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Wharton professor says America should shorten the work day by 2 hours (cnbc.com)
266 points by strict9 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 192 comments

22 years ago I worked for company that gave us Friday afternoons off. We worked 8-5pm and on Friday 8-1pm. That gave employees time to schedule doctors or dental appointments, leave early for the weekend, or run errands. Best job schedule I ever had. This kept employees at work and not taking time off mid week. Working with his schedule insured a very productive group of employees.

My last job had this for several years (over a decade, I was only there for a couple years though) and then when the parent company was acquired 2 years ago, the perks slowly started to get scaled back. Eventually, they made Friday afternoons mandatory again.

Most of the devs with the luxury of moving and getting a different job started looking immediately. I changed jobs less than 6 months after the policy change. Productivity also went way down because morale was in the gutter.

I've seen this happen so many times. How is it that the higher-ups can't understand the effect of removing perks has on morale? Of if they do understand, do they really feel the effect on morale is worth money saved (or whatever else the rationale is)? Are they hoping the effect will be short-lived?

A lot of managers are only looking for short term "savings" that they can use to "prove" that they are doing a good job and to advance their careers. This is so common that they won't even think twice before doing something that hurts the company in the long term.

If you believe that programmers are a cog in a wheel and that there are many more cogs on the market, cogs who are working 10% less hours are good candidates to replace with new ones. They probably understand that there will be a temporary instability as old people leave and new replacements come in.

Not that I believe this, but I can understand the logic of it.

A startling discussion I had mere days ago: "You're not productive enough! If you're doing work X in n hours per day then you can do work X * n+2/n in n+2 hours per day! BTW, screw your high quality, efficient† work, and you're not getting a raise."

Surprise surprise, that's not how it works. We're not doing cog work, and productivity cannot be measured by the time sitting in front of a bloody screen. Also, pro tip: morale wins battles.

† Efficiency is producing work with a given amount of power. A given efficiency does not mean it can be reliably sustained – if at all reached — at a higher power level.

Taken to a logical extension, this is also why you shouldn't give most perks. No?

Joke I always have is that folks will get actively pissed if you take away free coffee/soda. To the point that they will look to leave. If you never even offer it, though, they'll just complain about it.

Just turned down a job offer over the management's behavior regarding quality of life factors. I consider it a strong tell - if they need to tighten the screws, the neither understand the work nor do their own jobs well.

I've seen the same sort of thing happen with bonuses, much better to avoid them in the first place.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons companies are extremely resistant to providing these types of perks even if the benefits are clear: once provided, they can't be scaled back and/or taken away without making employees really, really unhappy.

I current work a 9/80 schedule, so every other Friday off. It definitely is convenient. I always schedule appointments on the off Fridays, otherwise I might use them to clean my apartment or hit up a diner that is only open weekday mornings.

my dentist also takes fridays off.... foiled my plan of using off fridays to schedule things.

I think that might be a big take away from this. To gain a lot of these benefits more schedule staggering might be needed. If you are done with work 2 hours earlier but every bank or doctors office now closes two hours earlier you won't get any more people.

I believe that most dentists are only open 32 hours a week so that they don't have to provide benefits for their employees. It's an efficient, if uncompassionate, way of running a small business.

Short term: Pro-rated jobs should have pro-rated benefits. There shouldn't be any advantage (in fact a skill drain hit) for breaking up jobs.

Medium/long term: Benefits really need to be a function of the government that taxes cover for all workers.

Here's a better idea: no benefits allowed. Cash only. Then employment would have lower barriers to entry. Two employees working 20 hours each should cost exactly the same as one working 40.

Health Care should be handled by a single payer.

Don't know if it applies to dentists, but I know surgeon's offices are open only 3-4 days a week because the other days they are doing surgery. When I saw my dentist office was only open 4 days a week, I figured it was similar- they weren't actually closed, but they didn't schedule standard procedures at that time.

It's ironic/diabolical that SOP for a benefits provider is to deny benefits to their employees due to the horrendous healthcare/health insurance system.

Fortunately, the claim is not true at all.

*not always true

So you have any evidence for that brazen accusation?

My dentist is open 43hrs/wk.

Legally, 30hrs is full time for benefits, so it's hard to see any truth at all to anything you wrote.

I think dentists often keep short hours because they like them.

Plenty of other businesses do hire lots of part time people and manage their hours in order to avoid obligations. If you don't think that is true, well, I don't even know where to start.

Its hardly a brazen accusation. He said "I believe" and then made a fairly innocuous statement. Relax. Even still, just because your dentist is open 43 hours it does not disqualify his statement.

Accusing people of being ‘uncompassionate’ on zero evidence is not exactly innocuous - it’s sadly common on the internet, but it’s still a pretty jerk move.

Dentists seem to have really inconvenient hours for whatever reason. Which makes you wonder how many people have poor dental care not because of costs, but because the dentist surgery's hours are simply too inconvenient for them with their current working arrangement...

Too bad he's the only dentist in the universe so you're really behind the eight ball there.

