[Note: My request for a 10-6 workday was denied: the arguments, in short, being that granting the request would be demoralizing to my co-workers, who would still have to show up at 9, and that having staggered start times would have a undesirable cooling effect on teamwork. I have since crafted the following reply—however I have yet to send it, because I am somewhat of the mind that a face-to-face discussion will produce more positive results—largely due to the tone disambiguation afforded by speech. Comments are most welcome.]


The issue for me is one of principle: the timekeeping matter seems symptomatic of the general departmental attitude toward team members. Given that the department has such difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified developers, it seems it would be concerned with attempting to provide an environment in which these developers thrive. Yet there are numerous instances of Museum, departmental, and team policies and practices that are particularly onerous to the typical engaged developer.


  • The developer is limited to working when and where policy dictates she should work, instead of when and where would result in greatest productivity (although obviously there must be caveats to provide for teamwork)
  • Workspace decisions that make a critical difference to day-to-day functionality and the ability to work effectively with other members of the team (such as layout of reconfigurable cubicles) are made without developer input, developer concerns are not addressed in a timely manner, and productivity-enhancing solutions that seem as though they could be implemented with minimal effort become bogged down in endless bureaucracy
  • The developer is given the distinct impression that the Museum is unwilling to invest in building her knowledge or in the general health of her career

To address the first point in more detail—being hired on an hourly basis is generally difficult for the developer, as it limits when she can work. The situation is made worse by Museum restrictions on where she can work. It may not be received wisdom, but an engaged developer is continuously frustrated if she cannot work on a project at home. This is largely because programming is a concentration-intense pursuit—in the midst of a project, productivity loss increases exponentially with the time spent unable to tinker with the project. Solutions and ideas that come to a developer in the shower are significantly more likely to be lost forever if she is forced to wait until the next morning to implement them. The effect is magnified in the case where the developer is forced by a household issue to remain at home—it is enormously frustrating to be forced to take a vacation day in order to sit around the house and wait for DSL to be installed, for a plumber to come, etc., when it is clearly possible to enable work from home.

On the related issue of timekeeping policy, it seems that as long as team members are working their assigned number of hours, and are not missing scheduled appointments or responsibilities, the importance of whether our arrival and departure times differ by an hour or two is slight when compared to the benefits of a that flexibility. Notably, all of the advantages I cited in my last e-mail on this topic would be multiplied if the entire team were allowed a bit more flexibility on arrival time.

On the second point—while bureaucracy doubtless plagues employees of every flavor, it is simply alarming that such an enormous drain on productivity and accomplishment could be so widely regarded as immutable. The reluctance to invest in realizing workspace improvements that would increase productivity is difficult to comprehend.

The last point is critical—no individual who is interested in personal growth can be satisfied in an environment that does not offer them opportunities for this, and an individual who is not interested in personal growth is probably not a very valuable employee. The argument that resources should not be expended on team members who are relatively likely to leave the Museum is a circular one: those employees would be much more likely to remain if it appeared that the Museum was actually interested in investing in them by providing opportunities for building knowledge and furthering their careers.

To conclude, I dare to suggest that the Museum could actually save money by addressing these issues—things like flexible hours, the ability to work from home when necessary, input into relevant workspace decisions, and the opportunity to attend industry conferences go a long way toward developer recruitment as well as retention—and the department gains happier, more productive employees.

I would like to claim credit for these arguments, but all have been made many times before, with accompanying real-world evidence. Some good examples:

I sincerely hope that the department can see its way toward addressing these issues, since at the end of the day, I simply want to be a motivated, challenged, and hence productive employee, working amongst people who share that desire.