> Shorter hours: "It's 5 o'clock and I wish I had this fixed, but I guess I'll try tomorrow morning." The next morning, refreshed, you solve the problem in 10 minutes.
I have too much experience with this. I remember when I was self-employed I humble-brag tweeted about my production deployment ~15 minutes after starting work. A friend of mine asked why I hadn't just deployed last night and the quote above was my first thought (in addition to the fact that you should never deploy to prod then go to bed). I was done with work, so I stopped. It avoids hitting that "grind it out" phase where you're lucky just not to do more harm than good.
Side note, it's no wonder these big games come riddled with bugs these days. Pushing developers to the extreme during crunch time, just to meet a deadline. There is NO WAY they are doing everything correctly.
Grind out fix.. 90% success rate, average time to solve - 1 hour.
Sleep and fix in the morning.. 100% success rate, average time to solve - 15 minutes.
Clearly better to sleep but if something needs fixed NOW... then it's time to grind I guess...
IME, 90% of emergencies are "such-and-such a manager is going to look a little bad in a spreadsheet next Monday".
That doesn't mean it doesn't need fixing, but we should start being honest with ourselves. Defining P1, P2, etc. is useful.
- Grind for 1 hour and assuming 90% success rate, finish the task 9 out of 10 times
- Finish another task in 15 min with, again based on your assumption, a success rate of 100%
In start-ups there is usually a near endless list of tasks to solve so this would be the most productive approach. Again, based on a lot of assumptions.
Basically, you just advocated for crunch time and death marches. Things that are known to not work.
But tl;dr your brain is adept at working on problems in the background after you've defocused on them. Your work is still getting done, even if you cut out of work and unwind, no guilt necessary ;-)
Tech Video: Rich Hickey: Hammock-Driven Development:
- you are working at least 9-3 (or pretending it)
- you are talking to your colleague in the kitchen (in manager terminology: knowledge sharing, my favorite one)
- you are present at unproductive meetings
- you are hitting you keyboard
- you have opened excel sheet, sharepoint, and other required tools major of working time.
I spent almost 6 years in corporate open office plans. Last year was working from home. Now, I am not able to go back to the standard 8 hours open office.
Short bursts are ok, but everyone needs time to recharge.
I also am a firm believer in the power of falling asleep while thinking about a problem, and waking up with a fresh approach on how to solve the problem. Thomas Edison was famous for taking naps with a steel bearing on a plate. Salvador Dali had a similar technique he called "slumber with a key"
To further assure that he would not lapse into sleep, he would hold a steel ball bearing in each hand. On the floor, placed directly below his closed hand would be a metal saucer. If he should fall completely asleep, his hands would relax and each ball bearing would fall to the floor, striking the metal saucer, making a noise loud enough to wake Edison.
Full paper PDF: https://psychology.stanford.edu/sites/all/files/Implicit%20T...
What is the direction of causation?
We champion Newton for his work in gravity, optics, and mechanics.
Not so much in alchemy.
If the field you're plowing isn't fertile, no amount of good agronomy will help you.
Yahoo may not have been abolutely intractable, but it was in a bad position and getting worse. I had no interest in working for the company or using its products, and I'm no particular fan of Meyers (I think she's accomplished a few useful things, may be felt by her absence at Google, and has also done and said some tremendously stupid things as well). But hanging Yahoo on her neck alone is false narrative.
If you don't have that "talent" for long work hours it's probably counterproductive to force yourself into something you just can't do.
A recent example: I couldn't find the right combination of extensions and adapters to get a certain bolt off the transmission bellhousing from below the car, and I couldn't even touch the bolt from above. I spent half a day just getting a socket on there, then couldn't get my wrench to turn it. A couple days later I tackled it again and immediately realized I could remove the lower intake manifold (since I was replacing that part anyway) and get to it from the top. Twenty minutes later that bolt was out. My tired brain couldn't think that far ahead but when I was refreshed it was the first thing I thought of.
This is something many academics learn quickly, as it is important in order to solve deep problems, especially with the workload that is levied on academics.
Myself, I've had many instances where this has happened, including with open source work.
Usually it makes sense to pick a task and finish it before going home. If you stop just because its 5pm, you waste time re-orienting yourself the next day. Worse, you can get into the clock-watching habit.
BUT, if at 4.55 pm, you realise there was some nasty wrinkle in the task and you need to rethink it or go back and do a big prepartory refactor, then you should go home and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning.
