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Ask HN: Why don't companies hire programmers for fewer hours per day?
498 points by maythrowaway on July 25, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 348 comments

Maybe this question doesn't properly apply to USA programmers since labor laws are a little different there, but let me try.

Rationale: we always discuss how programming makes us tired and stressed, how often we spend hours and hours per day just procrastinating or being completely unproductive while still trying to be. Also, we often discuss how programmers get paid nice salaries in comparison with most other professions. This leads me to the conclusion: I'd probably be very happy to take a 25% (or more) salary cut if I had to work 25% (or more) less. I mean, 8 hours per day is a lot and it's very rare for me to have a fully productive day. If I moved to 6 hours per day, I'm not even sure if I'd become less productive, I'd probably just spend less time chatting at the coffee room, and have a smaller chance to get burnout. Maybe a little less productive, but the company would be saving some money with me, and if they did this to other 3 people they would be able to hire another 6h/day programmer to balance things, maybe making the result even positive for them.

But, considering that no company does this, it looks like this isn't a good idea for employers. Why? Why do companies try to squeeze all the possible juice from employees instead of the alternative where they pay a little less, require a little less, and the employee becomes much more happy?

And the question to the workers: wouldn't you accept a proportional salary reduction for a proportional time-spent-inside-the-office-doing-whatever reduction?

Mythical man month says that even if longer hours have diminishing returns, the organizational overhead from adding people to the team is worse - fewer people with longer hours is the better alternative.

Here I will quote a HN post which quotes a secondary source which analyses mythical man month

"From a business point of view, long hours by programmers are a key to profitability. Suppose that a programmer needs to spend 25 hours per week keeping current with new technology, getting coordinated with other programmers, contributing to documentation and thought leadership pieces, and comprehending the structures of the systems being extended. Under this assumption, a programmer who works 55 hours per week will produce twice as much code as one who works 40 hours per week. In The Mythical Man-Month, the only great book ever written on software engineering, Fred Brooks concludes that no software product should be designed by more than two people. He argues that a program designed by more than two people might be more complete but it will never be easy to understand because it will not be as consistent as something designed by fewer people. This means that if you want to follow the best practices of the industry in terms of design and architecture, the only way to improve speed to market is to have the same people working longer hours. Finally there is the common sense notion that the smaller the team the less management overhead. A product is going to get out the door much faster if it is built by 4 people working 70-hour weeks (180 productive programmer-hours per week, after subtracting for 25 hours of coordination and structure comprehension time) than if by 12 people working 40-hour weeks (the same net of 180 hours per week). The 12-person team will inevitably require additional managers and all-day meetings to stay coordinated."


Quoting TMMM as a justification for product death march? Wow.

A programmer who works 55 hours a week will produce twice as much code - but for how long? Once fatigue settles in (a few weeks in), you're back at the 40-hour productivity levels, just paying it at 55-hour rates (and organizational overhead for overtime, oooh boy!), plus burning out the developers (and organizational overhead for employee churn).

Your assumption is that 55 hour weeks are sustainable: just change this number in the spreadsheet from 40 to 55, and voila! And while we're at it, why not 80? Why not 200? Very PHB-ish, in my unhumble opinion.

One of the points of TMMM is that communication and coordination overhead is a cost and a risk and that it grows exponentially in relation to the number of programmers you have. So, you won't get double the productivity out of twice as many programmers (unless they're on unrelated projects--but more projects == more overhead as well).

200 hour weeks would be quite unsustainable, indeed. Forget not sleeping, where do you get the other 32 hours?

Simply have the developer use two computers at the same time, thereby doubling their man-hours

Quadratically, IINM, not exponentially.

I was wondering whether anyone would catch on ;) Anyway, I wasn't arguing that more developers is easier (I do believe it might be better) - I was saying that piling hours on top doesn't scale either.

MMM is actually an important part of the answer, and it is unfortunate that it was presented this way (death marches are deprecated for their own reasons.) The right way to think of this is to consider four people each working two hours a day on the same problem. Sustained effort and focus matter.

This is most true for tasks that are more intellectually demanding, like the development of large-scale software (which is what Brooks was writing about.) The more routine a task is, the easier it is to divide it up (though that is rarely to the benefit of the worker.)

> A programmer who works 55 hours a week will produce twice as much code - but for how long?

By my experience I would say around 18-24 months.

Maybe it's because I'm a little bit over forty, but for me only a few days working 10 hours a day (plus a significant commute) decreases my productivity significantly. That is at least if I have to work on more that one project at a time. If I don't have to switch tasks and it is relatively straightforward work I can probably manage for a few weeks, but not much longer and I know that I'll definitely hate my life.

I am thirty and I find the same. More than two weeks of heavy days and my productivity plummets until I get proper time off.

If the project is fun I can work two times as long without fatigue. For example if I think this is important and my effort personally can make the difference. Or if I am using a new technology or something that feels like a "portfolio" piece.

That's a benefit to some business types. You're getting grey and expensive.

I'm naturally a sprinter type, so I tend to set up my work the same way. I tend to work more in the winter (55+ hours) since there isn't much else to do anyway, and work less during the summer (40 or less). I'll also work like you suggest for multi-month stretches and then take a few weeks off and go on vacation.

I've tried the steady working, but I just do not operate that way. When there is work to do I do it, and simply have a hard time sitting still or concentrating on something else.

I'm fortunate to be in a field and with a company that is flexible in this way. I also really like this method. When I'm on vacation that is my 100% focus. I'd much rather work a lot and then completely unplugged instead of always working even on vacation.

At which point they ragequit. But hey, never mind the burnout, let's just find another cog for the machine. Never mind the ramp-up cost - fifty-five hours a week, yeeehaw!

lol.. 55 would be the dream, most weeks I do 80+ most of my team do 60+

50% coding/50% hackernews browsing then? ;)

50% coding would also be a good target .. :P

Well that is the worst place ever to work.

I wouldn't be so harsh. If you are young, and if you breathe, drink and eat your product, this could be awesome. None of that lasts forever, of course, but if it happens - what a time to be alive! Not a place for everyone, indeed, and not conventional.

If, on the other hand, you are only interested in the product, and/or you have other stuff to take care of, that would be Hell on Earth for you.

do you get a lot of actual work done? I found communication slows things done a lot. waiting on answer from other people seems to be a pretty big bottle neck. I like to have a couple project going at once to be more productive.

I get very little of "real" work during regular hours, most of it goes in meetings, code reviews and of course communication. I code during the off hours essentially two jobs i guess, one I love(coding) makes the other(management) bearable .

zsh, i3, ssh, openvpn, pidgin, tmux, vim, firefox, vlc - about everything i need all 6hr working day long

if i want to shortcut communication i simply call mates via dialthrough or skype

So, no life outside work at all? And a work that doesn't appreciate you enough to work sane hours? What's the point then? Stocking money for later on?

If it works for you, I see no problem :)

The issue I had was with this as the answer to life, universe and everything: "thou shalt not have life outside of work."

> If it works for you, I see no problem

There's a reason why 80-90% of the wealthy/developed countries make it illegal to overwork people (even if the worker would be willing to work)

A lot depends on how into the project I am.

>Once fatigue settles in (a few weeks in), you're back at the 40-hour productivity levels, just paying it at 55-hour rates

Rather you're back at far worse than 40-hour levels. Once fatigue settles in the code will be much worse.

Took me a while to realize that PHB = pointy haired boss.

Your premise is false. You're assuming that people are working in these situations. In my experience you can get one honest week of 40+ hours out of a team, then you will see people piss away company time on meaningless bullshit.

Study-after-study has shown that knowledge workers are useless after 40 hours a week, yet every body seems to think they are the exception. I'll tell you why: Because we all know what it's like to work more than 40 hours a week on something we truly love and are passionate about, and we've sustained insane levels of work for a long time on such things.

The problem? Your bog-standard social-media/consumer app is not something your developers are going to be passionate about. They may find the odd project here or there in your company that they truly care about, but for the vast majority of applications your dream/company is work for them that happens to align with their skill set, it's not something they'd prefer to be doing.

I know there are exceptions to this rule, and I've even gotten a chance to land a dream job once. Do you know what a dream job turns into pretty quickly? Something you've mastered, and find boring.

Company runners/founders need to get over the idea that their employees should be as passionate about their company as they are, it's such a BS idea. Your workers, should be loyal, do what it takes to keep your dream up-and-running, and coming up with original ideas to make it great, but they should not be sacrificing their lives for your dream.

All-in-all I think you can still design a great product with two people in less than 40 hours. Hell...I think you can do it in 25.

But what if instead of using the 20% to reduce cost, you use it to increase quality. For instance if you have 100k / developer budget and instead of buying a group of 5 avg. developers[1] for 40 hrs/week, you buy 5 great devs for 32 hrs/week. Then overhead per developer stays the same.

Which team would you bet on? The team of great devs at 32hrs a week, or the team of decent devs at 40 hrs a week? You hear about the 10x developer, but if a 1 in 10 developer is even just 1.3x they end up being a better deal at 32hrs a week than avg devs at 40 hrs a week.

[0] Think of an average developer as the avg developer you work with, and the great developer as the best developer you work with.

I would bet on the team who has the best marketing plan and support package because quality at point of sale is rarely the differentiator in a company's success.

I think that usually in these discussions, the money saved (the 20%) is intended to be used on other things than development.

It's a pipe dream. The "saved" money is eaten by fixing the crappy code written at 4 AM, three months into crunch mode. Only works if you can bully the developers into unpaid overtime.

They are salaried so why would you pay OT?

You can't ship a product that isn't finished, and programmers with unfinished projects can't start new ones.

Let other programmers fix the bugs and charge it to support after you release it. Send your main programmers onto the next project. That's how commercial software works.

> Let other programmers fix the bugs and charge it to support after you release it. Send your main programmers onto the next project. That's how commercial software works.

That's how some commercial software works, but less and less. It's a dying model.

That strategy represents two bets: 1) You can shift a lot of the costs from before release to after (in the form of tech debt), and 2) people will pay you a lot up front before they figure out that your product is buggy and that you can't innovate any more.

