, the rest was essentially co-ordination slack where I had met expectations before the next round of planning / task allocation.
Now I work towards high level objectives. An objective might be, make $thing more reliable. Tasks might break down to analyse data, add metrics to get data, oh, need to fix bugs x, y, z.
Since getting more autonomy I basically have an infinite pile of work I can draw from. The main difference from the company’s POV is that a manager is no longer choosing exactly what order the work is happening or receiving commitments on exactly how long each step supposed to take.
My observation is that I produce a lot more work when I am less closely managed.
I suppose this is how agile is supposed to work “pull tasks rather than push, loose estimates”.
E.g. in my case (engineering manager, not coding anymore):
- I spend an average of 9 hours at work (some days are longer and some are shorter)
- I spend an avg of 5 hours in meetings (I DO consider this work, thankfully our meetings are mostly meaningful)
- I spend around 1.5 hours a day preparing for these meetings (especially the ones I lead)
- I get very little 'focused time' if you do the math, I usually block some time on lighter days to progress with work that needs such focus, e.g. writing or reviewing proposals, roadmaps, strategies, processes etc.
I spent a little time at Menlo (as a customer), where they do 100% pair programming. Being "on" and working >90% of the time takes some getting used to. The ability to just get up and walk around the building or the block when you want to is a nice perk.
People who say they work 60, 70, 80, 100 hours a week are just doing bad math, or including a ton of downtime in there.
I will say though in my experience 80 hours is possible but most people that say "80 hour weeks" are using it as hyperbole. If someone comes to you and says they do 62 hour weeks... its probably real.
Then, most likely you are being assigned 250% of the work! and that's probably not good for the long term, ymmv.
My day is 10 hours, door to door.
I spend (realistically)
-- 3 hours commuting on the bus, doing emails, sheets, bugs, easy stuff
-- 2-3 hours in meetings
-- 2-3 hours of individual focussed work
-- 1-2 hours lunch, snacks, coffee, chatting, non work errands, personal email, shopping
I'm able to reach that level because I work for myself, which permits me to aggressively decline meetings, focus on one project, control my work environment, and partition my time for maximum effectiveness.
When I was traditionally employed in tech, it was somewhere in the threshold most people here are describing (25-50%).
When I worked at a warehouse in high school, my time was mostly spent working with some bullshiting interspersed.
The missing 5% does not include paid breaks but things like walking to the meeting room, going to the bathroom, checkout out projects or doing updates.
I absolutely loathe people who come to the office to chat as if we were close friends. I understand during breaks and lunch but not at the work desk. Constant out of topic chatter is the bane of any open office.
The days I love the most are those where I manage to enter "flow" in the morning and keep working for the entire day.
My greatest dream is to be able to completely shut down the signal from the ears to the brain, with the ability to restore it at will, of course.
This passive sound isolation means I can set some music at low volume and be completely isolated from the outside world.
Active isolation is rubbish because it lets voices through.
Here is what I use : Shure SE215 - https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/shure/se215#compar...
I consider that with those, I can work as well as I can alone at home. Otherwise, I also suffer from a very noisy office with constant laughter, anecdotes, movie and TV show reviews, people reading emails out loud to team mates etc. and can't ever enter the flow.
I am also a big fan of using fake babble noise to mask surrounding chatter. After about 5 minutes, the brain ignores all of it including the real chatter that is around you. Namely this https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/babbleNoiseGenerator.php or this https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/cafeRestaurantNoiseGenerat....
This way of thinking seems like a holdout from the industrial revolution when physical tasks needed to be done in manufacturing and output was directly tied to time spent making the widgets.
Information work, or system administration work, is substantially different yet still follows the same model as though we are physically assembling things on a line.
When we start competing on that second vector then it's near impossible to say "ok I've been here for 3 hours today but I'm done so I'm going home."
When there's no workload, impostor syndrome begins to creep in.
It's very boring and I'm actively looking for a job that will keep me busy and engaged.
This hits home, hard.
I often feel imposter syndrome, but I never put 2 and 2 together to realize it is almost always when I have nothing to do/accomplish at work.
When I finally get a project thrown my way, the feeling subsides.