As a consultant, I tend to bill 30 hours a week when I’m working full-time. Billing 35 hours in a week is an indication that I’m pushing it and feeling time pressure. More that that isn’t sustainable. But a client recently asked why I wasn’t working more when a project was falling behind.
The behind-ness wasn’t something more hours from me could fix, it was the dependencies that were failing. But there is something sincerely broken about the question.
Well, I get dumb when I’m tired. The more exhausted I am, the worse my code is. That isn’t true for the first week of too many hours, sometimes there is the lovely zone of intense concentration. But after that, well, I can write code but it won’t be good code. I much prefer to write good code. I just makes me happier.
I tried to explain to the client that they get things they don’t bill for, that they don’t see, that would be part of my “full time” if I worked for them. But it was on the phone and spur of the moment; I didn’t do a great job of it so, in good blog tradition, these are the things I should have said.
- The 97 times a day I check my email when I’m not billing (e.g., shooting off a quick response at 7pm so the folks in Asia aren’t halted by a minor issue).
- Conferences I attend and the reading I do to keep myself current in my field.
- The gadgetry I buy (or, ahem, acquire) to evaluate new technology. These give me better understanding of users, new user interface design options, processor options, and sensor technology.
- Chatting with coworkers around the water cooler (my watercooler is walking around the block with dogs and husband, clients only get charged for that if we spend the walk talking about problems that we need to work out, which is to say, occasionally).
- Life chores such as those I often hear when in the office (e.g., two weeks behind deadline and now is when you conduct an intensive Craigslist search for a car?).
- Not to work: 10 holidays, 2 weeks of vacation, 1 week of sick time = 25 paid days off. So if there are 52 weeks per year and 5 work days/week, that is almost one work day in ten that the company pays a full time worker not to work.
- Surf the internet because I’m tired, bored, or sick.
- Maintain my computer. If I drop or lose it, it is my problem to rebuild it. This includes my phone, assorted tools, email service and domain, and, of course, my laptop.
- Eat cake because it is someone’s birthday. This is kind of sad for me. I miss the days that I got paid to eat cake, even crummy grocery story birthday cake.
So, there are a lot of things that are part of a job that aren’t part of my billing. I’m sure I missed some. 30hours really is a full week. Actually, I’d rather work 25, feel like a bit of a slacker, and have enough mental energy to work on my own projects.
Sadly, I don’t think these particular clients are savvy enough to understand that a well-rested and engaged engineer is more effective than an exhausted, burnt-out one.