That could work with packaged software where you can market the hell out of it and get a lot of people to buy it once. It doesn't make sense for internal software, though. And it mostly doesn't make economic sense for software as a service, where people pay you month by month. With a service, it's better to start small with a core market and then innovate continuously, so people always feel like it's getting better. You can't do effective continuous innovation with high levels of technical debt and your "main programmers" off on the next project. Unless your market has a very high barrier to entry, somebody will spot your weakness, jump in as a competitor, and quickly lap you.

We'll still be dealing with the bad habits from that era for years. But the era itself is over.

Like, not here. Instead we hire contractors from some big contracting agency who pay them nothing and charge us $120/hr, then they proceed to destroy whatever quality was there in the beginning. Eventually it becomes such a shit show that we have to start over again, this time with double the contractors since we're given an impossible schedule to replace it.

Uncompensated OT for salaried employees is illegal in most of the developed world.

Oh, the joys of US salary-exempt work. They did bump up the ceiling on the maximum income that can be compensated for overtime, but in practice it is still below the level of most salaried positions.

Hey now, Canada makes that exception too! ;)

There's still a cap on 48 hour a week however:


and after that the employer must obtain signed consent of the employee, otherwise it is illegal. So the original point of "shaming into OT" stands.

Is it? I suspect that it is a bit more complicated than that.

Overtime of any type for any type of worker is frowned upon by the authorities here in Norway but I suspect that the UK and US are a bit different.

>They are salaried so why would you pay OT?

Because most countries require you to pay overtime for salaried workers, including in the US from what I see here:


It seems like there's a limit of $47k, at which point it doesn't apply. Most developers would probably be making well above that.

Which most of that is. The vast majority of developers are on salary, which means that 4 AM emergency fix and crunch time are effectively free.

If you don't mind doubling your turnover....

Agreed, but businesses that would be doing that aren't thinking about turnover anyway.

I don't actually work the extra hours, I just browse Reddit for a few hours a day. I really can't put in 8 hours of actual work, my brain melts after 6.

I find this to be generally true. I used to think i was just working too hard in the early part of the day, burning myself, and simply needed to take breaks. Its true to an extent, but generally speaking I find I have a "window" where I can get meaningful work done, usually between 9-3. Some days its really long, some days it doesn't exist at all, but most days its about 4-6 hours. I either pad the extra time (and feel like I'm doing something wrong) or stress out trying to be more productive. But in reality, I think the window is simply how creative effort works. Though my current office is pretty good about this in general, I wonder if more companies could embrace it would we develop patterns to maximize and plan around these effectivity windows.

> You might also find this interesting

This was my summary of it when it was last posted:



Regardless of the outcome (productivity -> more / less / equal), I would like to see the same experiment in IT or even other so called white-collar positions. I am sure things would be different.

I find this to be true when I don't care about what I'm working on. I wish companies would acknowledge that they aren't providing the most interesting work in the world, and admit when that people can only deal with it for so many hours per week. If I find something within the company that I find interesting, I'd happily put in some extra hours for free, but I'd much rather be working 30 hours per week.

Thanks, I am not alone...

That completely ignores the documented productivity drop from working so many hours, though.

I don't agree with working like this, but I'd expect that you're generally going to get marginal gains from each extra hour worked (up to a point of exhaustion or burnout), especially in the short term, so it might make sense to have people work in this way _occasionally_. I know I've been on "work all the hours available" projects in the past, and I definitely got a lot more done than I would have just working a 40hr week, even if I did feel like cr*p at the end of it.

Interesting. My experience is that when I limited myself strictly to 6 hour days I got a lot more done than I get done in 8-hour days.

Yeah, short-term crunch can sometimes make sense, as long as it's actually short-term and doesn't repeat on a monthly basis.

short-term crunch can sometimes make sense

It makes sense when all your employees are singles without a family or any other obligations outside work. You might want to take into account that your employees who are not, may have to pick up their kids from kindergarten/school, etc. They may not be able to work long hours without letting down their children or damaging their marriage.

You could make crunch optional, but there is some peer pressure ('Look, Johnny is not committed to our project').

These are waters to thread carefully if you want to have healthy/happy employees. Make clear rules ahead of times of what is expected, pay extra compensation for overtime.

(Sorry if I set up a straw man.)

Too bad I can only vote once UP for this comment. I fully agree; I have a family, my wife is a doctor and she works on shifts, so I often have to pickup kids and so on.

A huge cost that is often misunderstood is the cost of replacing an employee who leaves because the working conditions (endless hours, regular extra time, bully environment) are not compatible with his/her work/life balance.

My previous workplace was founded upon extra time (I remember our CTO and CEO clearly saying that he expected people to work 50-60 hours per week. The CEO literally said multiple times "these people are young, I expect them to work 120%").

We constantly were fixing issues and problems, we never had time to properly plan and design. Once the CTO told me that he expected our SW to have problems, but since we had no time to fix them or to build better software, he also expected the programmers to be available so fixing production issues when they happened no matter if it was night or weekend. Once he told us that he expected senior developers to check email once a day while on holiday to check if there were no problems.

No wonder that in a few month 3 out of 4 of the senior engineers left the company.

Peopleware talks about this. There is a cost to overtime in terms of lost productivity afterwards and in terms of developer happiness. When developers are unhappy, their work quality drops and eventually they leave. Cost of employee turnover is mentioned as a cost that is actually quite high, but rarely factored in.

They also say that overtime can make sense if its short and a rare occurrence.

An employee who leaves is a tragedy, especially in smaller companies. His work has to be shared among the other (implying even more extra time). Then you have to start a new acquisition process to hire someone new, train him, fit him into the existing group and so on. And if someone leaves because of the company culture, there is the possibility that other will follow, making the cost even higher.

I found a good way to curb crunch is to pay extra for it: Every mandated hour that exceeds the regular work time gets paid 25% - 50% on top, preferably in time off (that is for 8 hours extra a week you get 10-12 hours off the next). This allows for crunch time when needed but provides a strong financial incentive to avoid it. A lot of things suddenly drop in priority from "absolutely crucial" to "can be done next week" when you respond with "I hear you, are you willing to pay a 50% premium for that?".

Also offering help with child-care makes things easier for employees with families. Those are solvable problems if crunch-time is limited to short stints and if both sides are willing to work together.

Hmm, compensating employees at 50% more for hours above and beyond the normal work week, what a novel idea! /s

I fail to understand your post: it's neither a novel idea to compensate extra for overtime nor did I claim it was. I just said that I found this to work well.

I see unpaid overtime as one of the primary drivers of extreme crunch abuse. It aligns incentives in the worst possible way: More work gets done per week (though only marginally at best), project management gets to claim "we're doing all we can" and then, on top it's actually free time donated by the employees at no immediately obvious costs. Not surprising that this sounds attractive.

I've struggled for years trying to get my headspace into the right place to deal with salaried work. I've got a very blue-collar background, and my first few jobs were in those kind of hard-hat & steel-toe boot industries, where you literally punch in and out, and your compensation is directly tied to the number of hours worked. In those situations, the calculus you're describing about "does this need to be done now, or can it be done tomorrow?" already takes place, since unpaid overtime is illegal, and if you need more than 40 hours in a week from an employee, you have to pay the premium for it.

It's less of a salaried work issue, it's more one of people not knowing or not caring about their rights. I can't talk about the US landscape but in germany unlimited unpaid overtime is not legal, still you see that often in work contracts, especially in contracts in startups and web/multimedia agencies. Its especially common where unions and other organizations that could enforce legal limits are weak. I've for example never seen such a clause (and unpaid overtime) in organizations where a strong worker rights position existed.

There's a better way: order some pizza, cans of red bull, and call it a "hackathon".

No to overtime being paid in time off. Many times, they'll gladly let you do that, only to not let you ever use it, assuming they actually remember that they promised it to you.

are you willing to pay a 50% premium for that?

Nice! I'll remember that one.

That's the point of "short-term" - that's weeks at the very most. Of course, a PHB will take this to mean "until the next release, half a year away, that's not too long, no?"

I have often seen people putting in extra hours with negative productivity. One small error can result in days of lost time.

Let's discount that programmers are human begins: let's assume programmers are exactly like rotary tools that can run 12 hours a day, everyday, including weekends.

Every tool has a fixed number of cycles before something gives and repairs need to be made (or the tool written off and a replacement obtained).

Depending on the price and availability of a tool, some businesses make conscious decisions to limit the number of hours they use a tool, so as to extend the life of the tool.

Now if we are to consider that we are the said tools, and once we wear out, the onus is on us to repair ourselves and bear all costs of doing so (because the business "writes us off"), we might have more clarity into pricing ourselves?

If we want to add to that, that we are actually human beings, some more clarity perhaps could be obtained.

I invite your opinions and feedback.

This is how the system treats most human beings, as labor commodities to be consumed and discarded. This is one of the dangers of capitalism, compounded by 7.5 billion people who are increasingly unable to find a productive role within the system.

Maybe it's the quote lacking context but you're wrongly equating lines of code with amount of functionality produced.

I agree however that adding more developers can slow things down but this is partly a result of how software is designed and work divided up.

> Fred Brooks concludes that no software product should be designed by more than two people.

That really depends on the architecture of the software. There are thousands of people creating and maintaining device drivers for the linux kernel. The idea that only two people could do that simultaneously, is a bit far fetched when the architecture actually makes sense.

But then again, most commercial software does not have that kind of extensible architecture. Therefore, it is probably true that a commercial software team will never really scale.

It's been a while since I read the Mythical Man Month, but as I recall his answer to your point is to look at things through the perspective of systems and subsystems. While Linus is responsible for the overall Linux kernel/system, someone else may be responsible for the X subsystem in the Linux kernel. Which, from what I'm aware, is an accurate representation of how Linux is developed in practice.

Salary is only roughly half the cost of employing someone, so while a 25% salary reduction for 25% fewer hours is fair for you, the employer is not seeing a 25% cost reduction. They're not saving 25% on payroll taxes, benefits, workers comp, PTO, training time and management overhead. In fact, more people working fewer hours increases most of these costs.

