I posted this in a discussion on TheChaosEngine forums, but it sums up my position on overtime/fixed-working-hours quite succinctly, so I thought I’d re-post it out here in the real world. For reference, our team tries to work office hours of 9-5, rather than a flexi-time arrangement. This is, it seems, quite unusual in the games world, and there was a spirited discussion on TCE about whether or not it stifled creativity and/or leads to making the unpaid overtime situation worse.
[in reply to the implication that really good employees are the ones who work extra and late to deliver over and above expectations]
While I heartily acknowledge that it’s daft to just up sticks and leave at some arbitrary time and break your flow, I think that its still going to be the exception rather than the rule. You don’t always hit your peak productivity at 4:30 only to have to leave at 5. Certainly there are some days when I’m just getting going when I really should be going home – I find a good point to shelve it and go home. And when I come back in the morning, I’ve had a whole night to ponder the work and generally do a better job of finishing it up than had I just forged ahead.
That said, I don’t want my team feeling like more hours = better work. The only way I want to see productivity improved is for people to work smarter and harder for those 8 hours. I want people to go home feeling like they achieved lots, but still get home at a sensible time that leaves them free to enjoy their own time. I want people to come in and focus, so we’re all in that intense zone of getting s&*^ done at roughly the same time.
We all spend time during the day surfing the web, emailing others, etc., and it eats productivity, and doesn’t necessarily improve the creative atmosphere. I don’t want people staying late to get their stuff done because they have only done 5 hours of effective work in the 9-5 period. Then they end up getting home late, and blame the job for sucking up all their free time.
I want a team that burns bright during their work day, and finds that balance between producing volume, and feeling the creative spark that gets them producing quality. If the only way I can improve the team’s productivity or quality is to increase the hours worked, then I’ve failed. If we’re really at our peak productivity in that 8 hour day, then I’m due to hire someone else. I’m pretty damn sure that if we every got even close to that zone we’d be one of the most effective devs around.