Stop Counting Hours

An Open Letter To the Management of (Generally) Small Companies with Internal Software Teams

Hours are a great way to determine productivity in many industries. Being in an office and working at a given time is absolutely essential, for example, if you need to be interacting with outside entities via phone or meeting. I totally understand where you are coming from with this idea that people should be in and working by a certain time so that you can present a good, professional image to your outside customers.

For development teams the case is not the same. Our productivity is only very loosely related to when we are working. As a fundamentally creative endeavor, coding is heavily influenced by the mindset of the coder. For example, if I am depressed, distracted or upset, I can have a completely unproductive day. I get very little done, and the quality of what I do is so low as to make it nearly useless. I almost always have to come back and fix things that I have done which, if they work at all, are likely being done ‘wrong’. On the other hand, when I am able to get into a ‘groove’, both the quantity and the quality of my code soar. In the right mindset, I can get more done than in weeks of normal work when I am not.

I know that it can seem frustrating to those who are not familiar with this phenomenon, but I feel strongly that mandating specific times at which coders should be at the office can really hurt the chances of ever getting into that zone for me, at least.

That said, I can understand where you are coming from when you request that your employees be present for a set number of hours per day. This does allow us to interact with you, the stakeholders in the project we are developing, and while that is something positively outside the ‘zone’ I’ve been talking about, it is also important.

By allowing for more a more flexible work schedule and environment in which software teams work, you can foster an environment wherein we can enter this deeply creative state from whence inspiration comes. In such a space, the lines between work and play begins to blur, and in the end I think that you will find that we become much more useful to your company.