This is the correct answer, and I'm speaking as someone who got a large raise last week as I was forcibly switched from part time to full time. I'm working in a generally low-profit area and the numbers stopped working.

I started it because I'd repeatedly burned out of full-time jobs. Working 3 days/week was a great 4.5 years for me, far more rewarding than the added salary I passed on could have been. Aside from lower work anxiety, I had time to write two books, give three conference talks, get engaged, get married, take up several hobbies, and enjoy life thoroughly. My work has been overwhelmingly better: I stay out of rabbit holes, I recognize deep patterns, I prioritize ruthlessly, I deliver the things my users didn't realize they need. It's not magic, it's just downtime for my unconscious to noodle around with problems without pressure.

I think working part time is a hugely valuable experience for anyone who doesn't have a pressing need for dollars in the door (eg to pay off US medical bills or student loans). There are plenty of blogs out there on frugal living + investing (I recommend MrMoneyMustache and Bogleheads wiki), so you can live comfortably and still save significantly towards retirement.

I can't argue the financial math of why it rarely works, but I'd do 3 or 4 days a week again in a heartbeat. (15 year dev, currently Rails/Django/Haskell, Chicago/Remote, peter@valent.io if anyone's looking.)

I can second the "more time for subconscious to noodle around" benefit.

I spent 7 years working remotely part of the year while living in coastal South America, and I've been transitioning to a 3-day week now that I moved back to the States and married someone from my hometown.

I believe it results in better software.

(For contrast, I had a previous approach which was itself pretty good, if somewhat adventurous -- I took fewer projects per year, with a target of working only 1 day out of every 4 in a year. That way, when I worked on a project I was able to be unreasonably focused on it because I was craving collaboration).

Sounds like my dream, how did you initially get into 3days/week? New job? Negotiated for it at an old job?

Asked for it in the initial interview. I thought I was going to give back a day in negotiation and do 4d/w, but it didn't come up. I figured I could always come back after and ask for more hours if I need the money or couldn't fill the time.

I have heard of exactly two other devs at 3d/w in the last 5 years so I wouldn't pin any hopes on that, but there's plenty of people at 4d/w.

I'm currently doing 2 days a week on a contract. It's a fixed monthly rate contract.

When summer is over I'll likely move to 3 or 4 days a week (my choice). It's a sacrifice in money, not to mention the work is for a non-profit open source project. But it's relaxing.

What project may I ask?

I'm currently doing ~2d/w at our company. The arrangement was - I'd spend as much time working as I could and want. However a baby and the other matters tend to take their share of time, leaving 60-70 hours of work per month on the average.

There are a few other developers/devops in the same office who are working on the same arrangement.

I wouldn't think that this situation is unique to the industry.

I've just been doing 3 d/w for the last 3 months. Negotiated it on a contract. I did it initially to decide whether to start a startup, but at the same I sorted out loads of admin, bought a guitar, and learnt loads of other stuff. I loved it.

Mind you, where I am is incredibly flexible with me. Last year I worked 1 d/w remotely for the summer (two mornings a week in fact, not even a whole day :-)).

It's probably easier to get this on a contract (and it'll probably help with the IR35 thing if that ever comes up)...

"They're not saving 25% on payroll taxes, benefits, workers comp, PTO, training time and management overhead. In fact, more people working fewer hours increases most of these costs."

* Payroll taxes: OF COURSE they're saving the same amount on taxes! It's not like they pre-pay taxes on an assumed amount. It's a % of what they pay you. If they pay you less, they pay less taxes on your behalf.

* Workers Comp: Firms play insanely low rates on workers comp for programmers, and workers comp is generally calculated at (RATE for job class) * ($100 payroll allocated to job class). If you pay the employee less, your workers comp premium decreases at the same rate.

* PTO: If the company wishes to offer full time PTO benefits to a part timer, they may, but many businesses have separate PTO policies for full and part time employees, including slower accrual for part timers.

Training time and management overhead are probably the real costs here.

> In fact, more people working fewer hours increases most of these costs.

More people working fewer hours could also increase productivity (that's the point of this discussion) thus could increase revenue and profit, as well.

If you pay 10% more and make 20% more revenue, that's a GOOD DEAL

You're correct but you're missing one large expense: Health/Wellness (at least, in the US, where it's partially paid for by one's employer).

I'm assuming the OP was expecting to keep this benefit since it's a critical thing for most people. The company could choose to pay for less of a share (and most companies reduce or eliminate this benefit for part-timers) but assuming it's left alone, it would not be reduced any with a reduction in the cost of salary.

You mentioned training time and management, but there's also "employee support costs" that increase by employee count regardless of salary such as HR and other support staff, state/local/federal compliance requirements that are based on the total number of people employed rather than salary (though many of these are limited to full-time staff) and others that I can't speak to since it's not my area of expertise, but his point is still valid in those areas.

On PTO - you're right in that I haven't encountered an employee that doesn't reduce the total allotment of PTO for part-timers. But even if they didn't, this would go down precisely with salary since it's paid as a full day's work not worked and that day would now be 25% cheaper.

In a sane system the health insurance costs scale with wages.

Do the US ones not do that?

In a sane system healthcare is provided to everyone free and has nothing to do with employment status ;)

There's no such thing. It's just deluding yourself and a bit dishonest to say "free" in this context, please try to say what you mean.

Is it actually, 'In a sane system healthcare is billed to everyone as a percentage tax on their income capped at some dollar amount'. Or perhaps you think it should be an uncapped percentage of income? I expect there is no country on Earth where the cost of healthcare literally has nothing to do with employment status, in-so-much as single-payer healthcare is always funded at least partially by income taxes.

One advantage most other countries have, with the government being the plan manager, is that the pool of taxes they can utilize for funding is larger. Income taxes partially fund health care, yes, but so does VAT.

But at any rate, if you ignore the "free" point of the original poster, that post was quite correct. America leans heavily on corporations to perform the management of health care, and I don't see that as particularly "sane" to be honest. To me, such is an unnecessary competitive advantage to large corporations that can better manage the bureaucracy and expense. Small business owners often cannot afford the time and expense to offer this (understandably, to be honest). Consequently, employees that are self-employed or working for small companies may have to forgo health insurance.

It is very possible that this leads to some talented employees resisting leaving a corporation purely for health insurance reasons, a phenomenon called "job lock" (https://www.jstor.org/stable/2118427?seq=1#page_scan_tab_con...).

At least when corporations search for a health plan, they are intensely competitive in finding the best plan for the price. Every year when their policies renew is another round of searching, comparing, and analyzing the various options in their local market. Health insurance has got to be the most expensive benefit a company offers by far, and I know even at a small startup we spend a lot of time finding the best plan for the money for our group.

Compare that to the US government, which isn't even legally allowed to negotiate on drug costs, and look where that has brought us [1,2]. So you could argue companies "waste" an enormous amount of resources having to procure health insurance for their employees year after year, but it also at least helps establish at least some competition in the market, which puts at least some pressure on prices. Companies health insurance budgets are not unlimited (unlike the Fed's) so we don't see quite the same run-away pricing as you do when the purchaser is literally printing the money to pay for it.

Obama's famous "you can keep your Doctor" lie is very telling. Different companies will elect for very different levels of coverage. The law requires that whatever level of coverage you chose to offer your employees is offered consistently from management down to your cheapest full-time employee, which is a really smart policy. Large corporations have better negotiating power in almost all respects of their operations, supply chain, and yes, employee benefits. We wouldn't imagine trying to 'level the playing field' in any other aspect of the operation of a company, so I don't think that's a compelling argument for single-payer health insurance?

When small businesses chose to forgo even offering health insurance (which is that even legal now?) that is actually a competitive advantage for them; they avoid a huge operating cost, and implicitly are selecting for the type of worker they are looking for -- single, young, and healthy.

[1] - https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Sta...

[2] - http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/07/medicare_pric...

The advantage of a "single payer" system would be to bring the benefits of large corporation negotiating power down to everyone.

If there was no competition at all, I'm sure that there is some potential for rising costs. But a lot of "single payer" systems actually do offer a fair bit of wiggle room for private market competition. The mess that is the state of the United States government health care really isn't a compelling argument here against single payer (the statistics for most of the rest of the world's health care systems, which are more integrated, kind of show this). I would expect that any "Medicaid / Medicare for all" system emerge in the United States would be two-tiered, like is the case in several other countries.

To be honest, I would almost describe the situation in America as oligopoly-like in many cases (in insurance and hospital networks in particular) depending on where you are, and that would mute the effect of any corporate competition.

You've made a false assumption that "intense competition" (italicised for emphasis!) always makes things cheaper. It doesn't apply with health insurance, which is why health costs are so much higher in the U.S than anywhere else. [1]

Fact: the system of private health insurance in the U.S makes it more expensive for everyone. Source: every other western country paying far less. It is possible for the free market to fail when the thing people are buying is something they would pay any amount of money for.


Obviously I am talking about free like "education", not free as in "no human input" It's a bit "dishonest" to take ridiculous literal meaning of the word to misrepresent what's clearly my point.

To explain fully, I am advocating the system where a person who earns $0 per day can enter and leave a hospital treated for free. They don't work, don't contribute to society, but as a unit everyone just agrees to look after their basic health as a minimum. As well people with money can do the same without even a thought about what their health insurance does / doesn't cover or when it kicks in, they just pitch up to the hospital.

That is of course implicit. No wages, no costs.

The funding for health care still needs to come from somewhere, this optimally being a tax on income.

Yeah I got straw-manned pretty hard (and took the bait), like I was advocating a fully volunteer health network or money on trees situation...

Why would that be a sane system? IMO a sane system is one where the paid cost scales with the real costs of the health care, no?

Ones health care costs arent going to be cut in half if hours are cut in half. Still need just as many annual checkups, may still have the same diabetes etc.

It is a sane system because everyone is paying into it, and you can do things on a larger scale to help more people. With health care being disconnected from the job, it doesn't tie people to an employer they hate and changing jobs is less of a risk. There are pluses and minuses, of course.

