Time tracking

Work fundamentals

Full-time teammates at Nebulab work a standard 40-hour week, with 10% of those hours devoted to Investment Time.

We use Factorial to clock in and out of the office. Because we're distributed, clocking in obviously has a more abstract meaning, and generally means that you're around and actively at work—e.g., you don't need to clock out for small breaks, but you do need to clock out for lunch. If you're an employee, you can find more documentation about the proper usage of Factorial in Notion.

Our schedules are fairly flexible: as long as you can get work done efficiently and have some overlap with your teammates, feel free to work at whatever times suit you best. While the majority of people work their local 9-to-6 (i.e., 8 hours of work and a 1-hour lunch break), we also have teammates working early in the morning and/or late in the afternoon, so that they can spend more time with their family.

Finally, all team members get a "schedule flexibility" PTO allowance of up to 104 hours per year, depending on length of service. This allows you to come in a little late or leave a little early without eating into your vacation PTO or having to compensate with overtime.

Billable hours

In addition to clocking in and out, we also use Harvest to keep track of any time we spend working for clients or on Solidus, as well as any Investment Time we use. This allows us to bill clients more accurately and keep track of budgets.

Whatever time you track in Harvest on a client's project will show up in the client's invoice at the end of the month, so make sure that you track accurately! If you're unsure whether a particular task is billable or not, you're encouraged to reach out to your manager and find out.

Schedule-based vs. outcome-based work

You might be wondering why we focus so much on the hours people work, rather than the outcome of their work, which is the standard for most companies nowadays. Everyone seems to be touting the benefits of letting people work however much they want as long as they're productive, so what gives?

This was a deliberate decision, and not one we have taken lightly. Having clear schedules has worked best for us so far, for a few different reasons.

First of all, you're not always in control of your work environment when you're a consulting firm. The majority of people at Nebulab work for external clients on long-term engagements. Having a defined time commitment helps us set clear expectations with clients around the availability of their team, so that a client is not expecting an engineer to jump on a call at 3 in the morning just because they have a "flexible" schedule.

This takes us to the second reason, which has to do with work-life balance.

We have found our current setup to lead to a much healthier work-life balance than an outcome-centric arrangement. If you're judged by the outcome of your work, how do you know when to stop? When you're only expected to work 40 hours/week, you just need to do your absolute best in those 40 hours. We'll obviously pay overtime, but no one will compliment you for working more—in fact, we'll often treat it as a symptom of an underlying issue.

Finally, there's some bureaucratic/administrative issues with not having a work schedule. The most obvious: if you don't have a schedule, you can't be paid overtime. There are also additional caveats with local employment laws in the countries where we hire employees directly, rather than as contractors.

With that said, this decision is one we are constantly thinking about and re-evaluating, since it's a pretty significant deviation from what most companies do. At some point, we might very well change our minds about it—right now, we're confident that it's the best possible setup for the team.