Ha ha. Yeah, that never quite works out does it?
I'm fairly sure this insight generalizes outside of programming as well. It's absolutely true for blues dancing, where not being relaxed enough hurts your dancing and having a couple drinks is performance-enhancing.
"It's 16:11, so:
16:11 – 17:00 trying to fix that bug
17:00 short pause
17:05 – 17:45 implement easy feature XY so that I feel
I accomplished something
17:45 – 18:00 wrapping up.
Edit: just noticed similar comment below. Seems common.
Having been in companies where my approach has been called everything from "lazy" to outright "damaging," this feedback was both rewarding and validating.
Edit: For those who are in jobs where you're putting in those long hours, I can tell you there are managers out there who believe in the message here. I have three of them working for me right now and I constantly reinforce the philosophy of working sustainably. Don't settle for less than a manager who respects you the person--not just you the engineer!
It's a bit of an experiment, but I have to say that I'm really happy with what it's doing for us. Our engineers are still quite productive. Their work life balance is good, so we can avoid burnout (though this will take a long time to actually prove). And, finally, it gives us a _huge_ competitive advantage when it comes to hiring top quality engineers.
I understand what you do for employees of your firm, but how do you apply your philosophy to yourself (and the other principals)? Client work is one thing, but there's plenty of non-client work too. Particularly in a small firm!
I'm holding fast to my 4 hour days, but I'm starting to feel like it's not ideal to be the sole part-time developer on a project that needs to launch soon.
But I suppose this could probably be mitigated if they hired another 1 or 2 developers.
Edit: typos. Need coffee.
The non-client work is done on an "energy and motivation" basis, so I accept that some weeks are good but I can do nothing two weeks in a row.
Our goal in the long term is to bring us down to 20 hours a week overall, also, but that's probably several years away. Still, we both feel that as co-founders at a small business keeping it well under 50 hours feels like a win.
This is the biggest thing baffling me on this whole thing.
I mean, it is absolutely critical for a startup to get their product out ASAP, right? And everyone can probably agree that having a high turnover of engineers is absolutely devastating to that goal, since one leaver's knowledge is a hefty amount of the overall know-how in a small company, right?
So,shouldn't these startups be holding on to their good hires like a drowning man to something floating, instead of whipping them to yet another death march?
Actually when I tried telling my manager that, he answered, why are you telling me this, I don't care what hours you work, as long as you get the job done.
This is the big issue for me. I'd like to make 30 hour week standard - but I'd probably just spend 10-20 hours on side projects, still spending 40-50 hours a week total.
I'd prefer that obviously, but I can't say my employer would be better off.
Here's my thing: if my management team and I are paying attention, we'll see people's performance suffering if they were to be overworking themselves outside of our work.
Original poster here - would you (and any other manager reading this thread who feels this way) be interested in talking to me about how you manage for these goals? firstname.lastname@example.org.
If anything, theae people working late are getting seriously ripped off.
Not only do they lose health, mental peace, the joy of life, and happiness -- they also end up effectively making less per hour.
I don't think they do directly; but, there are a lot of bad managers out there to value hard work and firefighting above all else. So it's very common to see the distribution of rewards slanting heavily towards the "24/7 available people."
An anecdote from my past: two simultaneous projects; I'm the lead engineer on one and another person, more senior than me, is the lead on the other. I work with my team and we deliver ahead of schedule and with features that the product managers had become accustomed to being told, "no, that's too hard" by the engineering teams. The other project fell far behind, had the whole team working in a war room 12-18 hours per day for weeks.
Guess which team got big bonuses and publicly recognized for their work?
I left a few months later.
We landed on a 36 hour work week. 8-5 Mon-Thurs, then 8-12 on Friday. We had more applicants than I ever dreamed of, and scored a great hire that was coming from the 70-hr-a-week startup life. Everyone's been extremely happy over the past six months, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on any productivity what-so-ever.
If we accept this convention, your workers are technically there for 9 hours a day for 4 days and 4 hours on Friday. Still clocking in 40 hours.
Nevertheless, I'm sure they enjoy their half day off on Friday and the work culture that put it in place.
Citation: I can't bill my customers for my lunch cause that's fraud. They don't pay me to eat. My employer provides no lunch charge number that I can charge overhead to.