They still should have checkups, but not everyone needs them annually. Still might have diabetes, but with less stress and actually having time to cook proper meals, the diabetes might be better controlled and have cost savings in the long term (fewer complications) - and possibly short term if they have type 2 and go from insulin to pills. Sweden has been testing out 6 hour days - with nurses, they find overall absenteeism has dropped and folks are happier. Large scale, this would probably mean that folks are sick less often. Might not be cut by 25%, but improvement is still improvement.

No, health care is implicitly a system of shared costs to benefit all of society by limiting the amount of ill people present as much as possible, thus increasing the health of everyone else by reducing contacts with ill people. In such a system, costs are of course taken on by every single participant according to their means.

Read up on german health insurance for example.

I agree that that is a sane system, but it's not correct to call the payment an "insurance cost" if it is calculated according to means, not according to expected future treatment costs.

That's what was causing the confusion and dissent.

(Also … don't ask what US health insurance costs are based on. It's too horrible to contemplate. They're based on, among other things, your employer's negotiating power vis-à-vis the health insurance industry.)

Fair enough. I spoke a little simply.

Forgive my sarcasm:

> Read up on german health insurance for example.

Which one, the one where middle income employees pay healthcare for all the poor and incapable, or the one where the wealthy and some happy civil servants don't?

The American system is terrible, but I really don't think that we are qualified to point fingers.

>the one where middle income employees pay healthcare for all the poor and incapable

That about sums up the US system... I don't particularly like the idea of the federal government getting their grubby fingers into more than they are constitutionally mandated to, but a single-payer system could cut out the byzantine insurance coding and billing bureaucracy that causes medical costs to be completely arbitrary and opaque.

You failed to formulate a coherent disagreement. Please address the actual points of my post and speak clearly.

> In a sane system ... US

No. Almost nothing about the US healthcare system is sane, by any interpretation of the word.

In a sane system the health insurance pays for only catastrophic scenarios and has nothign to do with employment.

Providers post prices publicly and compete on said prices while maintaining customer satisfaction.

The US does not do that.

We have 1000s of reviews for restaurants and how the server behaved but no site where you can type a zip code and a procedure and get a list of providers and their prices and reviews.

> > They're not saving 25% on payroll taxes, benefits, workers comp, PTO, training time and management overhead. In fact, more people working fewer hours increases most of these costs."

> Payroll taxes: OF COURSE they're saving the same amount on taxes!

No, they aren't, in the US.

> It's a % of what they pay you.

Not a flat percentage; the social security portion of payroll tax has an income cap (the smaller Medicare portion does not), which is less than what most programmers make, so payroll taxes do not go down proportional to income for workers who are above the cap to start with.

Are you being serious? The cap is $118,500, you think most programmers make more than $118,500 per year?

A lot more than you'd think, after a few years of experience. 130k with benefits is par for the course in St.Louis for a full benefits senior programmer. Contracting, you can get way more: I reached the cap in August last year.

In the Bay Area, if you don't make that kind of money, you better be living in company housing, or you will have trouble renting a closet by yourself.

So yes, enough programmers make more than 120k for the payroll tax to be the same regardless.

In the bay area one can easily live on $100k a year. So long as they're willing to have a housemate (share a 2 bd room with someone else). Clearly not possible on a single income family, but either 1) Single person sharing a 2bd room place with someone els or 2) a dual income home renting a 2bd room place for their approximate 1 child.

I see too many bay area people thinking that ubers and expensive meals out are the "bare minimum".

I don't see how someone can rationalize that someone making $100k should have to have roommates.

I am not saying they need more money, but I don't understand how we have gotten to the point of chiding people making six-figures like they work at McDonalds and want a BMW.

Its simple. Prices are insane. So we expect people to do sane things, like live with other people.

Much of the rest of the world does it, no reason North Americans cant.

In the bay area, I'd expect median to be somewhat higher than that. Which is obviously not the entire world or country, but is where a lot of the focus of this forum is.

Let me Google that for you. In the Bay Area, the average salary for a software engineer is $103K [1] - $110K [2], so below the cap.

1: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Software_Engineer/Sa...

2: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/san-francisco-software-en...

The median salary for all "Computer and Mathematical Occupations" for San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara for 2015 was $128,850, for Software Developers the medians were $147,220 (Applications -- there were 42,650 of these) and $142,950 (Systems Software -- there were 27,260). Of the programming-related occupations, Computer Programmers and Web Developers were lower than the cap, but very small numbers of people (6,510 @ $93,940 and 2,930 @ $107,500, respectively.) From 2015 BLS data, which is more comprehensive and representative than whatever payscale and glassdoor are using. [0]

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward is a little lower, but both kinds of Software Developers still average over $120K. [1]

[0] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41940.htm#15-0000

[1] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41860.htm#15-0000

Those use self-reported data which is unreliable and only San Francisco, which is only a small portion of the Bay Area.

Using BLS data, which should be more reliable, for the San Francisco[1] and San Jose[2] metro areas, the average weighted by number of people in the job of annual mean wages for the job categories of "Computer Programmer", "Software Developer, Applications", "Software Developer, Systems" and "Web Developer" is $129,730.54.

[1] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41860.htm#15-0000 [2] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41940.htm#15-0000

Thanks to you and dragonwriter for the links.. informative. So let's compromise on "It's right around the cap" :) Interesting that self-reported data is actually lower than the BLS figures--I'd have guessed it would be the opposite. A lot of people here like to humblebrag about how they "only" make $150K and how their stock options make their taxes so painful.

> A lot of people here like to humblebrag about how they "only" make $150K and how their stock options make their taxes so painful.

To be fair, as well as regional there is also industry variation, and a lot of people here work in the "Other Information Services" sector -- most online services would seem to be in that category -- which is (at least nationally) significantly above average pay for programming occupations. If that industry-based trend is also true for the region, then $150K for a developer could well be a below-median salary for region/occupation/industry combination.

I looked at the Glassdoor data as well. Remember that they're looking narrowly at job titles. If you add "senior software engineers," their average is around $118k. If you add "software architects," their average is around $140k. And so forth.

So if we're not talking about people with the job title "software engineer," but instead talking about people who are software engineers, including people who have a more advanced title, the average salary moves up.

> The cap is $118,500, you think most programmers make more than $118,500 per year?

On review of the data, no; I was actually thinking more narrowly of software developers rather than broadly to all programmers, and even then its a little high (though the median salary for application developers (Software Developers, Applications) in the Information sector is close to the cap. [0]

Still, a substantial minority of programmers (broadly speaking) will be making above the cap, so reducing programmer salary in exchange for reduced hours will reduce payroll taxes by a substantially lower percentage than the percentage reduction in salary.

I would hope that they do, if they have any experience and are actually good. I don't have that many years of experience, and am working for a rinky-dink small ISV well outside any kind of tech hub, and I'm not far off from that.

In California? I'd hope that a typical developer makes around that much.

If they are any good at all, yes.

That's not even close to true. The west coast is not the entire industry, no matter how much it likes to think it is.

It always makes me sad to see this same argument happen in every thread mentioning salary. Nobody ever wants to believe that their profession actually pays as much as it does.

Yes, you can certainly find a company to pay you less than $100,000 to program computers for a living. That's not in dispute. But know that you (meaning you as well as anybody else anywhere in the US or the English speaking world) can also find a remote gig paying more than that.

Good developers are very valuable. Even in the sticks. Please don't sell yourself short.

It always makes me sad to see this same argument happen in every thread mentioning remote work.

Exactly HOW does one get $100,000 working remotely? When no-one's ever heard of you?

People should add a footnote when saying things like this.

"Yeah just get a six figures remote job......... if you have tons of experience/large network/expert on a niche/top open source projects".

While I usually appreciate this kind of talk, it's irrelevant here. How much a theoretical developer could make has no bearing on the median developer salary right now, which is solidly below 118k.

Ha. That's a good one.

Employers appear to want you to be in at least a somewhat similar time zone as their core team and have some prior experience working remotely.

Take this hypothetical person living in the sticks. 3.5 years of experience doing local development. No prior remote experience -> not given the time of day by remote shops -> can't get remote experience.

As I said, it makes me sad. Because you're wrong. You've internalized this as though it were a fact, so you don't even try. And the only one it hurts is you.

You're assuming every developer is a "good" developer. The top 10% could probably find remote work, but the rest of us are stuck with what we can get. I've been trying to go that route for 3 years now and I'm at the point where I have to get a 'real job' to make ends meet.

Nowhere did I say I don't try. I do try. And in the rare instance that I receive a response, what does it say? Exactly what I said in my post.

> The west coast is not the entire industry, no matter how much it likes to think it is.

True, though many people live on the coast specifically because of its tech industry. Sweeping that away is no better than pretending that it's the only game in town.

Another facet of this is that with more people comes more communication needs. So either more management or things get dropped.

So while it seems like a 25% drop in hours would only mean a 25% increase in number of employees that later number will go up much more just to handle the increase in communication.

Depending on the state, payroll taxes, workers comp, pto etc may or may not apply, or may be at a cap. If you're working 3 days a week, and that still meets the cap on worker's comp/unemployment, etc, then they're still paying the same amount. Many places will hit the max on a lot of employer-side taxes/benefits when you are working full time.

If this was the main reason, then surely it would only be a matter of negotiation on salary? Out of experience I can tell you that this is not the case, most companies won't even discuss it. I have asked for half time at a half dozen places, and actually got it at two (those that accepted were not pleased but they really had no choice as people with my skill set are hard to find).

In my experience, the real reasons are (in order of importance): 1. It would hurt morale (or so they fear) 2. It complicates booking meetings and such 3. They suspect that you're doing something creative on your "other time" and thus they don't have your "full attention"

They're not losing 25% productivity either unless you're incorrectly assuming output is linear to butt-hours.

It really depends, but I could tell a story that is pretty convincing that says they will lose more than 25%.

