We do things differently

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Many programmers are hesitant to step away from their desks. They consider time spent away from an IDE to be wasted, or worry that they’ll be looked down upon. “Why isn’t he at his desk coding!? Time for that demotion,” their managers will say.

I would argue that this logic is completely backwards and counterproductive. Programmers are not paid to sit at a desk, or to stare at a screen, or even to write code. These are all just steps on the way to a programmer’s real goal: to create functionality for the end-user. If you’re able to create that functionality more quickly and efficiently by stepping away from your desk, then that’s what you should be doing.

From brian.s.lam’s “Programming on the Toilet

This is a strong lesson people need to learn. First, programmers need to learn it because yes, sometimes you just have to turn off the computer to really program. But perhaps more importantly it’s something that bosses and managers need to learn.

Sitting at your desk doesn’t equate to productivity, tho some certainly see it that way. What should matter are results: delivering, high-quality code, that meets requirements/specifications, on-time. Alas, there’s such a culture of misunderstanding, often ingrained in old managerial practices. Or it’s because the higher-ups have a different sort of job. Is your boss primarily a sales person? Of course for them they have to work 9-to-5 and sit at a desk, because you can’t sell on the toilet at 3am. Consequently, they may see things and structure the organization around such practices. This isn’t to say everyone should work in a disjointed manner because that isn’t always the most optimal way for a team to function. But it must be realized that the goal is a well-functioning team, and if that means doing things differently than the sales team, then it does — because they are different jobs with different requirements.

We should be encouraging people to work in a way that’s most optimal for all involved parties. So if that means you need to code on the toilet once in a while, so be it. Just wash your hands when you’re done. 🙂


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