Anyways, it's obvious that every employer has different policies for different things. "My employer doesn't give me disability insurance, citation needed yours does." (And mine does, I don't know how common that is)
Exempt employees (i.e. "salaried" workers in the US) are not paid by the hour and, so, it does not matter if they eat lunch for 6 hours, code for 1, and sleep for 2.
Their remuneration has no relationship to the length of their lunch breaks nor to the length of hours they code, are in meetings, take water cooler breaks, etc.
So, if you've worked in a salaried position in the US, it is true "Lunch was never considered to be paid time" but only because for all exempt employees neither is coding/meeting/managing/planning/napping considered to be paid time.
In the US, exempt employees are remunerated irrespective of how many hours a week they work.
EDIT: spelling, capitalization.
The point was that basically every place I've ever worked on a salary, you were expected to work at least 40 hours a week (that's the minimum). Yes, legally they are required to pay you your salary if you work less than 40 hours in a week. However, if you tried to get away with just working 35 hours, pretty much every place I've ever worked would call you on it, and if you didn't adjust you'd lose your job. They may not use "not working enough hours" as your reason for termination (they'd probably say something like "not getting enough work done"), but the real reason would be because you weren't putting in your 40.
So you can say "In the US, exempt employees are remunerated irrespective of how many hours a week they work.", and that is technically true, but the practical side of it is, if you don't work the minimum number of hours your employer expects, you won't have a job, so you'll stop getting paid at all.
There is a case where "In the US, exempt employees are remunerated irrespective of how many hours a week they work." is practically relevant -- when you work more than 40 hours a week. You will not be paid more for working more than 40 hours in a week. It's one of the downsides of being a salaried employee. But you put up with it because almost all of the higher paying jobs in the US are salaried positions.
While it is technically true that a salaried employee working 35 hours a week and taking an hourly lunch is not getting a "paid lunch", that is the way most people I know would describe it. People are geared to think of the work week as being 40 hours or more, and I'm sure that's why they'd describe 35 hours of actual work a week (with hour lunch breaks) as a salaried position with a "paid lunch".
Like I said originally, perhaps this is regional. I've only worked in the Midwest, but as far as I can tell, this is the way everyone I know perceives it.
Ummm... Keeping track of where man-hours is spent is good project management. Even when I worked jobs where I wasn't billing customers directly and my work was for the company's internal use I've always had to document where my hours were spent every day.
I can't imagine a project that doesn't keep track of man hours. Even if informally.
>Otherwise you need to bill for that 5 minutes of insight in the shower on Sunday when you have an idea that solves some important business problem.
I am not sure why you'd bill for that.
Revenues are based on customer value, supplier costs, and relative bargaining positions between the two, which moves the balance between the two. The party that can't walk away is the party that loses.
Pay needs to similarly compensate for the provisioning cost of labour, fully accounted.
If you're not paying your employees what theey need to survive and raise families, you're not creating wealth but are extracting liquidity. How you pay isn't terribly significant, though bad bases, such as piecework, are often long-term harmful.
Marginal cost and value are, I'm increasingly convinced, in many ways a distraction. Not entirely, but they confound the matter.
Guy named Smith had a lot to say on this a ways back.
That said, most folks in such roles often work through the lunch. This is a bad habit but logical outcome of such comp structures.
And, when it comes down to it, all that really matters to me is the number of hours that pass between stepping out my front door and returning through it. So I suppose unpaid lunch time falls in with commute time as time that I'm not technically giving to the company, but is still heavily impacted by my work requirements.
In fact, the main draw of my current position over the last was cutting over an hour commute to 15 minutes, each way. Saved over 8 hours in commute time at the cost of 2.5 hours for an unpaid half hour lunch.
I quit my last employer because the extra 2 hours required for commuting and dressing (both of which incur unreimbursed expenses) on top of my 9 billable hours was taking up a significant chunk of my compensation.
I can't imagine lunch taking a full hour, seems like a waste of time to me though I know other people have different opinions on this, it's individual preference.
Do you have mandatory lunch times and locations? Doesn't anyone ever want to spend their lunch break exercising or taking a walk? Or even going home to eat with their families? These are all common in my office. What if you hired a Muslim who fasted for Ramadan? Will you force them to watch everyone else eat?
No. In some offices there is a canteen where you can sit down and have a lunch with your colleagues, though.
Times and locations are most of the time decided by people. For example, you might decide to go to a restaurant/pizzeria with 2-3 colleagues, or just one, or more people from different departments, etc.
