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The Secret To Only Working 8-5

Filed Under Human Factors

Here is the secret: learn to walk away.

Developers who find themselves staying at the office later and later are in a downward spiral. The more they heroically work, the more work is piled on. The more work piled on, the more heroically they work. Late night heroics should be an exception and not the expectation.

Why does this occur? The answer is simple, you trained your manager to permanently expect heroics.

Being a hero is a classic mistake, and consistently working massive amounts of overtime will give your managers a false perception of your daily output. As a result, they will pile an inhuman amount of work on you. Here are the 2 biggest reasons:

  1. Overloading is unintentional, but you never correct them
  2. Intentional overloading so to appear a productive manager, but you never set personal boundaries

Are you noticing a pattern? It is your responsibility to set the expectations. Unless you are masochistic, don’t be a hero. Inform your manager of the true number of hours worked, and learn to set personal boundaries. You have a life too.

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19 Responses to “The Secret To Only Working 8-5”

  1. Eric on October 26th, 2007 11:28 am

    This highlights a problem within our workforce in that this type of behavior is encouraged and promoted. Managers that were promoted because of “Hero” behavior seem to expect that behavior from their reports.

    I’ve long held to the tenet that mismanagement on their part does not constitute a crisis on mine.
    ‘Course people don’t usually have the sack to say that, so when someone does, they’re seen as abrasive.

  2. Philip Roche » The Secret To Only Working 8-5 on October 30th, 2007 6:22 am

    […] Secret To Only Working 8-5 The Secret To Only Working 8-5 Here is the secret: learn to walk […]

  3. JG Murray on October 30th, 2007 6:40 am

    This all comes down to solid communication of your expectations. You can either live to work or work to live. I make sure that when I am done for the day at 5, I drop off the grid as far as the office is concerned. Yes, if a true emergency comes up, I don’t have problem doing an hour of work in the evening to patch the problem until the next day, but I won’t work all night looking for an optimal solution. As an salaried worker, overtime is by far the exception, not the rule. As it should be.

  4. LadyCoder on October 30th, 2007 7:43 am

    Since I started working, I never made it a habit of working late, and never set that expectation in my bosses. I do not believe that my career has suffered for it, as I am a very respected developer in my company. Of course, if I am crunched for time on projects because of other things piling on, I will put in some overtime, but I make sure to record it as extra time spent, and I let my boss know that I have too much work.

    I work with several people who feel bad about only working 8-5, they feel like people are going to look down on them and think they are lazy, or they are going to get into trouble. I have worked at several places and have never seen this happen unless someone is truly a slacker and doesn’t work close to 8 hours a day.

    There are even some days that I don’t spend the entire 8 hours in the office (and don’t work from home either). But, these are days when I have caught up on my work, and there just aren’t a lot of other things for me to work on. I don’t feel bad about this either, because my opinion is I get paid to get my work done, not to work 8-5. As long as my work is done, and is good quality, it shouldn’t matter that I am not in the office for 8 hours every day.

  5. Pixelslave on October 30th, 2007 8:56 am

    I learned my lesson on this one when I watched my managers get bonuses for bringing the project in with a nice profit margin while all I got was a “thanks” for all those months of no weekends. Their profit margin came from billing the client for the actual time we programmers spent (60+ hour weeks for months on end) but paying us our salary as usual (based on a 40 hour week). They chose the option of overworking us rather than putting 50% more staff on the job, and that was a conscious business decision based on the profit margin of the project.

  6. bgblanch on October 30th, 2007 11:24 am

    I learned my lesson as well. I put in a lot of hours on a project and completed everything ahead of schedule. Did I receive an “atta boy”, a “good job” – I don’t ask for much, it’s just nice to have your hard work recognized even if it’s as simple as a pat on the back – nope! I learned that I can get just as much recognition (none) by working my 8 hours and going home.

