Working Late

I’ve been questioning my principles lately. One that’s been troubling me is a principle behind the Agile Manifesto:

“Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.”

I always read this as “don’t start working late when things get busy”. I worked in a company that were really good at practising this. They almost never worked late. Quality was exceptional, tests many, bugs rare. Releases could be sent to customers whenever they need.

Is never working late always the best policy?

Applying pressure to a team, to deliver more before a deadline is a more common scenario. Rather than focussing the team on what’s important it can induce a state of panic. People are encouraged to stop thinking and “do” faster. Stupid busy culture emerges. A culture where working late is expected and results in a death spiral of poor quality. You’re always far away from a release. This seems very common and a difficult mindset to unravel, but are there more positive reasons to work late?

I see people working late when they’ve become passionate about the work they’re doing. If they’re equally passionate about quality is this something I could accept or even encourage? Well yeah, I never want to discourage passion. If they knock off early the next day to get some well earned rest I’m all for that too. But is this passion hiding a more worrying truth?

I see devs working late because they know the’re heading down a path that the rest of the team would freak at, but they’ve invested so much in it they don’t want to stop. When the guy or gal staying late doesn’t want to tell you why, it’s time to suggest the pub or attending a local meetup group might be a better alternative.

So yeah I’m comfortable with people working out of hours if it’s because they’re passionate about what they’re doing. I worked with one dev who would work on experiments whilst his wife watched EastEnders. He’d join us the next morning excited about what he had to show. But it was always an experiment and we’d usually sit down together and re-write before committing it. Work done for the team should be done with the team.


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