> Doesn't anyone ever want to spend their lunch break exercising or taking a walk?
Normally, people here in Europe tend to eat at the same time - let's say 12:30, or 13:00, or 13.30 - depending on the country.
> Or even going home to eat with their families?
This is almost never the case - as far as I know.
> What if you hired a Muslim who fasted for Ramadan?
I had a Muslim colleague once, and while he was fasting, he just didn't join, which is fine. However, before/after he was always part of the group.
Mine was not a criticism, just an observation, because that's what I have noticed during the years. It doesn't imply anything, just that under the following circumstances:
- in a country where people tend to eat at the same time on average ( let's say at 12.30),
- there is a canteen/kitchen in the office, or restaurants nearby,
- nobody goes to see the family during lunch,
- nobody goes for a walk during lunch, except for reaching the restaurant, or in the case everyone in the group (that doesn't have to be the whole team/company) is willing to.
Then, I have noticed that when people don't sit at the same table (it doesn't have to be the whole company simultaneously), there are issues in the teams. As I said, this is a personal observation, and I want to thank you for answering because your response offered me different insights and points of view (like: exercising, going for a walk, eating with family, etc).
Elective lunches and socialization is certainly a thing at my office too. It's just there is such a variety of lunch activities in my office and it's never been a hinderence to the team dynamics.
There's also some people with strong opinions on your relationship with your co-workers should be business-only and others who have met their best friend or even spouse at work.
None of this has ever hurt team dynamics though.
My office skews older though.
As for hour+-long lunches, I don't get it either. I guess some people like it - in the same way in which I like to come home and work on my own projects. Everyone wants to allocate time on stuff they like. I don't particularly fancy eating with people.
I am lucky I don't have a micromanager as a boss.
When there is a justification that goes beyond that, for me it's okay - actually, I am okay with every decision.
However, I have seen places where people create real factions during lunch time, or they just tend to be alone, because of the reason mentioned above.
No criticism, just an observation, which is wrong apparently, if not all factors (different schedules, etc.) are taken into account. :)
In the US almost all Low-skill jobs that pay by the hour dont count lunch as work time. At those jobs you usually explicitly "clock out" for lunch.
At salaried jobs it is less common, though I'd guess 50% or more don't count lunch as work time.
If that is the case, then workers should also be allowed to eat at their desk (or otherwise eat while working - reading emails on phone, etc) and leave early if they spend less than an hour at lunch.
To be clear, I live in the United States.
Just how it should be.
Oh yes please! The great thing about taking off early on Fridays is that you can use the time to run errands that can only be done in business hours, or you can use the time for travel and extend the weekend considerably. This is a great perk.
EDIT: Is your company in the monthly "who's hiring" threads?
9h Mon-Thurs (36h total)
4h Friday (4h total)
It's definitely still an improvement over 70 hours.
It is also common to work from 8 to 4, but developers and others who are not too dependent on the outside world can have a bit more flexibility.
It is funny to see the shock in some foreigners when "nobody" is at the office after 4, when in fact they have already been at work for 8 hours.
Project fails, the team Fred was leading was averaging 30 hours a week and everyone knows it? Fred's gone, doesn't matter how productive they were, and everyone on that team had better watch out. You tell the client features X and Y aren't gonna make the next deadline before [industry trade show], then client finds out all your people are putting in sub-40-hour weeks? Client's gone and telling anyone who'll listen that your shop is full of entitled, lazy scam artists who will take your money and fail to deliver what you asked for.
Flip that, same thing but the teams were averaging 60-hour weeks. It does not matter if that's worse for the product or if it's the cause of the failure, or it two of your best people quit over it—it means "not working enough" is off the table when the blame game comes around, and a smaller chance of getting a pink slip or passed over for a promotion or raise.
Any place where this sort of thing isn't a concern is like the eye of a storm—everything around is horrible chaos & destruction and the calm is fragile, precious, and could end at any moment.
It did exactly as you described, though. We're able to attract top talent engineers even though we're a tiny consulting company that nobody has ever heard of.
That is a valuable recruiting reminder right there. For some reason, it is easy to forget that hiring is a marketing problem. It requires critical thinking about positioning and presentation. I want to poke my eyes out when I hear complaints from fellow business owners and managers saying they can't find qualified candidates. Usually they're recruiting practices suck. And it's not always about starting salary either.