  7. Rob on October 31st, 2007 1:37 pm

    I just started my first job doing development for a up and coming online university. I’ve made it a point put in my 8 and head home. My project manager understands that and sees the rational amount of work that can be done within the timeframe. Distorting their view doesn’t help in the long run.

  8. David on November 6th, 2007 4:34 pm

    I’ve always valued my “family time” by leaving at a reasonable hour. However I have always felt that my cow-orkers see me as someone who leaves “early”. Has this “affected” my “career”? Yes. But that’s fine by me – because it’s a direct result of the choices that *I* made.

  9. Samir Kumar Mishra on November 6th, 2007 5:01 pm

    There comes a time in career when we undergo severe pressure and to meet the deadline we end up working late hours. But then next time we are pressed to perform the same even though it is not demand. Upto an extent I agree with you that if you stay late to finish the work ahead of schedule then more work comes along making it a mandate rather than an option.

  10. Yakov Fain on November 6th, 2007 8:05 pm
  11. Terry Kilshaw on November 8th, 2007 11:43 am

    Like torture, working long hours produces plenty of output, its just not that useful.

    Every serious programmer knows when to call it quits for the day; that pushing on for another hour won’t produce anything useful. And that the same problem looked at after a good night’s sleep will often resolve itself.


  12. Secret of working 8-5 « Usman’s Weblog on January 4th, 2008 2:10 pm

    […] via [Code Squeeze] […]

  13. Usman Shaheen on January 4th, 2008 2:12 pm

    […]Late night heroics should be an exception and not the expectation[…]

  14. Mohamed El-Beltagy on July 1st, 2008 12:39 am

    I have also learned my lessons; but very late.
    I have worked for three companies, and each one of them I was staying late to do meet the unreasonable deadline of the project. Most of the projects it was either a/like a one-man-show.
    I remember one of the projects was:
    – Scheduled for 3 senior developers
    – Scheduled to be implemented in a year and a half (time frame)
    – Actually, started with only me as the only developer in the project.
    – In our kick-off meeting, the PM started saying: “We are one year behind the schedule”!!!!!!
    – I finished it on time and it was a successful project.

    What was the result??? My team leader got promoted… (looool)
    Very strange, isn’t it? And even stranger that same happened to me in my last couple of projects as well. And not even a thank you letter, email or even word..!!
    My last task I was assigned, my manager was very afraid of not having it done!!

    The list can continue on and on. So, all they are getting from me is: my 8-5.

  15. Anthony on July 1st, 2008 10:56 am

    Hmmm… and will you find me a new job when I leave at 5pm? Dont think for a moment that management isnt going to put a help-wanted ad in the paper for my job the moment I begin to leave at 5pm. Doesnt matter if I came in a 5:45am. No one sees that so I guess it doesnt count toward overtime.

    What we really, truly, need to do is to band together and unionize ourselves. I’ll tell you what, make fun of unions all you want but when they tried to build a skyscraper in Philadelphia with plumbing/no toilets (some sort of new flushless toilet system), dont you think that the plumber’s union struck against the developer? They sued and they won. The verdict was to FORCE the developer to put the pipes in (read: plumbers get to work and get paid) just in case the building ever needs to transition away from flushless toilets.

    We need a union. Corporate America has crapped on software developers far too long.

    Just imagine all of us sitting in the parking lot one day. I dont believe my company could fill several hundred developers’ positions by 9am when the crap would hit the fan if we werent there.

    Something to think about. Something to act on.

  16. Nikola Malovic on September 11th, 2008 4:18 am

    So true..

    Great blog!

  17. Chris on March 7th, 2009 9:11 am

    No way, man. 10-4 is the new 8-5. I get enough ideas about work outside of the office.

  18. Mike on May 8th, 2009 6:24 pm

    Here is what you’re missing… if you only work 8 to 5 then you will be fired by that buffoon middle manager who doesnt know squat about A) programming and B) managing.

    Now what?

  19. Max Pool on May 8th, 2009 9:43 pm

    @Mike – Find a job that doesn’t suck.

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