I was reading an article from Ben Yoskovitz (Started Standout jobs) about why you should hire workaholics or not and it got me thinking.. Why it is expected that web developers do overtime? Most of the time for free? From a startup perspective, the fact that you will be tackling interesting problems and doing more R&D should be enough that you want to put extra effort for free every week.

I always had a odd feeling about overtime since I started to work professionally as a front-end developer. Doing overtime for free has never been something I was really good with, and I am a workaholic! but for me, not for someone else’s company or project.

It’s not like your going to have a company share that matters unless you are a manager or a director, or a lead at least.

Overtime and “doing a bit more for the company”

Generally the companies I worked for (I always been in the CMS/website business) were saying that I would need to put an extra effort to help the company be more profitable. But where is my profit in this? Why should I spend 10-20 hours more a week for mostly nothing? Most of the time your extra effort will be forgotten in 2 weeks when the next project starts.

For me it always sounded like this, “invest time and you might get a cookie in return”.

Do you write good code when you’re tired?

Would you really write good code doing a constant 60-70 hours week? Or do you write an unmaintainable mess taking wrong decisions because of the stress and being tired.

I’m sure great developers still manage to write good code, but your bound to take a few short turns if you’re rushing something off.

To be fair

Sometimes people get in deep sh*t. When a client expect a website on a fixed release date, yeah extra efforts can be needed, but why it shouldn’t be paid? Do we cost that much? If you are a carpenter on a construction site and your boss needs you in overtime because the building is behind schedule, you will be paid your overtime, even better, they will often double your hourly rate as an incentive.

Investing in yourself

Instead of investing in a company that will probably lay you off if they do not hit their budget mark, I say invest in yourself. Work 40 hours, and if you want to put more effort, start your thing on the side.Tackle problems you choose instead of working on someone else project in overtime.

As web developers we have the ability to mostly create a web application from the ground up all by ourselves. Why not use our talents to create something that will maybe one day provide us our own money.

And if the project do not work in the end, at least you will probably get something interesting to show at your next job interview. And I am pretty sure you will learn a lot more trying new stuff yourself in your relaxed environment. I certainly learn a lot at home, but I just go at my pace.

All that being said

If you love the product you are developing, or the company, or you got great advantages, go ahead and write code. I have nothing against overtime itself if you have conditions that are favoring it. I am just bored of the “entrepreneur” attitude that developers should do any amount of overtime that is needed to move their company or project fast enough.

11 thoughts on “Overtime and web developers

  1. Whoah…

    Someone dares speak about the thing that none shall mention?!

    It seems that working at a startup _means_ doing overtime. And questioning the “logic” _means_ you’re an element of risk for the team. (to be cut loose and otherwise ostracized)

    Ironically, every employee willing to follow that logic creates pressure for others to follow. This is true within a company and, more generally, in the greater living/programming community.

  2. I think you got it wrong. In each startup I,ve worked, overtime was a word we never used. There’s no overtime because there’s no schedule. If there’s a demo to big customers in a week and we’re 2 devs in the team, we’ll work our ass off. But it goes both ways, when things are calm: we work less. I never had that much free time in my life because I can work when it’s best for me. Nobody ever check schedule, nobody cares about time, we care about results.

    Mentionning crazy hours is to scare unpassionate job candidates.

    1. @Macournoyer: Mentionning crazy hours is to scare unpassionate job candidates.

      I have a six year old who comes before any job – does that mean I am not passionate? What about all the people who have lives outside of work – are they not passionate? Grow up.

      Cedric is right – unless they compensate you for your overtime, you should not feel obliged to do it.

  3. @macournoyer

    You might be free with your hours as long as you are willing not to count.

    As for “caring about results”, that’s true … to some extent. But, nobody goes home at 2pm because there’s enough work done. The opposite isn’t true: you might not be able to go home if there isn’t enough work done at 5-6pm.

  4. Coincido con vos Cedric! No tiene sentido darle tu tiempo (y a fin de cuentas.. tu vida) a una compania que nada tiene que ver contigo.

  5. I totally agree with this. I was in the same boat a few months back until I decided I had enough. I still work for the same company but at 5:30pm I’m done. I don’t work late anymore.

    If a project is running late it’s not my fault – it never was – it’s always the client who fails to send through content on time so I just explain to clients at the start of a project that unless they give me content when I need it that their project will not be live when they expect it.

    Seems to be working ok so far and I’m working on about 4 different projects outside of normal work too so I’m still doing my R&D…but on my terms 🙂

  6. I have been doing bits of my own work outside of work time for a while now and to be honest I learn much more doing my own projects simply because I like to build them to the best of your ability.

    So yes good read and I totally agree 🙂

  7. @macournoyer I guess it all depends who is your boss.

    I think you generally scare people by mentioning crazy hours, I don’t think you learn that much working crazy hours on very tight deadlines, beside learning how to manage better your stress.

    I saw an ad today for a fron-end job, very interesting:
    What are the top reasons someone should work at your company?
    Startup — need we say more?
    And just below:
    You excel under tight deadlines.
    If the job isn’t finished, you aren’t finished.
    You aren’t afraid of a start-up and everything that comes with one.

    Yea, I realllllllyyy want to work for you when your major reason why I should work for you is because you are a startup. Anyway I just feel that the startup hype is a bit overrated. It’s a frikking job are your doing frikking javascript, no matter if you are in web service or web application, or startup.

    Like I said, if your company invest in you (as in saying, give you stock options, shares, pay overtime and etc ), I have no problem with overtime. I myself certainly do overtime for time to time and I am happy to help.

    I just feel that no matters what you do in a company, at one point you will find out that a job is a job and investing so much time in it, as in 60 hours/week, might not be worth it.

  8. Hey Cedric

    Loved your comment and I think you are totally right.. the problem is the company where you work.. real manager should give you in return to what you give for the company.. either in free time, cash, rewards, promotions, name it… the problem is management when they ask of you to work like crazy but won’t do anything crazy for you…

    I think that when you love what you do and work your ass off on it and you get rewards for it, you have winning combination, but when you love what you do and work your ass off on it but don’t get the credit, then you are not at the right place… You can be the best at what you do, if you are not in the right environment, you will never go from good to great!

    Nice post! interesting subject!

  9. Is it about time or is it about choices and passion? We had this discussion inside Pheromone agency recently on our internal mailing-list with a different focus. When are we at work?

    Right now, me commenting on a blog post? At home when I think about a solution, an idea, etc. for a project? At the office when I’m blocked on something I can’t solve.

    The issue is the timesheet not the number of worked hours. The maximum number of hours a week and the overtime have been created to protect employees from abusive management practice in a time and work environment when most people had to do a very mechanical and repetitive job. It was and is still good to have this framework. The difficulty becomes when the job is creative (such as coding) and not necessary tied to a specific place.

    How do we solve it?

    Working overtime requested by management is *not* normal. Not everyone has the same motivation with regards to work. Not everyone has the same passion.

    Someone working overtime by choice and by passion is *almost* fine. Though it is also creating difficulties with regards to the social contract. Someone who is doing more work than someone else for the same salary will create a situation where people will be judged on their productivity when it could just be a question of choice. In addition, if the timesheet is used for evaluating the cost of a project (and not the pay) working overtime will hide the real cost of the project.

    Basically, it is about the social contract, the agreement between people. Easier in a small company, a lot harder in a big company.

Comments are closed.