We do this in the summer at my work. We also release plenty of features in the summer. I don’t know if productivity drops at all - curious if anyone higher up in my organization would have any data that says otherwise.

per https://www.grammarly.com/blog/assure-ensure-insure/:

To ensure something is to make sure it happens—to guarantee it.

To insure something or someone is to cover it with an insurance policy.

But if you understood what GP meant well enough to correct him, is there a sense in which GP hadn't misspelled?

Yis, butt taht sence isnt verry interstating.

From Merriam-Webster:

ensure - to make sure, certain, or safe

insure - to make certain especially by taking necessary measures and precautions

Like Checked vs Unchecked exceptions

or you could work with this company, https://werk.co, to help institute flexible arrangements that actually make sense for each employee.

In all the workplaces I’ve seen it seems like everyone is on Facebook or reddit half the day. Why not give some of that time back to them?

Not trying to justify slacking off, but I know that some times I just can't get in the zone in the morning. I could have the best of intentions, block FB/reddit in hosts, but I never really did get a whole lot done. It's why meetings are generally best in the morning (in my view), since meetings are mostly a waste anyway. Come 3 or 4:00 though I'm really getting in to the groove, but then the workday's nearly over (and since I wasn't able to arrive late to compensate, I wasn't about to stay until 8 or 9).

That was my last job, though. Now I work my own schedule and it's nice. WFH though so focus is even tougher. I find that if I start to tire in the afternooon a workout does wonders..

I'm just about exactly opposite. I can get a ton done in the morning, but then just loose focus around 2:30 and after. I tend to schedule meetings in the afternoon.

If I know I have a lot to do I'll sometimes come in early like 6:30 or 7:00 or something..

Interesting how different people work differently. I'm a big believer in flexible work scheduling that allows each person to optimize for themselves.

I know this is random health advice from someone on the internet, but you might consider recording how you feel and looking for correlation with carbohydrate intake for breakfast/lunch.

I've been this same way for years, and have been discovering that carbs trigger a hypoglycemic reaction that tanks my energy. Going low carb improved things quite a bit.

Anecdotally, for me it's vice versa, I find that without sufficient protein I run down quickly.

How is that vice versa? Low carb != low protein.

Rather than being "too much of a thing causes me to run down", it's "absence of a thing causes me to run down".

I find my focus and attention has the same rhythm you describe. I thought I was the only one!

I make sure I get a solid amount (7+ hours) of sleep every night and try to maintain consistency with sleep times - but I feel like I don't really "wake up" until after lunch. Even though I'm fully awake all morning - I feel like my mind doesn't focus or get into the groove, as you put it, until well after 4pm - and then its time go home.

7+ hours may not be solid enough sleep for you. 8-9 for many people is a bit more par for the course, though a lot of neuro research is coming out supporting the fact that regardless of quantity the "when" of sleep matters more. So, sleeping from 1 am to 10 am is much worse than 10pm-6am. Anecdotally, I had a friend who lost fine motor control of his trombone playing muscles in his mouth due to his sleep schedule and had to have a 10pm-5am sleep schedule for about 6 months before he could play trombone again. Its a special case but illustrates a similar point.

Can you include links to some of this research? That is fascinating.

I have a friend who is an extreme night owl who has long said then when he sleeps matters far more than how much—but in a negative sense. Even if he gets as much as 10 hours of sleep, if he has to go to sleep early in order to wake up early (6-7am), he’ll be miserable. If he goes to sleep at 3am and wakes up at 9:30am, he’ll feel great despite having gotten much less sleep.

So as someone who works 3rd shift, I'm just screwed? Kind of disappointing, but not unsurprising.

How did they determine that it was his sleep schedule that was responsible for the motor control issue?

Same experience here. All the work of any importance that I've ever done in my entire career of 18 years so far was achieved in the 4-9pm time frame.

I find that for me mornings are better for input (i.e. education/research/meetings/review) while afternoons are better for output ("productivity")

Luckily, my current role requires me to spend time staying up to date, so I can spend my mornings learning and my afternoons using that knowledge.

> It's why meetings are generally best in the morning (in my view), since meetings are mostly a waste anyway.

I wonder how much of meetings being "a waste" is from the people involved not being "in the zone."

My personal experience, 100% of the reasons for meetings being a waste of time was because the meeting was being held for the wrong reasons.

First rule of meet club: The meeting must have a purpose.

Second rule of meet club: The meeting MUST have a purpose. If there is no goal, there is no meeting.

Third rule of meet club: The meeting must end when that purpose is completed. If new problems arise, that is now a second meeting, not a continuation of the first.

Fourth rule of meet club: Only the people essential to the purpose may be invited. People who are nonessential may and should excuse themselves at any convenient time.

Fifth rule of meet club: Meetings must result in a defined action: Continued observation is an action, but doing nothing is not allowed.

Sixth rule of meet club: If you don't write down what the purpose was, who was there, and what action was taken, none of it counts.

Or at the wrong time

Never seen that myself. Once there's no point to having a meeting, you can have it in the middle of the night, it's not going to affect the utility of the meeting :)

I've never achieved flow in a meeting - I don't even know if it is possible. Having meetings interrupt me when I WAS coding in flow, that has happened, and generally I don't recover all day.

