A developer’s time is expensive. It doesn’t matter if the company is an internal product team or an agency, we estimate budgets based on time. For example, you might be renting out your developers for £700 a day, or estimating that the next sprint costs you £5000 just in development time. This is why timesheets are so important, we need to bill clients based on the time you spent working on their project. It’s why we have daily standups, to make sure developers and tasks are moving at a reasonable pace. Development takes as long as it takes, but we still want our developers to account for every hour.
I suffer from semi-frequent anxiety attacks. Sometimes, they are very typical panic attacks; the shaking hands, short breath, increased heart rate. Sometimes, they are complete breaks in my concentration and I can zone out for several minutes at a time. On bad days, it can be both and I can spend a couple of hours or more panicking. Panicking means I’m not working. It means there are days where I get maybe an hour of productive work done. I also suffer from depression, which on bad days (or the same bad day) means I can spend hours in near-suicidal despair.
There is no line in my timesheet for this. There is no Jira ticket for “My brain was too busy telling me I’m useless to remember how code works”. There is no part of the standup where I can hide.
On bad days, the thought of tomorrow’s standup terrifies me and feeds the anxiety. Even if someone (the scrum master, dev lead, PM) know about my mental health issues, I still have to stand in front of a group of people who don’t. Do I lie about the work I did? Do I disclose to every person in my team and tell the truth? If there are clients in the standup, do we need to tell them too? Are people going to think I’m lazy, or dramatic or making it up? I already stand out thanks to my gender, and I feel conscious about adding more bullets to the gun. I want to be useful and do useful work, that’s why I am here.
My timesheets are lies. In a previous job, I could just put the actual hours of work I feel I did, and that was useful to a) not bill the client for work not done and b) having a historical record of bad days. In other jobs, I have to fill out the full 37.5 hour week in order for the timesheet to submit. We all know timesheets aren’t 100% accurate and that’s a good thing, nobody wants to account for every minute. But if I’m costing you, and you don’t know what I actually did, then it’s just theatre.
I don’t have many answers here. What works depends on my needs and the company needs. What I want companies to do is to think about this internally. We need to accept that people work in this industry with these issues and we should think about how to work with them.