Wow, what a depressing time to be employed. The old standard (35 hours) is now considered a "short" workweek, and only the most desirable employees have the leverage to request it. Not to mention stagnant wages, rapidly rising costs of living, and off-hour availability expectations.
How did we end up here?
High skilled workers have a high fixed cost per employee, low to zero marginal cost per hour. More hours from fewer employees is an obvious strategy to deliver the growth shareholders demand. By convention and legislation, high skill jobs pay invariant of hours worked and are overtime-exempt.
Low skilled jobs can be filled with whomever happens to be born nearby, so they can be distributed across small towns. High skilled jobs require the best people regardless of birthplace, and both employers and employees are incentivized to seek a large pool of potential counterparties to optimize wages and "fit." This naturally creates "destination" cities where inward migration of highly paid workers raises prices and therefore COL.
Stagnant wages - because labor intensive businesses aren't good enough investments anymore to have lots of employers bidding up the price of labor (except in some niches).
MBAs and MBAification.
When management is treated as a generic function that can be performed by a particular class of people in any field rather than the most senior expert practitioners in their respective fields, this is what happens.
You get insecure authoritarians who latch on to (utterly wrong) metrics as a means of "understanding" what it is their subordinates do without actually understanding what it is they do.
With software developers it used to be SLOC (thankfully that died). With GPs it's "number of patients seen". With teachers it's standardized test scores.
There's a direct correlation between managerial technical ineptitude and insistence on working long hours.
Metrics have consequences as what gets measured gets managed, often to the detriment of everything else. Pick the wrong metric and you can shoot yourself in the foot inadvertently.
But broken measurement systems invite corruption. It's now possible for ... dishonorable cliques to overtake the measurement regime and bend it to their own advantage.
Since they're going to be organized around the short term ( because that's how humans manage information overload - they go short term ), they're more likely to do things that will damage the organization for the long term.
It's the circle of life :)
The ghost of Otto von Bismarck laughs every night.
I am glad I could reciprocate with something because I really like "Thinking Like a State" ( after my rapid-read treatment, with a slow read TBD). It encapsulates so many ideas I've never really seen bundled before, along with some that require further digging. I would not be surprised if "Thinking.." wasn't an influence on him.
And I'm not one of those "most desirable" employees I mentioned earlier, so I'd be very lucky if I could negotiate for better hours or more vacation.
If you are talking about the United States, people have had a 40 hour work week for much longer than I've been alive.
I have never figured out how to ask this. It always feels like I'm asking, "I don't like to work much, is that ok with you?"
I negotiated lower hours a month ago. After almost 3 years on a project, asked to go down to 20hrs/week. As I see it, I have proved I'm trustworthy and that I can contribute significant value to the project even with lower hours.
In addition, my position of power was that I had some cash and other options, in case the other party refuses.
This is actually something that keeps happening to me. I show my value and that I'm trustworthy, and get anything I want, be it working from home, lower hours, or both.
Result? Minimum time wasted for both parties.
Also, the people I'm asking are typically engineers, they're not inclined to lie about things like this, and they're not expert spin doctors. Plus, when I go for the full day interview and talk to many people, I'll ask many of them about it.
I worked for two young guys once who'd never had proper jobs, much less ever managed anyone before, and they had the cheek to have a go at me for only working my hours. I told them it wasn't my company and walked off. They couldn't sack me for working my contracted hours, regardless of if other people were working more for free...
This makes you sound more like a high performer and less lazy.(I do not think people who want to work less are lazy. I would prefer to spend much less than 70% of my awake time involved in cranking out "yet another crud app". )
If you're already employed at the company they know what you can do, so it's actually not that hard in many places to reduce hours.
If you're looking for a new job you basically need to:
1. Get the right vibe from the company during initial interviews.
2. Be really desirable as a candidate.
3. Only bring it up after you have an offer and it's clear they really want you.
4. Emphasize how when you work you really work.
And as others said, having a good excuse helps. "I want to spend more time with my child" is mine, and it's true, and why I worked 27 hours/week in the past and 35/hours now.
The not-so-crappy way I found to bring it up is discussion about hobbies and family. But not with management, specially during interviews. They can see right through it.
A manager who isn't candid about hours is dumb because it will naturally result in a poor fit for both sides and higher turnover. If a company has a decent pool of applicants, it makes no sense for the manager to not screen for people who have a clear understanding of the demands up front.