Partially due to an archaic corporate structure equating desk time to productivity.

This is called Fordism (in various forms)

I thought the exact same thing. What did people do before the internet? Read books at their desk? Or has "increases in productivity" really given us all this free time?

Solitaire and Minesweeper. Before that people used to bring in the paper.

Pre-Solitaire and Minesweeper. As I recall, read or at least pretend to. Whatever else you could read on a text screen--even most tech people didn't have Usenet or that sort of thing though. Made phone calls. Took a walk around the building or campus to chat with people.

There was probably less overt barely- or non-work-related fiddling but people weren't heads-down all day either.

I remember cooping at an IBM site in the 1980's and the senior full time employees would often work on secondary pet projects at work or a few on their side gig, real estate investment/retirement planning. OTOH, one has to remember these employees only recently got freed from the responsibility of starting the work day singing the IBM songs.

As a programmer back then, finishing tasks early just meant more features were requested, and tasks added to my queue. Learning things meant reading lots of technical books/papers for work at work or maybe accessing usenet or IRC for cutting edge stuff. If one had access to a unix computer or terminal, lots of text games available for off hours goofing off like Rogue or Adventure.

Lengthy compiles/simulation runs might mean a little leisure time reading of the newspaper or a book as you suggest.

The only time I have as much idle time as the GP suggests is working in video games and that was only because we were encouraged to play other games during down time to see what the competition was up to and try to stay current with what was available and to get ideas so one is always analyzing the product while playing - i.e. work.

3 hour boozy lunches, from stories I've heard.

Sounds like we've taken a step backward. ;-)

Did you just equate slacking off to working?

The whole idea of a standard work week for salaried knowledge workers is stupid. Anybody who's worked a typical 9-5 office job knows that getting your work done faster doesn't give you permission to leave earlier, you're just rewarded with more work and maaybe a promotion with a slight pay bump 1-3 years down the line. There's no incentive to be as productive as possible because you're not adequately rewarded for it (eg. via more time off or increased compensation), and it raises manager expectations such that they now expect this higher output of work going forward even though it might not be sustainable over the long term without burnout.

So we enter this comfortable medium where we're productive enough to look busy until 5pm, even if we could've worked at 100% capacity and finished everything by 1pm.

Productivity and optimum working hours vary drastically across individuals - Some are most productive in the morning, others are night owls, others work best with a gym break in the middle of the day, others work best from home or coffee shops, others work faster/slower than others. Adults should be allowed to work in whatever manner is most effective for them, not babysat like grade school kids.

At the end of the day one should be paid by results. Time may equate to results in a factory or retail store, not in mentally intensive knowledge work.

But of course none of this will change because employers have all the leverage, and any sort of organized labor movement has been completely decimated. We're supposed to be happy with the status quo because our ancestors had it worse. Asking for the drastically increased productivity due to technological advancements to translate to increased freedom equates to "entitlement". It's archaic thinking and it needs to die.

In Norway there are also suggestions to shorten the working time to 6 hours. But why not to give an extra day-of instend? Petsonally i strongly prefer the latter as with 6 working hours one still spends substantial time to get to/from work.

In Moscow where some people spends over 4 hours just to get to work companies started to offer 10 hours of work time in return to extra day off.

Because the point isn't to give people more free time; it's to let people go home when they run out of mental energy and wouldn't be doing anything useful for the rest of their workday anyway.

Even if you were only working one day a week, you wouldn't be able to do 8 hours of contiguous useful information-work.

With 30 hours per week I would really prefer to work for 10 hours 3 days. This way after each work day I will have a day off. This way I can recharge myself sufficiently to have productive 10 hours.

As for productivity then I noticed when debugging hard bugs times really fly.

Imagine you worked only two days a week, but 18 hours a day. Assume you're young and flexible enough to survive that, and you have a cot in the office. Would you want to do that? How much dread would you feel the day before your shift started?

I think the point of the linked article is that the same reason that makes you recoil at that, and the same reasons that would make these coming hell-days so dread-inducing- those same reasons apply to an 8-hour day, just to a lesser degree.

It's not about extending the weekend as much as possible, it's about shortening the part of each workday that you're "working", and reducing the mental burden of each individual workday.

I know some doctors who have work schedules very similar to what you describe. Working around 10 days a month, but for really long shifts, around 16-18 hours (for example 15 to 8 is typical in rural health clinics, so that there is someone to cover emergencies while the doctors with the "standard" 8 to 15 schedule are not working).

Not everyone likes that schedule, but some really prefer it and actively choose it over more "standard" schedules. Especially those who have small children. They have around 20 days a month to be with their children as long as needed, and only have to worry about whom to leave them with during the other 10 days. Couples where both are doctors, and both have this time table, have the kids problem fully solved by just picking different days to work.

18 hours does not work. But 10-11 is ok, as long as it is not 5 days per week. The trick is to have a long pause in the middle, like 1 hour for lunch and small walk (perhaps to a nice restaurant nearby).

