All the “theorycrafting” below is based on my own experience and things I’ve read that belong to different methodologies or practices. You can recognize some of that as elements of Scrum / Kanban or something else, but there’s no guarantee I use official / mainstream terminology. Why? Because I like it that way :)
Now, straight to the point - there are 3 categories of developers’ time that are interesting when you’re wearing “productivity analysis” glasses:
- Work time (WT) - time spent on implementing backlog items / user scenarios / design elements
- Slack time (ST) - time spent (within paid time) on individual investigations / improvements that are still related to products developed, but do not come directly: from backlog / stakeholders.
- Recharge time (RT) - time spent (outside of paid time) on broadening knowledge, PoCing, doing pet projects - not necesserily in technologies used in job-time.
What’s so specific about each of those?
- Obviously WT has the most direct impact on productivity - you maximize it to get as much of project deliverables as possible, but …
- … ST helps you to get even more productivity. How come? Well, ST mainly helps with reducing the technical debt as it involves refactoring, fixing walkarounds, polishing products and sometimes just checking options available. So in theory you could reduce ST to zero, to make all paid time WT - what would happen then?
- Without ST, you’re running like a headless chicken: all workarounds get permanent, technical debt is rising, people are less engaged with what they do, as they sometime have to go “shortcuts” and they can’t fix it later. So temporarily, productivity will improve, but long-term it will drop and the quality will be dropping all the time.
- What about RT? Shortly speaking - developers with zeroed RT don’t improve, barely learn anything new, have no “drive” and passion. In long-term they may be sufficient to maintain a stabilized and steady product, but nothing more than that.
Now, what happens if you have a meanager (do you know who "meanager" is? it’s a manager that is mean enough to make you work long hours to compensate his lack of skills and vision) as your superior?
- First, your ST will reduce to zero - quickly reducing quality of work to close to crapware and people motivation to “on the edge”.
- Second, you’ll have to stay long hours or even work on weekends, that will soon eliminate your RT (because you’ll have no time you can afford on self-dev) - that’s the quickest way to burning out.
Working on IT systems is usually dealing with great responsibility. Some of those operate 24/7 and grind a lot of money (or data / goods of high quality / significance) - it may happen that unusual commitment may be needed and this is part of this job. However if no-ST / no-RT is your bread and butter, do yourself a favor: look for another employer.