This past year has been somewhat a reckoning for me, as I’ve started to rethink some of the most basic assumptions I had about the software development profession, like how technical assessments are nothing more than pointless ritual.
But today I want to talk about something a bit more general, as it’s not a problem unique to software development: how companies expect their employees to work overtime for very little to nothing in return.
I’ve worked late countless times since I began my professional working life. Sometimes it’s only a couple of minutes to a few hours over, because my brain works in such a way that I cannot stop thinking about a project unless I reach a natural conclusion or stopping point.
But there have been many times where the expectation is that I work overtime to fulfill some task or obligation. And because I am almost always a salaried worker, I don’t receive compensation for any overtime.
The main example that springs to mind within the realm of software development is Big Bang releases. Typically, a company will release software at a specific cadence. For some companies this frequency is measured in months or quarters, and as can be expected from such large timescales, this sort of release can be a massive undertaking. You could be at the office all night and into the next morning.
I think this speaks to the incompetence of the upper management, to design their processes in such a way as to require their own employees to work more hours than normal. I also noticed that the upper management almost never stayed late with their workers.
Another example is when developers are put on late night operations duty. I cannot count the number of instances where I was roused late at night from a deep slumber in order to handle an incident where some service or another was throwing inexplicable errors. In almost all cases, I was expected to come to work the next day, even if I spent an entire night working already.
I think that’s pretty ludicrous, as no company should have a monopoly on my time. And yet I allowed myself to buy into the premise, that workers should work overtime given an urgent enough set of circumstances, with only the most tenuous of reasons.
Well, no more. I haven’t worked overtime for a company in a year now, and I don’t plan to do so ever again, unless it’s for my own personal projects. My time is precious, and there are few enough hours in the day as it is.