This is how it works in Moscow. A person comes to work at 9, has a long lunch/pause from 2 to 3 and then leave at 8. As an added bonus late in the evening traffic jams are reduced and the underground is no longer overcrowded so it is faster to get home.

Not for me, there is no way I can produce anything for 11 hours at a time, no matter how rested I am.

But this is not 11 hours at a time. It is 5-6 hours of work, long pause for 1 or 1.5 hours and then work for another 5 hours.

There won't be a universally appealing solution. I have had this discussion with colleagues and most agree a 4x10 week is preferable to the 5x8 work week.

For employees, sure. For productivity? Very very doubtful.

No, I mean for productivity as well. 10 hour days (for many) aren't all that taxing.

> companies started to offer 10 hours of work time in return to extra day off.

That would equate to 18 hour days. Give yourself 2 hours of time spread across the morning and evening to wash, dress, eat etc. you'd be looking at 4 hours sleep a night for 4 nights and no relaxation time. That seems unsustainable.

I meant above 4 hours in total on average spend to get to and back from work.

14hr days.

"4 hours just to get to work" means it takes 4 hours to get to work, not it takes 2 hours to get to work and 2 hours back.

If the parent commenter meant it takes 2 hours to get to work and 2 hours to get back that would have been better said like that, or "4 hours total commute time per day", or similar.

Here in Norway most salaried workers have flexitime and many people take Fridays off to get a long weekend and reduce the amount of time spent commuting.

I’m fairly certain we could shoten the work week to 4 days and productivity wouldn’t be affected. I’d also surmise the economy would get a large jolt from people having an extra day off and spending more money on entertainment.

I'd personally prefer shorter days to 4 day work week. If my employer offered me to work MTThF 9:30 to 5:30, I'd prefer working M--F 9:30 to 3:30. In fact, I'd much prefer working every day but something like 9 to 1. I understand that this wouldn't be optimal for productivity and most people wouldn't like it; but that's sort of what I wanna do. I also have absolutely no problem working in office, office makes me much more productive.

I’d also surmise the economy would get a large jolt from people having an extra day off and spending more money on entertainment

That only works if you get 5 days pay for 4 days work and everyone else gets 4 days pay for 4 days work. Because where are you going to spend the money if everyone else is chillaxxing too?

That doesn't make any sense. With that logic you never go anywhere on Saturday or Sunday because since you have Saturday and Sunday off that means everyone in the country does.

Well that is exactly my point. If everyone gets an extra day off then there will be 20% fewer opportunities to spend money with them, or 20% fewer staff in the shop to make sales, 20% fewer chefs in the kitchen, yadda yadda

Sounds like 20% more demand for chefs.

Chefs willing to work 6 days a week instead of the 4 everyone else is doing?

I am not anti the concept but it isn’t going to work if it becomes leisure class vs service worker class

No, if the chefs are working more than the new full-time amounts then there won't be a need for 20% more chef jobs.

How many hours a day do you think Adam Grant has worked to get to where he is today? How many do you think he'll work to accomplish his next goal? Do you think he's taking his own advice?

This is Adam Grant, who wrote a book about relationships ("Give and Take") and admitted in it that his own relationship with his wife was sometimes rocky because he worked too much?

Sounds like empirical verification of his thesis.

Forget a college professor.

Jesus himself could come down from Heaven, bring the Ark of the Covenant out of hiding, join forces with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, get the endorsement of the Clintons and the Bushes, and we still wouldn't do squat with the workday or workweek. It'll still be 8 hours 5 days a week 100 years from now. Probably even 500.

8 hours is a convenient fiction we tell ourselves. People with no leverage work more or less depending on if they are salaried or hourly. People with leverage and the willingness to deploy it work what they want to work.

No employer is going to willingly increase their own costs. The employer-employee relationship grew out of the old serf-lord relationship. Most firms still think of their employees as 'resources'.

We've been prophesizing the coming of a brave new world of material plenty and leisure since the Industrial Revolution. It didn't happen then and it's not going to happen now.

In the country I grew up (Turkey) 6 day work week was pretty much the norm, my dad worked 6 days a week. Fast forward 15 years, now I work in the US, and apparently in Turkey 5 day work day is more common (and normal) than 6. Considering that Turkey is the most conservative country in Europe, this is one datapoint that this sort of things can change. I'd expect in the next 500 years, things might change in US too, unless you have some other argument supporting otherwise.

You do realize the 5-day workweek is a relatively new invention even in the US, right? Let alone in my country, Romania, where six days was the rule until 1990 or so.

Also, once again this is the HN bubble rearing it's ugly head again. Suffice to say here most people have never worked in a customer facing job or manual labor job (food service, delivery, retail, sales, construction, landscaping). Most of my "off" days I spent worrying about whether or not my boss would call me to come in anyways because some lazy ass decided not to come in so they were short staffed -- and I needed the money so couldn't say no. My father before me worked 10-13 hours a day, every day, for years without having a day off. I'll take 8/9-5 with regular weekends, thank you, no complaints for me. What people need here is perspective, to realize just how good you have it. If you feel like it, I bet most people here could leave work right now with relatively no issue, and just make up the work later at some other location, say a coffee shop or something -- even that is a privilege.