Therefore, what you need is intrinsic motivation. You need engineers who really care about solving the right problem at the right time in the right way. 35 hours or 70 doesn't matter if they can't get that right, and it's very hard to have management that is qualified to make that judgement on people (especially as an org grows and management becomes a full time job). So the problem is that given this opacity, finding someone who works 70 hours a week is a better proxy than someone who seems excited about a 35-hour work week—the former are people who are clearly driven whereas the latter are literally everyone. It's far from a good metric, but perhaps the best one available to the pointy hairs of the world.
Speaking from personal experience, it wasn't until I had a kid that I found out what I could do in a 40-hour week. Once I had that time constraint, it forced me to be more efficient in a very deep and fundamental way from the core of my being. When I was 25 I would hit 5pm and think to myself: I still have another 8 hours to solve this problem before bed. Perhaps this is post-hoc justification, but I think that makes sense when you are just starting out and not really competent yet. Once you've passed the magic 10k hours or whatever, I think turning over problems in ones subconscious can provide a lot more of the value. So sleep / exercise / meditation can all help elevate your performance far more than extra hours—but only if your brain knows what it's doing.
Long work hours actually select for lemons.
Not much research in sofware AFAIK, but there's a bunch of research in other fields showing maximal output is at 40 hours a week, with rapid fall-off at longer working hours. See http://www.igda.org/?page=crunchsixlessons
So it's your job as a manager to prevent burn out and maximize output by encouraging people not to work too long.
Now I work 6 hours a day, 4 days a week and I don't take long breaks anymore. I stopped to read blogs or news at work after lunch, I just work. Would be really interesting if this is just me or if it could be scientifically proven that working less is more.
After all, employment is a business contract. You are given money in exchange for the value you add to the organization. Not hours... value.
At least I hope I would.
Normally I don't think of witty things like that to say until about a week after the event.
Supposed to be working 9 - 5, but I come variable times in the morning and usually leave at 3:30. Boss doesn't care as long as I'm punching in code that makes features work.
Look, I get you, I've been a professional programmer for a couple decades now, and hobbyist for another decade on top of that. But there are so many times when it helps to have a conversation with someone. Maybe you're team is not all senior level architects, maybe someone is working with tech someone else on the team understands better, maybe the designer is delivering an unworkable visual design and the engineer is implementing it by making tradeoffs that result in a terrible UX, maybe the programmer is going into a cave polishing his own micro-architecture without regard to what is useful and good use of time for the team as a whole.
The point is, it's not wise to cultivate a worldview where you hold your own knowledge and experience on a pedestal above everyone else. The things which a great team can build will always surpass what a great individual can create, and a bunch of great individuals operating independently without sufficient collaboration does not a great team make.
Maybe collaboration is overrated by clueless MBAs, but I'm not a clueless MBA, so don't make that straw man argument to me.
> Maybe collaboration is overrated by clueless MBAs, but I'm not a clueless MBA, so don't make that straw man argument to me.
Apologies. I definitely didn't want my comment to sound personal in any way.
All this by way of saying: I have fully tested the philosophy that you should hire the absolute best engineers you can, no matter where they are based and when they want to work. For the right individuals with the proper workloads it's definitely worth it. But we shouldn't pretend it doesn't come with real tradeoffs. A story to illustrate my point:
I had my best video engineer in London, and my best ops guy in Seattle (and he didn't like waking up early). Even though these guys could do 95% of their work independently, there were times when they had to sort out hairy issues related to bugs or edge cases in 3rd party software. There was no way to easily shove it on one of their plates, the bottom line is it requires both their expertise. We nearly burnt out the first guy by making him stay up until 4am in order to get the necessary collab time. These are juniors either, but it still was a real issue that cost a significant amount of productivity and morale.
(PS I upvoted you as I don't see why you deserve downvotes)
That's basically software architecture 101 (modularization), and it serves exactly this purpose.
I've tried reducing hours (as a freelance remote developer). I cut my working hours to 25 per week from somewhere around 60ish per week. (And I could afford losing out money)
At first, I felt I was missing something. I thought it was the money. After being completely off work for a month, I realized I was missing the people (Slack chats, meetings, fire-fights)
When I started back with another client, working just 25 hours per week was much much much harder. None of these worked: 8x3days, 4x6days, 6x4days, 5x5days. Few weeks I could not even complete 15 hours, and other weeks I was over-working. I was still stressed. Finally, what worked was odd - (10-12 hours)x2.5 days. So I ended up working a bit more hours than I wanted to. It was proven again that it takes time and focus to pickup momentum and costs a lot more to loose it frequently. And I still work on my other stuff totalling to about 45-50 hour work-weeks and still feels much less stressful.