Lets say you get to work, sit down, and you veg out for 30 minutes to kindof ease into the zone. Then you get going on your project, and it takes another hour or so to get fully up to speed, track down a failing test that someone committed, whatever. Then in the afternoon, you chat with a co-worker for half an hour after lunch.

Now you have 6 hours of productivity in an 8 hour day, but 4 hours in a 6 hour day. The main point being that there may be some 'fixed cost' things that don't scale up or down so much.

Throw a sprinkling of strategically placed meetings, an "Agile" standup, and a smattering of impromptu "hallway chats" into either the 6 or 8 hour day, and you have 0 hours of production either way...

We got rid of most of that but then we went ahead and moved to a new office building where we're the first tenant.

Every day is just the constant sound of construction and I'm finding it more and more necessary to work from home and maybe find a new job entirely.

I have fantastic noise-cancelling headphones and they don't help a damn bit.

This++ ... I know it's hard, but would love for anything beyond a 15-minute stand up be limited to one day a week for developers.

This is why we do 12-hour shifts at my workplace. It takes about two hours to get into the groove, and the other 8-9 hours of work are productive.

Doing an 8-hour day means that you get 5 hours of decent work, which is not viable for the output that we need.

With 12-hour shifts, we work 3-4 days a week and get more done than people who work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. And we get overtime!

This is an argument for moving to a 4x 10-hour work-week. From there, you could work backwards using the same arguments as above.

4x10 is probably the optimal 40 hour work week - particularly if you can set it up so that you have alternating Mondays and Fridays off, such that you can get a four-day weekend half the time.

Perhaps we should realize that different people work differently, yes?

I, for one, would quit my job if I had to work 10 hours every day. I would not be able to stand it. It isn't that I don't like what I do, but I like what I do outside of work to not want to be there all the time!

From personal experience, being at work five eights vs four tens has very little impact on time away from home, like maybe one hour per day or something like that. While the five eights are sitting in their car for an extra 30 minutes during each rush hour commute, I'm sitting at my desk working. I suppose your local traffic patterns may vary.

There are downsides. Less time commuting means less time listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

Like many people, once my brain is fried I'm simply done for the day, doesn't matter if that frying happened at 9am or 7pm. So statistically a three hour staff meeting causes more total lost productivity for a ten-er than an eight-er. Scheduling people make sure meetings only happen during common time (uh, thanks?)

When the weather is bad (blizzard or whatever) or go home sick a half day, obviously that's more expensive for a tener than an eighter. Of course that is balanced out, I'm more likely to have a sick day on my weekend than an eighter and if there's a blizzard on my weekend I obviously don't miss any work.

You should consider the opportunity to have an entire uninterrupted day to pursue your hobbies, whilst most other people are at work. I found myself more personally productive on that one free day than in an entire month of 5x8-delimited evenings.

If I'm not careful, I just end up playing video games. It's hard to be aware from 'the grind' long enough for me to be drawn back into my productive hobbies en force.

Lots of companies assume exactly this.

Yep. It's politics, too. I recently got asked to stay longer at my job - not to do more work or be more productive, but because the apparent flexibility with which I approached my schedule was causing consternation among some nearby department (who are tied to their desks 8.5 hours a day). Why that is considered my problem, I've yet to find out..

Not to mention, for most engineering jobs, the onboarding/training process is long and expensive. Generally I think an engineer has negative productivity within the first 3 months of employment. So if an employer is willing to put down so much effort upfront for you to work there, you better to willing to work 100%.

Negative productivity for 3 months seems like a very conservative estimation. Most places I know have people commit to the code base pretty early. Quite often the onboarding process already has them commit small stuff. You might say...well they are only doing small things like fixing minor bugs but that's a minor bug a more experienced developer doesn't have to fix.

If you also assume that people strengthen their own understanding of a topic if they teach it new engineers don't drain resources if they ask other developers questions. They might make your other workers more productive in the long run. At the very least I'd argue that the time other devs spend on onboarding isn't wasted 100%.

I suppose the dynamics change if you hire fairly bad people who make things worse with their early commits but that mostly means your hiring process (and most likely your code review or whatever measure you set up to prevent bad code) is broken.

> If you also assume that people strengthen their own understanding of a topic if they teach it new engineers don't drain resources

In practice I've found this assumption is only true if you have very small growth/turnover. I.e. If you hire a new engineer once every couple of years it's probably the case, but if you hire a new engineer every few months it isn't.

On average I'd say we have our senior engineers spend 40-50 hours total in the first month teaching/helping a new senior dev. Probably a similar number of hours in the second month, and then it drops to maybe 10 hours/month for the next year.

From what I have seen a new senior dev is around 10% of the productivity of a existing senior dev for the first month, 20% for the second, and rapidly reaching 80% by the end of a year.

So they are at 1 unit/hour of productivity for the first month and add 160 units of productivity for the month. However, senior devs, at a cost of 10 units/hr, have spent 40-50 hours helping them at a cost of 400-500 units of productivity.

Second month they add 320 units but cost another 400-500. By the third month they add maybe 450 units and only cost 100 units. And at this point they have managed to pretty much break even.

Of course if you assume training costs are not a real cost but rather beneficial for your existing senior devs then the new senior dev looks productive from the first month. But then you are really just talking past each other.

I'm guessing it depends on the company... at my last place (small startup so makes sense) I was expected to be productive the first week and actually got in trouble for looking at non-work stuff every now and then :p

Meanwhile some of my friends at large companies "train" for weeks. Pretty interesting difference.

You are forgetting the time other members of the team are spending explaining things.

I disagree with this so much. I'm not saying there isn't some onboarding cost, but with experienced engineers its a lot less than you think. At worst you should be "breaking even" with a Senior Engineer almost immediately. When I look back at what I've done for the company I just started with 7 months ago, I completed a highly valuable, and large project for them in the first 3 months. I could probably get the same project done a lot faster now than I did then, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth it to the company.

This is a very valid point. But what stops both parties to agree on 40h weeks during onboarding phase and then shift to the reduced work time?

I hear this perspective but in my experience hiring people who've been pushing an open source project forward already, it can be more like unleashing a coiled spring. They'll bring code and question the culture in productive ways.

Not sure about engineering in general, but I find places that expect 3 months for a programmer to become productive are a huge red flag.

A programmer should be able to checkout, build, run in minutes and then to start fixing bugs on day 1.

Building, running, and nominally fixing bugs (are you tracking regressions well?) is not always the same as being productive. It's important to not treat the work as fungible units that go from developer to developer equally, without accounting for getting used to the code base, problem space, etc.

I wouldn't expect them to be as productive, or anywhere close to it. But IME a 3 month ramp up time is usually a sign of too much complexity for individuals to deal with. Usually from technical debt or too broad an area of responsibility.

> A programmer should be able to checkout, build, run in minutes and then to start fixing bugs on day 1.

I have never met a programmer who could do that. I'm sure some of them can, in specific domains. But I'd consider expecting that to be a huge red flag: I've worked at exactly one place that expected a day 1 hire to match their veteran coders, and I wouldn't work there again.

I'd note that this could be seen as much as a statement about the organisation one is moving into as to the skill of the programmer involved.

i.e. If it takes someone 3 months to be productive, there's probably something wrong with the build system/documentation, or code organisation/structure (+ comments, or lack of), lots of knowledge in people's heads etc.

To be clear, I wouldn't expect them to match the veterans, or even to fix anything, but they should be able to get started on a simple issue given decent reproduction steps.

My main objection was that there shouldn't be 3 months of negative or near zero productivity. Or there should at least be a good reason for it.

Whilst being helpful is one thing, if you can't afford to give people a proper amount of time to bed in (3 months doesn't seem unreasonable), then you might hurt your chances of retention going forwards as well - depending on the size of the org of course, but there's plenty of places where to really understand the business needs to make informed decisions, it takes a long time. If you fail that step, then staying for any reasonable amount of time becomes untenable.

Companies often feel that they are moving fast when they are setting up huge tech debt pits and building custom infra that will be hard to learn quickly. Then they wonder why they are not being successful with all the new hires, given how productive the old timers are.

Welcome to the midsized, pre IPO startup.

I'm 6 months into my current job and I'm still 60% useless to them. And a couple other people have already been moved out of this position because they couldn't hack it.

What is it making you/them 60% useless? Tech debt? Responsibility?

I would not ever permit a new programmer near production code on day 1, let alone fix a bug.

That ramp up period involves learning the subtleties of the business, inter-team dynamics and processes.

The first bug I ever fixed resulted in costs for the company. My mentor had left the company within a week of me starting and I waded into the code with good intentions, but put us out of compliance with regulations.

> I would not ever permit a new programmer near production code on day 1, let alone fix a bug.

You wouldn't let them check out and run the code? The business processes etc all have to be learned of course, but the code is where most of the time should be spent.

> The first bug I ever fixed resulted in costs for the company. My mentor had left the company within a week of me starting and I waded into the code with good intentions, but put us out of compliance with regulations.

I would consider that a failure of the company, too many responsibilities are pushed down to the developer. If there are strict compliance regulations then there should have been some sort of QA process and/or a domain expert validating the results.

>I would consider that a failure of the company, too many responsibilities are pushed down to the developer. If there are strict compliance regulations then there should have been some sort of QA process and/or a domain expert validating the results.

This is detached room reality. There arent many jobs (other than junior level programmer) where you just churn out code without actually having to think about the requirements, use cases, security, etc. Having responsibilities is a very common thing as a software engineer.

Yes there are a lot of things you have to think about, as well as a lot of domain knowledge to pick up.

But expecting the developers to act as the domain experts is also detached from reality. I've never worked with anyone who I would consider a domain expert that also keeps up to date on a technical level.

This is why there needs to be less taxes and mandatory benefits. Counter-intuitively, these things work together to reduce the number of jobs and reduce worker flexibility and happiness.

I think the money just needs to be spent better.

In Australia "taxes and mandatory benefits" on a $100k USD salary cost the employee ~30% in taxes and medicare levy and the employer ~5% payroll tax + ~10% superannuation (401k). In total, 1.15x the salary is being spent and of that, 0.69x goes to the employee.