Having it better than our parents is no reason to stop improving workers' lives.

My larger point is, we already are, miles and away, a much bigger improvement than what most of our parents had. If we want to improve workers lives, let's start with the vast majority of workers, and not the top 5%. Isn't that the rhetoric around here these days? In essense, "we are the 1 percenters", metaphorically in this scenario. Restaurant workers, warehouse employees, factory workers, retail employees, delivery drivers, the vast majority of the US workforce doesn't even come close to the type of privilege and benefits we receive, we should probably start there if we really want to improve workers lives.

While SF/NYC/Austin type firms complain that they can't bring their dog to work, the mother/father/brother/sister over there working as much as they can and just had their benefits cut (and their employer gives them some catchall excuse like "because Obamacare!") because their hours were reduced from 40 to 35, and anytime they even get remotely close to 40 hours, they get sent home, let's start with them.

Sure. The point is that the whole thing is a mirage, an illusion, a lie we tell ourselves. Only the very lucky get a 5 day workweek. Everyone else barely scrapes by with however long they're working. It just wasn't a fiction before the "5 day workweek."

There is a great Hidden Brain episode that talks about similar topics. Why there is this requirement that people to need to work more when there might not be enough work for them.


What about truckers? Should they transport 25% less miles per day? Should elementary schooldays be shortened by 25%? Should companies cut their customer service hours by 25%? Should manufacturing companies drop their daily output by 25%?

It might work well for some fields (e.g., programming), but for the general labor force this idea doesn't seem like a very well thought.

What does any of that have to do with anything? I don't know if you've heard of the concept but working in shifts is a thing. It even allows employers to stagger their employees' schedules such that they can acheive a 24/7, without a single employee working 24h straight! The general labor force will work it out just fine and in some cases (such as elementary schools) will actually benefit greatly from re-evaluating their current work load.

I still don't know why programmers think their profession is so fabulously unique that their office time scheduling can't even apply to any other industry.

Probably similar to the concerns people voiced when the 40hr week was proposed, but then it went on to actually increase productivity (largely attributed to an overall healthier, better rested, less accident prone workforce.)

Source: R. Gordon, “Rise and fall of American growth.”

>Should elementary schooldays be shortened by 25%?

I don't recall a source, but I'm fairly sure that American school classes last longer than what data shows is effectual, i.e. teaching a class longer than X minutes (I think it's 30 or 40) has no demonstrable effect.

This is anecdotal but we had a rather particular schedule when I was in our equivalent to high school. We had two classes/subjects per day. So the day was divided into a morning block of 2.5 hours, then lunch, and then an afternoon block of 2.5 hours. 20 minutes of break time was included inside each block, and we got some input in how to distribute those 20 minutes. Typically you'd do 2x10, or 1x20 with the 20 being either in the middle or at the end (go home earlier or longer lunch).

I found it worked out great for all subjects. You could have a mini lecture first to learn something new, have a break, then have a bunch of time applying what you just learned.

Or if we had lectures we had the lecture first then just as much time after for questions.

You could watch a documentary and then have a follow-up discussion.

We also didn't start classes until 9 AM, because the school knew that teenagers in general aren't at the top of their game in the morning.

I really liked that setup.

It looks like the link to the claim of shortening the work day is based on how schools for children aren't as long as the adult workday so I think your second question is already being applied right now.

"In the LinkedIn post, Grant was weighing in on an Atlantic article about the time gap between when school and work days end, a bane for many parents. But it's not the first time Grant has given his stamp of approval to less work with more productivity."

Not really. In my area, the school day is 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Teachers typically arrive by 7:30 AM and leave around 3:30 PM - and then do grading and other work activities in their evenings. Where do you cut 25% from that? Who watches the kids - especially in some communities where single parent households are the norm? If the state provides daycare, the money has to come from somewhere, and school budgets are stretched as is.

The workday reduction is a bit hand-wavy - it sounds good on the surface but when you get into the nitty gritty.

There’s already been an abundance of studies concluding that American school begins too early and kids aren’t sleeping enough.


> Should elementary schooldays be shortened by 25%?

Mine already did. Early dismissal at around 12:30 every friday. Thank goodness I have a stay-at-home mom for a wife, because I don't know how you're supposed to deal with that and also have a job.

Actually I do know- they offer paid daycare on fridays. It's still a little silly.

Same here. My kids have early dismissal every Wednesday. The winter and spring breaks are 4 weeks(!!!). They schedule "open house" type events which you are expected to attend monthly at 2:30pm on a Friday.

I'm very lucky that I have support from family and an employer that is very accommodating to my schedule, as I am a divorced dad with a full time job.

6 hour shifts fit into 24 hours just as well as 8 hour shifts do. You just need one more.

And how long is elementary school? 8AM-3PM? If teachers weren't often required to do work outside of class, those hours sound pretty reasonable.

There are studies which say that people can only focus on work six hours a day. Others say you need time to relax to become better concentrated at work. So why should people be forced to work 8 hours when 6 hours get the same result but the employees are more motivated.