I'm doing a startup now and this lifestyle wouldn't be acceptable to my partners so it's back to a 9-late schedule plus weekends. I'm nowhere near as productive and strongly feel like I'm accomplishing less, but to go back to working how I like would just cause conflicts.
I tried a startup with some partners and recommended a flexible schedule, but unfortunately partners got too flexible and it never took off. It is better to slog and make others do that in a startup.
Is this some holdover from previous generations of just wanting to pressure everyone to do what they had to do? Sure, sometimes things need to get done, but alot of jobs aren't saving lives or doing much amazing, but "hit that deadline or we're going to die" is almost the implication made in business in the US in my experience...
Hopefully we'll stop this work addiction some day and realize lots of things can get done without making people be behind a desk an arbitrary number of hours per day...
I've noticed this as well. The people who worked the longest hours did so because they didn't like going home.
Less jokingly, there are two problems here; one that this sort of embedded culture is very slow to move (especially given that the powers that be are often from prior eras of culture) and secondly that I believe there are actively people of THIS generation who still believe in or at least pay sufficient tribute to the "butts in seats, work long hours" mindset. (I reference family members in finance, and managers I've had at software bigcos in the past spouting such wonderful quotes as 'I can't advocate him (a high performing engineer) for a promotion because he's full remote and it sets a bad precedent' and 'You need to increase your throughput. (me) You realize I'm already working 13 hour days. (him) Work harder.')
They live on an essentially negotiated resource level that will go down year by year. They've managed to careen into a business model where the income stream is latched and ever so slightly declining. It's like they are an airplane on an engine-out landing.
This happens A Lot. I won't say you don't want to work for them, but there's almost no chance of actually innovating or "selling" their way out of this trap. There are two ways out - acquisition and closing the doors.
See my HN profile if you're looking for that combo. :)
It will be a red flag to dysfunctional companies who think you don't want to work hard.
Employees at good companies will be proud that they don't overwork.
The hard part is convincing candidates we're not BSing them about this, or our benefits. Especially ones from sweat shops that have clearly been scarred by the experience and suspect everyone is lying to them to trap them.
Peer pressure, whether actual or imagined, will keep people from leaving when they should if others are working longer. I have in the past told people to go home even if they wanted to keep working - this is the only way to actually respect the work/life balance of their peers.
- If it means you work '13 hours 20 minutes' on Monday Wednesday Friday, so be it.
- If it means you work '5 hours 45 minutes' Monday thru Sunday, so be it.
- If it means you work one way one week, the other way the next week, so be it.
- If you work best in the middle of the night, so be it.
- If it means you work 10 hours everyday for 52 days straight, and take the rest of the quarter off (39 days!), so be it.
The problem is, we have to do this thing called 'work/life balance' in which we are at work 9 to 5, whether we feel fresh or tired, and have to forget about work for the remaining 128 hours.
Combine that with the need for in-person interaction with the team, the boss, and what not, it gets worse.
IMO you can't have it both ways.
To become world class at something, you need to be obsessed. You need to put in as many hours as possible and just love what you're doing.
"Oh but you won't be as effective after 8 hours of work!"
So what. Let's say I'm only 20% as effective after 8 hours. I'll take it -- 20% of the last 5-6 hours of the day towards my craft over 0% doing 'normal' things (drinks on the patio? Pointless travelling? Whatever my fellow annoying millenials like to do).
This is the kind of mindset you need to reach the top of a field. And it should develop naturally, you should really want it. Whether it means outdoing everyone at your company, getting that prototype done two months earlier, closing more leads, getting that tricky piano passage, whatever.
If you love what you're doing, more is more. Because you probably can't help yourself. If you feel like working more, just do it. Don't let normal social expectations hold you back, especially if you're young, because you only get so long to become great at something.
