Some Thoughts on Hours

Hours is one of the taboo topics in the tech industry. I can say couple of things, hopefully not fluffy:

  • Most hours are self-reported, so from a data perspective. It's really unclean. Funny story: Since I was 23, I work on weekends regularly, so in my past jobs, there were moments I note down some colleagues of mine who claim who work 60+ hours. What really happen is they only work 35-40. Most of them are stunned when I give them the measurement. There are few of them refused to talk with me later on. (Oh I work for some of them too.)
  • Then there is what it means by working long hours (60+ hours). And practically you should wonder why that's the case. How come one can't just issue an Unix command to solve a problem? Or if you want to know what you are doing, how come writing a 2000 words note take one more than 8 hours? How come it takes such a long time to solve your weekly issues? If we talk about coding, it also doesn't make sense. Because once you have the breakdown of a coding problem, you just have to solve them iteratively in small chunks. Usually it doesn't take more than 2 hours.
  • So here is a realistic portrait of respectable people I work with which you feel like he works long hours. What they did actually do?
    1, They do some work everyday even on holidays/vacations/weekends.
    2, They respond to you even at hours such as 1 or 2.
    3, They look agitated when things go wrong in their projects.
  • Now once you really analyze these behaviors : it doesn't really prove that the person works N hours. What it really means is that they stay up all the time. For the agitation part, it also makes more sense to say "Oh, this guy probably has anger issue, but at least he cares."
  • Sadly, there are also many people who really work more than 40, but they are also the least effective people I ever know.
  • I should mention that there are more positive part of long hours: first off learning. And my guess it is what the job description really means - you spent all your moments to learn. You might code daily but if you don't learn, then your speed won't improve at all. So this extra cost of learning is always worthwhile to pay. And that's why we always encourage members to learn.
  • Before I go, I actually follow the scheduling method from "Learning How to Learn". i.e. I took frequent breaks after 45-60 mins intense works. And my view of productivity is to continuously learn. Because new skills usually improve your workflow. Some of my past employers have huge issues with my approach. So you should understand my view is biased.
  • I would also add, there are individuals who can really work 80 hours and actually code. Usually they are either obliged by culture, influenced by drugs or shaped by their very special genes.

Hope this helps,

Arthur

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