I wish it would be common in Germany too...

I like to watch some professional gamer's Twitch streams (particularly before bed, it's relaxing) and I've noticed some have expressed that they can only play 3-4 hours of ranked games a day, while others can play 8-10 with success.

Point is, it seems like I keep hearing about studies which tell me x,y,z etc; but if humans dropped into a zoo on another planet and a study was done to see how long humans could run, I'd bet you'd get some wild answers until you just let the people who like to run go out and run marathons, ultra marathons, etc.

Modern work has some aspect of captivity to it that we certainly subject ourselves to, when in reality we are all individuals with each our own strengths and struggles.

Could be, but if you are working, you need time to relax and build up new "power". I think for professional gamers, playing is work and free time at once. Maybe that's the point why they are able to focus for a longer period of time.

I work in Munich, our company will try out 6 hour work days to see if it works for us. There is defined a bit of desire (in the startup world) with adopting it. I doubt this will happen with the more classic companies in Munich though.

Employees/employers are free to negotiate this (and frequently do in tech), I don't see why it would apply for other jobs though.

Definitely free to negotiate at mine but with reduced pay then I start to think whether it's worth it..

Shortening the work day by 25% is an interesting idea in theory though unfortunately it is a pretty big leap for most companies to actually implement.

A smaller and more manageable idea which I am trying to instill in my company is to create a culture where it is not necessary to check in while on vacation or once you are off the clock.

"...create a culture where it is not necessary to check in while on vacation or once you are off the clock."

In other words, what a job is supposed to be for most people.

Right, though unfortunately many companies do not respect these boundaries. Because companies can’t even respect such basic ideas and boundaries with regard to employee wellbeing, it feels like a big leap to all of a sudden care enough to reduce employee hours by 25%.

Unfortunately this is not always realistic. In smaller businesses, one person may know a system or process far better than anyone else. So if that person is on vacation, he should be available. You may disagree, but I think this is a good thing that technology enables.

I don't disagree at all! But this tendency has crept its way into being the norm, as opposed to circumstantial or role-specific, and I applaud any manager/employer trying to lessen the off-hours workload of the rank and file.

Maybe not typical, but I take many trips where I am literally not available for at least days or even a week or two at a time. Before ubiquitous Internet, I took a number of trips where I was totally off-the-grid for a month at a time. Didn't work for small companies where I was the only person who knew something (though that seems poor planning in the event that person falls off a mountain someplace) but it's what I did.

How is it a big leap? If an economist says productivity will not take a huge hit, and meanwhile employees' QoL greatly improves, seems like a very small leap.

Most people are not salaried knowledge workers. A hairdresser's hourly productivity doesn't increase if he works 6 hours instead of 8. A cashier's throughput wont increase notably if she only works 6 hours a day, and there's no effective means for that type of worker to "fit" 8 hours of work into a 6 hour day.

What do you do with these people? Do you increase the minimum wage to something more inflation adjusted (upwards of $20/hr). Do you just cut their hours and be done with it? What do you do about the staffing shortages that a 30hr work week would create?

You hire more people to cover shifts. Service jobs are largely part-time anyway, sometimes intentionally to avoid paying benefits.

Retailers in the UK prefer to hire part time staff because it gives them more resilience. One person off sick is less of a problem when you have 10 staff vs 5.

Sounds like a way to increase labor demand.

To be fair, Adam Grant's LinkedIn post is 3 sentences long and hardly offers much thought on the subject.

In the CNBC article, they reference a study of staff in a Swedish nursing home where they reduced the work day shifts from 8 hours to 6 hours. While productivity and quality of life may have increased, a quick calculation would show that the nursing home would now have to pay for 4 shifts of staff each day as opposed to only 3 shifts. Without knowing more about that particular nursing home, I'd imagine needing to employ an additional shift of people to be a pretty big hurdle to actually implementing such a program.

Here's the problem I have with this argument. If you are bored and disengaged at your job for 8 hours, you are likely to be just as bored and disengaged for 6 hours if all you change is the amount of time you spend there. The better approach would be to get your organization to sit down and diligently work out why so many of their jobs are so boring and disengaging and go after that. If, in the process, we determine that those jobs can be done in fewer hours, then great. Sure, maybe there are some jobs that are inherently boring, but maybe through diligent analysis, we could find ways to minimize the need for that type of work, and maybe create more compelling jobs in the process. But just shortening the work week doesn't seem to address the problems most people have with their jobs.

Even at 6 hours a day, we spend enough time at our jobs that job satisfaction is a significant portion of your overall life satisfaction. I'm all for 6 hour work days, but the more important point by far is making the content of our jobs engaging and enjoyable.

I'd rather have a three-day weekend and work 10 hours in a day.

I think these research based on hours is misguided and useless. What matters is production. Not everyone is in consulting milking billable hours.

I had a nice work schedule at a company that had the first shift start at 6am and end at 2:30pm. I got a lot of stuff done in my afternoons.

How about a four day workweek?

So if you work at a startup, does that mean 10 hours a day? ;)

How these kind of changes were implemented before?