I'll finish with one final caveat. Figure out what level of sleep, exercise, and nutrition your body needs to sustain your desired work habits. Get those right ASAP, keep trying modifications, and realize it's different for everyone's unique biology. I like 8 hours of sleep a night, weightlifting 3x/week at 45-60mins each, and a certain amount of protein and certain vitamins (and coffee of course, ha). You'd be surprised how these 3 lifestyle factors can make such a huge difference in your energy levels and hormones -- one can literally become a different person!
The problem is we have no real way of measuring personal productivity, so we have no real way to find where the optimal point is for any individual. Society as a whole has chosen 40 weekly hours as a standard for mostly orthogonal reasons. In aggregate, the number is probably wrong. But it seems crazy to me to argue that there's no (sizable) fragment of the population that would not be as productive, or more so, with less than the 8 hours they work now.
I guess that depends on what you consider "work". I do programming stuff in exchange for money, and it's not always the programming stuff I want to do. When I'm not working I do programming stuff (or read about programming stuff) I do want to do, but not in exchange for money.
This doesn't apply for, I would say, 99% of people, though, and definitely should not be influencing policies or standard hiring.
For my coding work I have stopped doing certain kinds of coding after evening, basically, anything that isn't "mechanic" but requires design decisions. Even if it's "urgent". Executing what I had decided earlier is okay, but decision making just doesn't work as well for me that late in the day, even if I still feel great. The next morning always seems to bring a fresh perspective.
I'm not saying it's the road to follow, and obviously, not all careers are comparable, but I think that in order to reach their full potential, people have to (and can) work a lot.
At first everybody was so amazingly successful, great wife, then great kids, all doing very well, financially too. But after 10 years with each reunion less and less people showed up. Those who were missing had no wife and family left and didn't want their old pals to know how their personal lives had faltered.
You only mention careers...? Please report overall long-term life success that includes the family :)
Also, since you mention finance, while they personally benefited, and their industry did too, what about the rest of society? Does the latest microsecond computer trading algorithm really benefit mankind overall?
So to summarize, the questions I have are about 1) individual success not just "career", "financial" and "short term", and 2) that individual success from the perspective of society.
Exactly, personal "gold rush" journeys look good on a blog, Wikipedia article, or TechCrunch post, but what are these people like in the flesh? Three marriages, children who don't know their fathers ... but hey, they "made" it, right?
That being said, I'm an advocate of less working hours and more vacation. I worked in the US for a couple of years, and this is the one thing that made me go back to Europe. Free time is the most important thing in my opinion.
If you talk to a professor and ask them about productive intellectual work they'll tell you they don't have as much time for that as they'd like, because they're busy writing grant proposals :)
Who said that 35-40 hours is optimal? How can you even quantify it considering every job is different. I've had jobs where 50% was brainless support so i'd work 10-12 hr days and my brain was totally fine to keep going. Some jobs come with inevitable social BS that will take 50% of your time anyway.
The problem is that management and developers have different incentives. Managers [in more cases then not] are pushed by executives to justify their worth and deliver results.
Developers want to create, but also don't care as much about the bottom line. They want to have a life outside of work.
It's that simple. Let's not go pretending like anything beyond 40 hours takes 10x time to get done because it simply doesn't. It's just an empty thing to say like "you should give me a raise because of inflation".
There are plenty of people working their own startups doing 80-100 hr weeks and getting shit ton done. Does it mean that you should do this at a corporation? Maybe not, maybe yes. It all depends on the trade offs either side is willing to make. Managers will of course be incentivized to push for more productivity per employee.
Places such as Basecamp take a stance against this incentive gap. They're actively working at making employees take more vacation, sleep better, and have a better work life balance. This must improve employee morale and retention. No idea what it does to bottom line or employee paychecks.
As a manger I've had people that worked 40- hrs and delivered amazing results. I'd never even think about caring how many hours they've put in. Then there were others that worked more but delivered a mound of technical debt or nothing at all. They were usually the ones most vocal about working too many hours. There are very few people out there that can come in, get straight to work, and deliver quality. Simply making a blank statement that they will do more by working less is silly.
That said I'm on the work what you feel comfortable working and as long as goals are being met then it doesn't matter.
It is the second time this month that this misconception about Ford comes around, I am curious to know where it comes from.
A quick Google search and there are a lot of others like this. Thanks!
It's interesting that you make a blanket statement, but call another blanket statement "silly." Perhaps there are more people than we think that can come in, get to work, and deliver quality. It's interesting that this suddenly doesn't become an issue when something needs done off hours with a short deadline-then they CAN come in and work right away, right?