The Availability Objection:
Making Part Time Work in Technology
Oct 4, 2022
One frequent objection I hear when discussing the idea of fractional employment is, "I don't see how this can work, I need my developers available during office hours!"
The Reality We've Observed: Based on my personal experience as a fractional developer and an employer of fractional developers, as well as feedback from our existing clients, I’ve noted the following:
Fractional developers work 20-30 hours per week. 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) is the lowest fraction we offer, as half-time ensures a good level of availability and commitment. I've had fractional developers with better availability than some full-time employees!
Ensuring overlap and meeting attendance is far easier with fractional employees than with offshore teams, as the fractional developers are all based in the US. While many fractional developers have other roles, in a remote setting they can easily "clock-out" of one and into the other in order to take a meeting.
The modern "office" in software development is Slack/Teams - and I have found fractional developers to be quite present in that context. Startup founders often work 60 hours per week, and medical residents work 80-100 hours per week for years on end - why doubt that there are motivated software developers out there willing to work 40 hours at one job and 20 hours at another?
Let's dive a bit deeper: How do typical software teams actually work, and what does good availability actually look like?
How Software Teams Usually Work
(and how fractional developers fit in)
Most dev teams have a daily standup early or mid-morning, which ideally runs no more than 15 minutes. Whether using Agile or another methodology (or none at all), most teams understand that software developers need blocks of uninterrupted time in order to write code. As a result developers average one meeting per day (e.g. “check Anton/Jon schedule”). Perhaps a sprint refinement one day, a retrospective on another - unlike some management roles, developers aren't (and shouldn't be) buried in meetings.
How Fractional devs fit in: We ask fractional developers to join 2-3 standups per week, dependent on where in the 20-30 hour per week spectrum they fall. Fractional devs also attend 2 longer meetings per week in order to ensure they 1) are up to date on requirements, and 2) are delivering against those requirements.
The modern workplace was becoming Slack-dependent prior to the pandemic, and in the post-2020 world, your company's chat app IS the office in many cases. Employees who aren't responsive on chat can end up with a strike against them pretty quickly.
How fractional devs fit in: We ask all fractional developers to be present on Slack/Teams/chat throughout the business day. In our decade of experience, we've found that senior developers are good at acknowledging requests even if they can't engage intensely on a task at that exact moment. The only case we've found that doesn't work is when a developer has a full-time job requiring 5 days a week at the office.
Companies with hybrid teams typically come into the office 1-3 days per week. Surveys show that the majority of software developers are still working remotely, and this trend appears set to continue as companies shed real estate and realize that productivity is possible so long as teams form good bonds over time.
How fractional developers fit in: Fractional developers are 100% remote, but that doesn't mean they are unseen. At HiddenLevers we had fractional developers attend our offsites and other occasional in-person events! In the remote-first world fractional team members can participate in aspects of team building just like full-time employees.
Summing it up
If your company requires 100% in-office, or works with physical infrastructure requiring it, fractional won't work, BUT in the vast majority of cases working with fractional developers should just feel... normal.
We've learned over time that this model works best with senior developers who are able to manage their work and their schedules independently.
Imagine adding a senior developer to your team that works 20 hours per week, but independently accomplishes 80-100% of a mid-level developer's output - that's what we offer at Fraction.