6 hour work days 3 or 4 days a week

6 hour work days 3 or 4 days.

Even just 1 to bring most hourly employees back to 8 hours (7hr + 1hr lunch) instead of 9 hours (8hr + 1hr lunch) would be great. Employers should be forced to pay for 1hr lunches as it's time you're still away from home.

I was crushed when I discovered the typical 9-5 wasn't typical at all.

8-5 or 9-6 now!

Even worse when you don't factor in travel time so it becomes a 10 hour day not including time to get ready in the morning.

How much lower must immigration-overhead get before employers feel like half productive US workers are not worth the tradeoff against desperately dedicated internationals, geez louise.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18008468.

> desperately dedicated internationals

"Cheaper labor willing to work more" is how I read that, and the antithesis of efforts to reduce the work week.

I'd prefer US law be tailored to incentivize US companies to employ US sourced labor, where our labor law can further ratchet the work week down (we're already incredibly productive compared to 40 years ago, but wages have been stagnant [1]; we've already earned a reduction in the work week we haven't gotten). I wouldn't want our country to export environmental pollution or labor externalities like child sweatshops, and in the same way, I would want to prevent our multinationals subjugating employees outside of our country's internal labor regulatory framework.

[1] https://i.stack.imgur.com/iCTuo.jpg


Anyone can be properly motivated when compensated appropriately, regardless of nationality or location.

Somewhat relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8afqoDL3Qsk

I think the argument was that at any given level of compensation, being an international worker motivates you more. So the fact that compensation can also motivate people misses the point.

Is there an argument why being an international worker would motivate you more other than attempting to get a higher salary than you can locally? I don't want to use the words "desperation", but it seems as if that is the impetus to hire international workers, who are desperate for US wages without being protected by US labor law (in most cases, you're going to operate as a contractor in your home country when employed by a US firm, without labor protections you'd have as a US or local country employee). It is a hack by US corporations around US market wages and labor protections, one that I'm unable to endorse until labor protections apply to the business relationship.

When losing your job means getting deported it can really sharpen your sense of focus.

Don't worry though, it's not just immigrants to the US. I emigrated from the US and to be completely honest I still work hard but not with the underlying worry I always had just a little bit of before I secured my status more permanently.

Your domestic workers could be just as motivated if you threaten them with deportation. I don't want to run in your race to the bottom.

Care to back up this assertion with a source? Preferably one that controls for factors like being afraid of losing your visa if you get fired? What is it about American workers that makes them intrinsically less motivated?

This isn't about American vs. non-American workers. It can be hard/impossible for most humans to do quality mental work for extended stretches of time.

I'm a non-US citizen international worker in US. I work in a startup as a software engineer. Is there any reason I'm supposed to work more than my American coworkers? We're paid the same money, in fact, I'm slightly underpaid. Or are you implying that internationals are usually more enthusiastic than Americans? That's at best [[citation needed]].

“People will need to be paid more for working less time, so they can afford more leisure time.” - Richard Branson giving a glimpse into the actuarial world of the super-rich, where leisure is doled out to peasants for productivity reasons.

>where leisure is doled out to peasants for productivity reasons.

This also pisses me off. We can only have things to be "more productive." If we always had this attitude then we'd never have the weekend.

I imagine its the most politically acceptable way to sell this argument. "Sure, we're all going home at 3, but hey, the businesses still make money so why not?"

I suspect management's ancient ideas of "meetings" and "face time" are killing this little revolution. A lot of middle managers are little more than meetings bullshitters and cutting their main value is going to scare them.

Has anyone seen a lazy 'Super Rich' person?

I only have 2 super rich(1M+/yr) in my life, and they are always working. I only see them during holidays and the occasional grad party.

Their son told me that his dad worked so many hours that he totaled 2 cars in a week due to sleep deprivation.

Maybe second generation is lazy, but I'm not sure where this idea that 'super rich' dont work come from.

That's because you only see the super rich with responsibilities, and those who are likely to be active in workplaces and be responsible for the people and companies under them. There's plenty of idle or retired super rich to fill up the highest end yacht clubs all summer.

Dragging the retired into a debate about how rich people spend their time seems like a stretch to me. You can't fault someone if they want to laze about in retirement.

What if they retired at 35 after selling their parents company or inherited real estate? Or do you think that's rare in a country that doesn't believe in inheritance taxes?

If you have 1M+ and still working you are rich. If you have 1M+ plus a constant income stream without working you are wealthy. The idea comes from wealthy people, not people that work hard and get rewarded accordingly.

When I think of “idle rich” it’s always the 2nd+ generation. Arguably it takes work and lots of luck to get rich, but hardly any work to be born rich and stay rich. When your passive income exceeds your expenses, you have to actively screw something up in order to not get richer and richer automatically.

It's an interesting question, but a sample size of 2 doesn't necessarily answer it. Maybe the rich do work more hours on average, but is it because they are appropriately compensated for hard work?

Seems like the trend in the US is for lower and middle classes working more hours and having less to show for it: https://www.epi.org/publication/ib348-trends-us-work-hours-w...