If the employer pays an extra 50% salary in the US, then 1.5x the salary is being spent but the employee only gets salary after tax, which (based on my payslip) is only ~0.65x salary. So the employee only gets 0.43x the total amount being spent. If the employer has a fairly generous 401k match that results in an extra ~10% going to the employee from that extra 50%, that's still only 0.50x the expense going to the employee.

As someone who's lived in both countries, I don't really get anything extra in the US thanks to that cut. The health insurance seems to be the main thing people care about but I found healthcare in Australia to be cheaper and superior to the care I've had in the US (on PPO).

I think the US needs to adopt single payer healthcare like the civilised world and work out its government spending and taxes a little better.

Your math(s) is hard to follow. Could you just put all the numbers in USD instead of "x salary" (for two different salaries) and "x expenditure"?

Or completely the reverse - all mandatory benefits as a percentage of wages. We kind of, sort of do that in Germany (up to about 50k for health insurance, 90k for retirement, I think)

How would increased taxes and mandatory benefits reduce the cost of employees?

Increased employee costs make an employer less likely to take risks and produce pressure to hire less workers. Then a few workers gain at the expense of others not having a job at all. Why do you hate workers?

It would make benefits a more constant cost per 1k paid to employee, making the cost per hour of a 30 Hr/wk employee closer to that of a 40 Hr/wk employee.

Come to think of it, that's probably why I have so many colleagues on 20-32 Hr/wk contracts... Mostly, mothers of young children. But they're doing the same sort of technical work others on full time contracts are.

Yay, Germany!

Disagree. Payroll taxes are a percentage so they would see a reduction. The employer would obviously offer less pto if you're not full time. And they'd offer less benefits.

In the US, they are saving 25% on payroll taxes. With paid time off, if they give you 15 days off of 6 hours a day vs 15 days off of 8 hours a day, it's 25% less paid time off (even though it's the same number of days).

Depending on the state, a lot of employer-side expenses are capped above a certain salary, most developers are well above that cap... so 25% less for you, doesn't mean 25% less for the employer.

I guess that's why contracting is a win-win situation since contractors have to take care of their own taxes and they typically get paid double or more (which usually more than offsets the taxes for the contractor).

Contracting feels like you're only selling your time. With full-time work, you're also selling a big chunk of your freedom (which you don't get paid for unless you get % equity in the company).

Contractors don't get holiday or sick leave though.

Meh, that's peanuts. You could take 5 months of holidays each year as a contractor and still earn more at the end of the year. Especially in places like London (UK) or Sydney (Australia). Senior software dev contractors in London can easily earn USD $800 per day.

Also, when working full time, if you take a sick day, your boss might look down on you and ask probing questions like "Are you feeling better?" to try to check that you were really sick (and to discourage you from taking more sick leave in the future).

If you're a contractor and you take a day off (for whatever reason), nobody will say anything - It's your business - You didn't get paid.

It feels a lot more natural and it eases a lot of tensions in the workplace.

It still sounds like its an interesting thing to consider though. It sounds like what you're saying is that for it to be equitable for companies, it might have to be a 25% hour reduction for a 35-40% pay cut. But that is probably a lot less appealing to most programmers

Indeed. This is another of the myriad reasons why developers should always negotiate employment as a 1099 contract. It takes this rationalization off the table.

If they're paying for the hours you work and nothing else, it makes it a lot easier to quantify the value of "4 days of you" vs. "5 days of you each week".

And of course, the laws that caused all that trouble for Microsoft in the 90s around the distinction between contractor and employee help a bit, since it now needs to be the contractor rather than the employee who decides when and how the actual work takes place.

Unless the work product is directly related to the number of hours put in (say cutting trees), the concept of fairness is a bit skewed.

I wrote a very long comment expanding on this : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12168363

So why don't they hire fewer people for more hours (at higher pay)?

They do. Minus the pay. It's called downsizing.

The current trend is to have a strategy/build/run model. The "run" people keep the lights on and run as lean as possible. Builders build stuff -- code and infrastructure. Code is high value, off the shelf stuff is going cloud. Strategy is architecture and mapping back to business needs and dollars.

You pay as little as possible to run. You pay whatever it takes to build. As cloud tools mature and standardize, costs will drop here. Strategy is the governance process -- light in a startup, heavy in a bank.

>You pay as little as possible to run

If that were the case people wouldn't be using 'the cloud'. For any non trivial size of compute load that isn't on demand, paying aws or gce is flushing money down the toilet.

Depends on lots of stuff.

Companies think short term, and will perceive savings if they can avoid making capital investments in datacenters or long term leases.

it shouldn't be about the hours you put in, it should be the product you produce

I'm living your dream. I'm on 70% part-time, originally because of the CS degree that I'm working on in parallel (I originally majored in physics bevore pivoting to IT), but I plan to continue on part-time (maybe 80% instead of 70 then) after I have my degree.

When I originally reduced from 100 to 80%, during my next annual review, my boss was surprised that it didn't impact my apparent productivity in the slightest, which supports your theory: More hours have diminishing returns, but cost the same from the employer's POV, so it would be better to spread it out to multiple people.

Indeed, the part-time model has been gaining traction within my circle of colleagues (in Germany). Many of them are taking a day per week off to work on their private projects, or cutting away some hours to spend more time with their children.

I basically do the same. I work 4 days a week and I feel that I'm not really less productive. The fact that I have one day per week off, gives me a reason to procrastinate less and do more with the time I have.

I remember the time from an old job, were most employees did nearly nothing on Friday afternoons. They were burned out from the week and waited until the time was up to finally go home.

I work 4-day weeks for a few years now and I can say that I don't want to change this anytime soon. Having more time for friends and family makes me much more happy than a bit more money. And of course, I feel much more relaxed on Mondays since every weekend is a "long weekend".

I observed a similar productivity drop on Friday afternoons, although in my devops-y team it's mostly due to reluctance to deploy any changes right before the weekend.

I worked for several years in a similar fashion (working 6 hour days and attending classes at night, etc). The only word of advice / warning I'd add is that although they add up to a similar number of hours each week, there's a huge difference between working 6 hours per day Monday to Friday, and working 8 hour days on say Monday to Thursday.

When I transitioned to a research-based degree later on, I found it very difficult to make 2 hours per day amount to anything. It takes almost that much time to just get into the mode of working on your research, and you need to be self-motivated as there are no classes to keep you pitching up every time. An entire day per week dedicated to it would work much better.

Yeah, it's easier when you're mostly attending lectures and seminars. These are neatly timeboxed. But when university work is mostly assignments, it starts to eat into one's free time and gets tedious very fast.

I would totally work 20% less for a 20% pay cut, BUT then i would not get full pension in my country. So for the time being they are stuck with me 8 hours per day...

Interested (and faintly alarmed) at how the pension side of this works? Are we talking state pension, company pension, or something else?

Living the dream here too:

When applying for my current job I made my salary proposition. My future boss to be told me that he had an more or less fixed absolute upper limit he tries to keep employees payroll below - so I told him that if the amout of money he is willing to pay is limited we can simply adjust the hours, and decided to do only 6hrs a day. I work from my 'home office', in the back yard under a roof beyond the sun, dont have to waste time every day to travel to some cramped up office, get food delivered by my wife, and have the rest of the day to spend with our son.

And since there is quite some time left I still have time to run my startup on 'spare time'


Dont give up - there are employers that honestly care about emloyees wellbeing.

I hop in the car and drive to the office (3hr drive) every month or so, stay for 2 days, do some meetings and go home then. I guess it's important to have a beer with your git-mates now and then.

Out of curiosity, what do you use for communication tools? Something like Slack or IRC? Do you do a lot of video chat?

irssi, mutt and pidgin

if i want to shortcut communication i simply call mates via dialthrough, on their mobiles or skype (w/ video sometimes, w/ screensharing a lot, also teamviewer comes in handy sometimes)

I would just like to note, those all had initial releases in the 90s.

and skype got _really_ bad over the last time

a team in my co just started using slack, i want to give mattermost a try...

Could you tell me where you work? Asking for a friend.

> I guess it's important to have a beer with your git-mates now and then.

Hahaha that's an awesome term for members on your team.

> My future boss to be told me that he had an more or less fixed absolute upper limit he tries to keep employees payroll below

This is very interesting. I don't know the details, but does he adjust to inflation at the least?

Is it a service (as opposed to products) business you work with, if you don't mind me asking?

I honestly think he got the better end of the bargain. Multiple studies have shown that creative work can be sustained for no more than 6 hours on a regular basis, so he's getting all your productive hours, for less.

> travel to some cramped up office

Is the office really cramped up or were you just trying to make a point?

If the boss does not like to pay their employees and makes them sit in cramped up offices, I don't think any of the employees should hold a long term view at the company, regardless of how flexible the hours are.

Yes, there atleast one better company out there that will not only provide the same flexibility, but also respect.

> And since there is quite some time left I still have time to run my startup on 'spare time'

See above.

IP ownership concerns aside, someone is still getting the better side of your productive hours. However, we, programmers seem to end up in pretty terrible working environments, so I guess it could be worse.

I understand you are getting more time to unwind and connect with your family, but that's how things should be, instead of the exception.

In general, I am seriously disappointed by how we (programmers) have and continue to let hours be tied to the value we get compensated for.

Programming comes with ability to produce extreme leverage for the beneficiary: as in the ability to make multiple orders of magnitude of efficiency (if nothing else) gains.

I have had the opportunity to work on a few different domain verticals and have seen how simple (but efficient) programs can absolutely boost the margins of a business:

1. Telecom: Roaming fraud costs a lot of money to operators. Even today, leakage and fraud analysis is done mostly manually. In 2007, I was fortunate enough to be part of a team that applied statistics to not only detect but predict roaming fraud. This ability would have required way more human resources ($$$) than a team of few programmers were able to achieve. Affected the bottomline directly.

