How Many Hours Do Software Engineers Work?

You might have heard that software engineers have to do 60 or 80 hour work weeks and thought to yourself – “that’s insane!” Well, you’re right! As it turns out, software engineers typically work standard hours similar to different job roles in different industries, with occasional overtime.

Software engineers work 8-9 hours a day and 40-45 hours a week, on average. However, if you’re working with a startup, or have nearing deadlines, expect to do overtime and weekend shifts. Also, if you’re a senior engineer, you might need to put in extra hours to help and manage your team members.

The above data is for the USA. For example, I work in Europe in Austria, and I work 38.5 hours per week on top of that I get 25 vacation days per year. The drawbacks to that are that I don’t get paid nearly as much as a senior programmer’s salary in the USA.

In this article, I’ll give you a brief overview of the factors influencing how many hours software engineers work to help sort out the popular notions and misconceptions surrounding the work culture. I’ll also provide tips on how to improve work-life balance for those interested in becoming a software engineer.

Factors Influencing How Long Do Software Engineers Work

According to the 2020 Developer Survey by Stack Overflow, software engineers work for 40-45 hours/week on average. That said, nearly 10% worked less than 35 hours a week, while close to 5% went through 60+ hour work weeks. 

So, what gives? Why don’t developers have standard working hours across the table? And how can you know how many hours you’ll need to work when hired as a software engineer?

Well, here’s a look at some of the most common factors that influence a software engineer’s working hours:

  • Different industries with different work cultures
  • Stage of the development process and upcoming deadlines
  • Job position and responsibilities

Let’s go over each of these factors in more detail to give you a better picture.

software developers staying late at work
You might think that software engineers work over hours all the time. This is not the case, and it depends largely on what kind of company you are working for. If you are about to get a new job, make sure to check some work reviews to not get yourself into over hours nightmare.

Different Industries With Different Work Cultures

Programming is an in-demand skill required in almost every industry, tech and non-tech alike. As such, depending on which industry you join, your working hours will vary. 

For example, most software engineers in government agencies work for less than 8 hours a day. Whereas, if you joined a startup, expect working 10-12 hours a day, and possibly even on weekends, to develop and launch the product or service asap.

Also, the country where you work makes a difference. Some countries have stricter labor laws, which ease the working hours. For instance, software engineers in the UK enjoy 39.2 hour work weeks on average. In contrast, developers in the US work an average of 41.8 hours per week.

Stage of Product Development and Upcoming Deadlines

The current stage of the product development will also influence how long you need to stay in the office.

During the early stages, when a project/product just got assigned, you can expect a chiller work environment with flexible working hours. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can clock out before your shift is over, but it does mean you’ll have less pressure. 

Most developers relax a bit too much during the early stages. As a result, when the deadlines approach, a lot of work remains pending, which leads to the inevitable overtime and weekend shifts.

That said, even if you didn’t slack during the earlier stages, you might still end up doing 60-70 hour weeks prior to launch for testing and debugging to ensure everything is working perfectly.

Job Position and Responsibilities

Do entry-level software engineers work longer hours than seniors? Or is it the other way around?

Well, both entry-level and senior software engineers can work more or less than the other. It purely depends on their responsibilities and how they manage them. 

How Many Hours Does an Entry-Level Software Engineer Work?

An entry-level software engineer may average 8 hours a day to finish the less complex workloads typically assigned. However, during the early career stages, many software engineers willingly stay late in the office learning from seniors and building a rapport.

Indeed, this is the time when you’re expected to learn from your seniors and better your understanding from the theoretical to practical. 

How Many Hours Does a Senior Software Engineer Work?

A senior software engineer works around 45 hours per week, or 9 hours a day. Higher positions like senior executives, engineering managers, and product managers work longer hours due to additional responsibilities, such as managing the team, overlooking the development process, and more.

Often, a junior might need help with a particular problem. Or, there might be an issue with the product that demands expertise on the subject. You’ll also get called when stakeholders look for a status report on the project. And in all of these situations, overtime becomes inevitable.

But at the same time, you’ll also have years of experience under your belt, including a system in place to help you streamline this process.

Video: Another take on how many hours do software engineers work

How To Maintain a Work-Life Balance as a Software Engineer

Irregular work hours with a sudden need for overtime and weekend shifts can paint the picture that software engineers have a poor work-life balance. But that’s not entirely true and is mainly a result of inefficiently managing yourself and the project.

As such, I’ve put together some useful tips you can keep in mind to help improve your work-life balance as a software engineer:

  • Break down the entire project (or at least the work you’re assigned) into smaller daily goals and finish them – daily.
  • Stop procrastinating and cultivate focus. Don’t browse the web when you should be working, so you don’t need to work when you could be on a dinner date.
  • Understand that developer burnouts are a real problem. Stop expecting to push your mind and body to go through 12-hour coding crunches for days on end.
  • Don’t try to write “perfect” code when you can see it’s eating up your time.
  • Enjoy your work. By this, I mean don’t pick up a project or role just because of the money or associated status. Instead, look for a project that you’re passionate about.

Key Takeaways

On average, software engineers work 8-9 hours a day or 40-45 hours a week. However, this can vary depending on multiple factors.

For example, if you’re working for a startup, you might need to work 50-60 hours per week to quickly launch the product or service. 

Similarly, if a project is nearing its deadline, you can expect to work longer hours to ensure everything is working correctly and all bugs are ironed out.

Also, senior positions can demand long work hours as you need more time to manage teams and take care of your responsibilities.