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Don’t Eat Hours, You Idiots

With yet another busy season approaching, it's time to open Pandora's Box yet again and talk about how you're billing your time. Specifically, how you're not billing your time.

Like sleeping with coworkers and sending inappropriate gifs over the firm's messaging system, eating hours is something everyone does but doesn't really talk about. Does that make it OK?

Someone on Reddit asked today what happens if you refuse to eat hours?

It's easy to say to bring that to HR or a partner, but let's be real, there are significant political ramifications there. What if it's your coach, or someone else who has direct impact on your career telling you to eat time? What if it's someone who's pretty high up on the respect hierarchy? What if it's actually pretty common in your group?

I've mostly been pretty fortunate myself to never find myself in a situation where I felt I really had to address anything like this, though I have eaten some significant time in the past at the request of people above me (only for short-term stints, hence why I never felt it worth it to raise an issue).

Does anyone else have any stories about actually pushing back against eating time and what happened? Any escalation to partner/HR? What were the ramifications, if any?

Well, since it's likely no one is actually telling you, in writing no less, that you should definitely eat your time, it's tough to snitch. So should you just shut your mouth and do what everyone else is doing?

NO. No you shouldn't.

Recall the memo McGladrey sent out recently reminding audit staff to stay billable to the point of obnoxiousness. In that letter, McGladrey specifically identifies eating hours as a detriment to accurate measurement of engagements:

[I]f there are professionals not recording all of their chargeable time while working on client engagements, it creates the appearance that we have adequate capacity to grow with the current resources that we have. Therefore, our line of business leaders may make improper decisions related to our practice if the data they are using to manage the business is not accurate.

In other words, the toolbags that sit around and analyze your precious timesheets have no idea how much time you ate. They just see a timesheet and think "wow! We're so efficient! Let's fire a couple guys since we came in under budget time-wise on this bullshit audit."


Now, we want to know: how much time will you be eating this busy season? Hearsay is welcome but has anyone told you or even strongly hinted that you should eat time? Does everyone in your team do it? Spill.