2. Healthcare: A certain chain used to run reporting manually. They had been pitched ETL by some consulting companies but shied away after hearing the costs. They had two people, including the DBA, do reporting EOM. Two days before the monthly reporting day, those two employees would camp at the office, food and travel paid for, because they would run queries and copy them into excel. 10 hours a day. An off the shelf python ETL tool later, they had automated reporting. Affected the bottomline directly

3. eDiscovery: Lawyers seem to hate computers except to send emails to decide on a phone call. If I were to guess where to find a group of people in room with very high IQ but a contempt for Turing machines, it would be the court room (or the law office). During trial prep, they have these metadata ("load") files that need to be loaded into case review tools. These metadata files come to the plaintiff from the defense side. Long story short, these metadata files have a host of issues. The industry currently does checking (if at all) manually (there are a few new computer savvy LSPs, eg: Everlaw), but I am yet to see validation, data correlation and smart gap analysis (to locate intentionally suppressed data) tools being offered. This is because in most cases, the layers like to do this themselves. Manually. I wrote custom modules to do these that boosted the quality of review, caught these issues and helped the plaintiff's counsel raise concerns to the judge and increase the overall efficacy of the whole process. Affected the bottomline directly

Our programs provide significant leverage to businesses that benefit from it. The benefits are ongoing and outstrip anything that a non-programmer can do in the same amount of time.

Programs can work 24x7 and can scale horizontally, vertically or both. They can outlive the lifetime of the people who wrote them.

I have a client from 2003 who still runs my programs in a VirtualBox hosted Win98 environment because it does exactly what he needs and he was one of my first clients. That whole experience drilled into me the nearsightedness of billing by the hour.

So, can someone explain to me, why, we continue to be happy to be paid $50k for 200 hours@$250/hr before taxes when the program we write can bring in $50k of profit per month, every month, for the life of the business?

I feel very sad, than even after providing so much of value, we feel honored and privileged to get 2 hours/day off (in some situations for a reduced salary!) as if we are cutting trees and our employer makes money only as long as we are actively cutting said trees.

Sincerely hoping people take this long comment, not as a rant, but as a point of discussion. I am writing this during my lunch break and don't have enough time to make this shorter.

A lot of good responses here, but I think the main reason is being overlooked: someone willing to work more would take your job. They'd take your work by 'helping' with 'emergencies' that came up while you were out, then you'd be marginalized and you'd fail.

It would take a powerful credo from above to preserve such a position amid such politics. Most management probably doesn't even have enough power to do it. They already have problems getting people to take vacation for the same reason.

And it's the same reason you're probably already working more than 8 hours once e-mail and Slack hours are included (if not outright spending more than 8 hours at the office).

This is precisely the thing I was thinking because I'd be that guy.

I've been writing software since I was 13 years old and have been lucky to be writing software in the language I want to write in, and with code that is challenging enough to keep it interesting. Here's the thing: Since I got my first "real gig" (the one that can be called "a career"), I have averaged well over 40 hours/week.

During that time, except for one brief period[0], I had never been pressured to work an hour over 40 hours. In fact, the only time at my last job that I was actually had some moments where I was unhappy was during a year that I worked for a manager who gave me a hard time because this manager believed I was "working too much"[1]. If a job involved a "powerful credo from above to preserve such a position amid politics", it'd be a job I wouldn't make it at. Or I'd just work the extra time and shut up about it, giving the appearance that I'm some sort of super-hero with code.

I love what I do and work extra hours because I enjoy the challenge and the specific work I'm paid to do. And there are a lot of us like this out there. I have some side projects that keep me from spending all of my free time working on "work stuff" but my job is my hobby as much as it's my career.

[0] There was a period of time that I reported to a manager on a team that was entirely made up of operational support. The expectation was that the salary paid to the support guys included a stipulation to work at least 45 hours/week. He made it a point to mention this during every staff meeting. It pissed me right off, partly because I can't stand managers who hyper-focus on "hours worked" and ignore "work completed" but mostly because my salary was low for what I was doing and couldn't, objectively, be considered to be taking into account a 45 hour week. I mentioned it to this manager and was told to ignore the statement because it was meant for a couple of guys on the team who barely handled 40 hours and being the only developer on the team, he knew my job was very different.

[1] I'm not knocking this manager. This individual ran a very effective team, and part of that was their deep investment in staff. It was done out of the same caring nature that caused this person's team to be so effectively. I told my manager that I felt pressured to falsify my time sheets, which was something I would never do, because of the grief I was getting and that put an end to the grief since they were now aware that I knew there was no pressure to work the extra time and that being in control of the time I put in is important to me.

>And there are a lot of us like this out there.

Red 5 standing by - I can easily work 80/week on an interesting project

Enjoy this while it lasts! Once (if) you add a partner and a couple of kids (especially ones who don't sleep through the night!) and your life will be very different.

That's assuming quite a bit about the OP and myself, so I'll speak for myself: I'm married with four children.

I love what I do and directly sought a partner that would fit with my life and a job that is flexible. I work from my home for a team that is located entirely in the United Kingdom (I'm in the US). I don't regularly do "80 hour weeks" -- it happens and it's almost always by choice -- but there are ways to work more than 40 hours and not have it affect your family.

First, I eliminated the commute by working from home. This allows me to start work the instant I wake up, which I do every morning. A while back, I followed something I'd read on HN about 'how to wake up at 5:00 AM'[0] and have been doing it for so long now that I get up around that time every morning without effort and find it hard to sleep in at all. But I enforce an average 7 hours of sleep/day over a 5-day period[1].

When I work and where I work is flexible, but I'm always working until my team goes home. I also work entirely from my laptop, in the living room, all day. That means I'm basically with my family nearly all of the time in the summer (my wife usually sits next to me the entire day). I can close the lid when circumstances warrant. After that, it's a mix of day and night working (usually both). During downtime (which would otherwise be wasted by being dedicated to watching TV), my laptop is on my lap. My wife has her phone in her hands. She's always been like this and I've always been like this. I got lucky in that my wife and I share a brain on these sorts of things.

When there aren't plans on the weekend, I'll work during the downtime.

My wife is a full time mother, as well, so she handles the cooking (which I hate doing, anyway), grocery shopping and household related things. We both participate in homework, teaching, and enjoying our children. There are times when work is long and difficult and she's understanding that she needs to hold things together when those rare moments occur--I'm the only source of income for our family of four.

[0] The short version of the technique is "force yourself to go to bed when you're tired (even if it's at 6:00 PM) and force yourself to wake up by 5:00 AM". The former is easy, the latter isn't but I added another technique: I did several dry runs the night before where I set my alarm 5 minutes in the future, laid myself down and jumped out of bed when it went off. For the first several days, I physically got up out of bed and ran to wake myself. Now I can grab my laptop off of my side-table and sit in bed feeling perfectly awake. I drink a reasonable amount of coffee, as well but no alcohol (I gave it up a while ago because my sleep was affected negatively when I drank and I didn't enjoy it much, anyway).

[1] I've never been one of those people who can handle little/no sleep. I need 7 hours a night or I start to feel miserable and get crabby with my family, so I aim for 7.5 hours/night and enforce an average 7 over 5 days. I have bursts of creativity most often at night and if I'm having a particularly good time with code, I allow myself to stay up until productivity is affected by exhaustion. To make up for it, I will go to bed early the next day or grab a nap in the afternoon. As far as the whole "there's no way to make up sleep", that's not been my personal experience. I am right back to normal after a 4-hour evening if I put in a 10-hour night and I'm able to do it if I force myself to bed a few hours early. Because of "0", I haven't been able to reliably sleep in, so that's my only option left.

Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you have a great system going there.

My wife and I both work full time (me from home with flexible hours, her with a ~1hr commute) and we have two young kids. We have a nanny who looks after the kids during weekdays.

What makes it hard is that one of the kids is almost always up multiple times during the night. My wife and I take turns doing the night shift, so every other night has me up at least 3 times (last night was a 'good' night, I was up at 11pm, 1am, 4am). Like you, I don't function well at all if I don't get enough sleep - I can crank out boilerplate code OK but if I have to think then even 4 productive hours is a battle. Combine that with the fact that, working from home, I'm the default person to handle any number of work-time shenanigans and I almost never make it to 40 hours of work.

The biggest factor here is the lack of sleep due to kids, so hopefully it'll be a whole different situation in a few years' time.

I could work 80/week on an interesting project; for a few weeks, and if compensated accordingly (not necessarily with money: the team next door banged out a crisis response app literally overnight, to scratch their own itch).

Alas, that's not a universal recipe for higher productivity, or even a long-term recipe: too many ifs and buts.

Question - have you split-tested your productivity over a few months working 80hr/wk vs working 40hr/wk?

I, too, can easily work 80+ hours a week on an interesting project. But I generally discipline myself not to do it because my productivity, measured in actual results ($ or other project success metric) tends to be lower if I work super-long hours.

I haven't split-tested, but a decent proportion of my work is theory work, so it's sometimes hard to measure objectively (compare to measuring e.g. lines of code / money)- also my super productive times tend to happen in a burst of energy so I'll spend a couple of weeks doing groundwork at a more leisurely pace, and then when once a bunch of little trouble-spots are done, I go all in and work really hard for a week or so while the critical ideas are all in my head so I don't lose focus

Yeah, that's a hard one to solve.

If you've got a pattern that works for you, then it works for you!

We work 20-hour weeks (remotely) at Apsis and it goes fine for us. We're a small consulting company with very little overhead, but I imagine it could work in other contexts as well. It certainly encourages you to eliminate unnecessary meetings!

I'm earning about 2/3 of the salary from my previous job, where I worked 60-80 hours a week. In practice this has meant a more-than-doubling of my free time outside work with only a small change in living standards, so I'm very happy with the tradeoff.

The company gets a pretty good deal too -- our work hours tend to be quite productive -- but I don't know if there's a purely economic argument on the company's side. Part of it may require looking at the company as a vehicle for employee benefit rather than an opposing force trying to extract maximum value.

http://apsis.io/blog/2016/03/14/work-and-passion http://apsis.io/blog/2015/04/23/work-sustainably

PS: Apsis is a U.S. company, though I personally live and work in Toronto, Canada.

Apsis co-founder here. I think there's an excellent economic argument from the employer's perspective for what we do: we can attract top-tier talent that's technically outside of our budget, without having to come up with the money to pay for it.

Not every 10x-employee* is looking for non-monetary compensation, but there are plenty out there who are happy earning "enough" without sacrificing their life for a bank account. We get the best engineers, and the best engineers get to stay happy at work, which makes them even more productive.


* I actually don't think there's such a thing as a 10x employee. Honest to god we hire for 1x employees; finding an additional head that doesn't reduce team efficiency is an extraordinary challenge.

I think especially in the US people are being paid for 8 hours, but in reality most of them work much more. So the overtime is essentially free. If you take a pay cut for working only 6 hours your employer loses much more working time than just the two hours.

The fact that overtime is free also accounts for the number of useless meetings. The time wasted is free for the employer. When I worked in Germany the bosses were much more conscious about wasting time because they had to pay for overtime or the union simply wouldn't allow it.

I think you hit the nail on the head. I recently had to explain to a friend working on immigration papers that "full time" doesn't necessarily mean 40h/week in the software world.

The person I was talking to was like "they are trying to abuse this foreign worker with 60h work weeks" and I was like "no everyone gets abused like that"...

Here in Quebec we have a clear policy that any work over 40h/week is overtime (paid at 1.5x), but somehow this doesn't seem to apply to software jobs.

In my startup (voicerepublic.com) everyone works part time. Technical and operational side are incredibly complex, yet with a part-time team we managed easily. In fact, I could have been a 100% CTO (which of course means 180%^^), yet I chose to bring in a good friend and split the workload. In my experience 2 * 50% of good programmers that know each other and their stacks well, is much more than 1 * 100%. The rationale being that you can do architecture and reviews together, teach new traits and go on vacation at different times so that someone is always available. We are still a smallish team of about 12, but work from Switzerland and Germany and so far this methodology scaled very well for 2 years.

Sounds great. I'd be worried about how this could scale but it sounds like a very civilised way to work.

Some of the many reasons:

1) inertia - that's how it's always done;

2) it's easier to make your good employees work harder than it is to recruit more of those difficult to recruit developers;

3) they would rather you work more hours than you already do - not fewer - after all they make money hiring you, they can make more money if you work more (in some twisted linear productivity logic);

4) some people wouldn't be interested, they don't want to work shorter hours and earn less money, and that reduces the opportunity for discussing this / rolling it out;

5) understanding how productive developers are is very difficult - did that bug take a week to fix because it was challenging or because you were slacking;

6) larger teams are less productive than smaller teams.

(2) is the big one. It's hard and expensive to find software devs who are actually good (ie. smart, skilled, motivated, effective.) Once you do find them, you take another big financial hit to bring them up to speed, which can easily take 3+ months during which they're not only not productive, but they're taking up your other devs' time too.

Once they're up to speed, you have to get as much work out of them as quickly as possible because smart, skilled, motivated, effective software developers don't sit still. Even if your company has enough internal career progression opportunities to keep these people around, your team will still be losing them before too long.

Another significant factor is that if you're doing something for more than a certain time per day (varies per person, for me it's 6-7 hours) then it gets permanent head-space and you'll find yourself mulling over algorithms in the shower, pondering your caching policies while you lie awake at night, etc. So if you let your devs only work 5 hours a day, you're not getting their shower thoughts for free.

In response to many of the comments here:

There is a frequent pattern which concerns me of primarily justifying the desire for reduced work hours in terms of the alleged increase in productivity this will bring about (by allowing recharging, preventing burnout, etc.).

I worry that this already concedes too much. This allows for just as much stressful dominance of work over the rest of life, and shame over any deviation from this script, as maximizes productivity.

Even if my shorter-work-hours productivity doesn't match my longer-work-hours productivity, I'd still prefer shorter-work-hours, with no guilt over having those preferences. My goal in life is not to optimize everything I do for maximum benefit of my employer; I have my own priorities and trade-offs to worry about.

Why don't companies hire programmers for 6 hours a day, but keep paying for 8 hours a day? As a company you will probably attract the best in the field - programmers who are 4 times as efficient - and the programmer is not able to keep his/her concentration for 8 hours a day anyway.

I think the principle is happening already, just shifted over - companies like Facebook and Google are hiring programmers for 9 hours a day and paying 12 hours a day.

If a programmer is really good and want the lifestyle of 6 hrs work, she is better off freelancing.

There are lots of companies where that's the case. I have unlimited time off and don't have to be in the office on any set schedule. It's rare that I work a full 40 unless it's extremely busy.

This also begs the question, why don't companies hire more part-time programmers? In my experience it's literally an order of magnitude easier to find a quality full time gig than a part time gig. As many of us enjoy working on side projects and don't want to work 40 hours a week for somebody else, why is nearly every hiring post for full-time?

As the technical lead for an 8 person startup, my needs are for team members who can take on responsibility for part of the operation. Part time employees don't usually do this; instead you pass off well-defined projects that they can complete mostly independently. That work of carving off projects in a well-defined manner is work! Work that I have to do and I've got more than enough other work to keep me busy.

TL;DR I need a dedicated team, not low-investment part timers

Why is the assumption that someone working 3-4 days a week can't take on a large project or won't be dedicated? That seems completely non-obvious to me. Sure a project might take a week longer, but it also might not. A lot of my best work comes after extended periods of letting my subconscious mull things over.

One possible compromise I could imagine is something like three 9 hour days with an hour of emailing/communication/brainstorming the other two days. And maybe once every month or two they come to work an extra half day for an important meeting.

With a 30-50% pay cut, this setup will be positively affecting the burn rate/payroll expenses and it could easily be a better investment than the standard work arrangement. Obviously not every potential team member would be the right fit for this, but I think many would.

>Why is the assumption that someone working 3-4 days a week can't take on a large project or won't be dedicated?

This is because those huge projects tend to require a high degree of coordination and planning, and that means the people involved need to be available to the rest of the team. And if they're not available, they aren't involved.

This is a starkly false dichotomy. Less that 40 hours a week does not mean "not available".

It may be true for "less than 40 hours", but 3-4 days a week literally means they are not available 1-2 days a week, right?

In my above post, I mentioned an idea where they work for an hour on those 1-2 days, focusing on communication/team stuff.

makes sense!

A lot of companies do, informally. At many tech companies programmers set their own hours, and high performers who have a lot of career capital sometimes use it to work fewer hours.

Personally as a manager I often work fairly different hours from my team, and try to avoid knowing when/how many hours they're working, since I consider it irrelevant.

One concern might be... Could you spot someone who was working well past the point of diminishing returns? That's the one reason I can think of for a manager to pay some attention to working hours -- other than that, results are everything.

Somewhat similar to the question of unlimited vacation.

That's a good point. I'll have to think of ways to notice that–if there's a sudden drop in someone's productivity, or they seem obviously really tired, those should provide some early warning signs.

For me personally I try to get up and move around during the day rather than sit and spin my wheels on a problem. Otherwise I could waste 3x the time on something blindingly simple.

Very good attitude. I tend to do the same.

Important is what they do, not when or where.

I for the first time have an understanding with my employer that I have about 5-6 useful hours in me. I am not someone who paces well and will go into a coding frenzy until I drop, at which point I know I'm done.

After that I go home and do other things (piano, study languages, etc.), but I couldn't write another line of decent code if I tried.

Working a 30h workday with a typical salary is awesome, I have approximately the same output as I would working 60+ hours, leave the office during daylight and have time to explore other interests.

I believe you meant "Working a 30h work week..."

Don't knock the 30h workday until you've tried it.

I have almost no data to back this up, but it's my suspicion that the current workweek is something of a lowest common denominator: across all job types, company needs, etc., it maximizes productivity while keeping most HR polices identical.

I mean, imagine the administrative overhead to create a system like you propose: you might want to work 25% less, but I really think a decent number of young and single software engineers could actually work something like 40% less and be OK at a 40% reduction in salary. Somewhere there is someone that is working on an interesting problem and, in spurts, wants to work 30% more. This variability increases as you look at, say, the sales team, the accounting team, etc, and all other positions that have different optimal working styles.

Now, imagine creating a system to make sure you pay people fairly in that world (remember, not even everyone with the same role/job title starts with the same "100%"). Or a way find out who your real best/most essential employees are... and so on. I honestly think that the workweek, as it is, exists mostly because as a company becomes sufficiently complex a few assumptions need to be made in order to keep it functioning properly, and '5 days, 8-10 hours a day' (or whatever) is an assumption that everyone can more or less stomach - even if they don't enjoy it.

"The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, was started by James Deb and had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life. The use of child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week."[1] [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day

Most managers don't understand that a company is a group of people (employees). for it to succeed you have to make sure employees are happy and productive.

If you are not productive (tend to procrastinate) it's because you don't have enough incentive to work.

People you hire have feelings, hopes, and dreams too. Like you, they want to become extremely successful (and if they don’t you have hired the wrong people). Embrace other people’s feelings and help them fulfill their life with happiness.

How? Simple.

Instead of hiring 3 people and pay them average wage or god forbid minimum wage — hire 1 person and pay her 3 times more.

When you fulfill someones dream and help them achieve happiness you have no idea how much they become more productive and it requires zero effort to manage them.

Most managers run their company like dictators.

When my startup gets to a point where I have to hire someone besides hitting the right person I'll make sure I have the resources to fulfill his dream life and I'm sure he will be more productive than 3 programmes (just like me) and would never submit a question like this on HN

What if their dream is to work a bit less, have a nice work-life balance, see their family more and travel the world a bit?

Those people are still productive employees (because of the factors you mention). They just don't generate the same ratio of riches into your pockets (but of course also cost less).

I think your view as an employer is just looking to your own self interest.

You are right I too believe that hours of work is not correlated with the output and work output is not everything.

People should be free to work as many hours as they are pleased, remember the ultimate goal in this life is happiness (not money).

Hire the right people, give them total freedom while paying them extra and watch the results!

I hate companies that treat their employees like assets. Even Google, they just think because they make work environment fun they have the right to take most of your useful time from you.

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