1M+/yr is not super rich by any means. That could be any high skilled professional who is still grinding it out. Super rich probably starts around $50-100 mil net worth. (Or higher if we’re talking about “controls society” super rich.)

Try instagram

Where did he say that it’s for productivity reasons?

Coming from someone like Richard Branson this seems obnoxious. If it's so revolutionary why have you not implemented it in your workplace?

As for the New Zealand study thats frequently cited as a 'success' it was only an 8 week trial.

It reminds me of universal basic income - populist ideology that appeals to people who want more free shit.

> It reminds me of universal basic income - populist ideology that appeals to people who want more free shit.

Who are these 'I want free stuff' people? I keep hearing them mentioned as some sort of strawman, but no one can really find me any large groups of these people demanding free stuff. Most people realize taxes pay for welfare benefits.

It also appeals to people who want to eliminate 20 government and various state agencies for a single entity. We already have many convoluted forms of welfare, why not simplify it?

The whole point of a government is to benefit the welfare of its civilians.

"Who are these 'I want free stuff' people?"

It's pretty much everyone. It's just that everyone also knows you can't actually go into a political debate with "GIVE ME FREE STUFF" and expect to get very far. But of course we all want free stuff. I want free stuff. I've got the discipline to know better than to vote for it (because for one thing I know there is no such thing as "free"), but I damned well want it.

But of course there's plenty of BI advocates who want free stuff. You can find plenty of people musing on how they'd live on nothing but the BI in any conversation on HN, if they could.

> one thing I know there is no such thing as "free"

In the US, given the production-yields of present agricultural technology, only 1% of the population would need to be employed to feed 100% of the population. That seems pretty "free."

I don't know how it would work out for other things (housing, clothing, etc.) but I expect it would be similar (with e.g. at most 10% of the population needing to work to support 100% of the population, which is less than the percentage of people who want to work regardless of personal necessity.)

In other words: we've already nearly reached post-scarcity. We should probably figure out a way to take advantage of that.

Well... the US already has the cheapest food of all the countries I've been in. Without cooking, I managed to eat with $2 a day (and I'm around 200 pounds). Small town in Georgia, maybe NY food is more expensive. (I know I was surprised at how expensive food was in London.)

What do you eat?

'That seems pretty "free."'

It isn't just economic "free" that I'm worried about. I have low and ever-decreasing confidence that BI wouldn't get tied to not expressing politically incorrect opinions on Facebook or something as we continue our march towards speech control. And I mean that just as one example. I have no confidence in the ability of our superhumanly ethical and temptation-resistent benevolent government administrators to hand out ~$10T/year and never, ever, ever have the bright idea of starting to tie it to something.

I'm an outlier in HN terms, so to translate that to HN terms, "Donald Trump, or his philosophical successor, is going to administer your BI program. Does that sound like a good idea? Do you really think it's going to be 'free'?"

Never, ever, ever isn't a reasonable expectation. You have no guarantee that they won't rip up the constitution and enslave you tomorrow. But you can expect it not to happen because you're a reasonable person and because the laws mean something, if not everything.

I want free stuff!

I always thought the primary appeal of a universal income was to eradicate poverty and remove the inefficiencies of the welfare state

As counter intuitive as it may seem, the universal basic income is not there to 'eradicate poverty', but a final Neo-liberal hail-Mary to save their socioeconomic market ideology snake that has been eating its own tail.

The universal basic income isn't "there" at all. If our liberal masters are in fact pushing for a universal basic income, they are doing so in such a subtle fashion you'd almost think they opposed it with every fiber of their being.

That seems awfully cynical to me. What about weekends? Why not work those? Seems like you're quite the freeloader yourself!

The reality is that the work day is based on an arbitrary factory schedule. There's no reason to maintain it. Moving to 6 hours or 4 days absolutely works. Its just going to be less people padding their time on reddit and facebook.

No one ever argues we should work more...

If both are valid possibilities, this suggests a selection bias regarding the arguments.

Not sure what you mean by "valid". If longer hours lead to less productivity, why would anyone argue for it?

There are professions that have 12 hour shift. There are also companies that allow their employees to work 9 hour days and take Friday off every other week. Employees may even prefer these schedules for personal reasons despite potentially increased health risk.

Medicine is famous for 12+ hour shifts. However, it's demonstrable that this costs peoples lives as people make more mistakes in hours 8-12+. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4629843/

Hospital shifts in the United States should be used as a warning for what not to do:

"Halsted promoted several very important concepts and practices in residency training: graded responsibility, a variable and lengthy training period, a pyramidal system of promotion, a resident's ward service, and, most pertinent to this article, a restrictive lifestyle. This last concept of a restrictive lifestyle meant that residents truly resided in the hospital. They received little or no pay, were discouraged from marriage, and worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At first, the Halstedian model was more the exception than the rule but gradually became more common, especially after World War II when more surgeons wanted to be trained and certified for both the prestige and financial rewards."


The Halsted is William Halsted, a workaholic lifetime cocaine addict: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stewart_Halsted

Yeah I think this is for office workers. It's also useful as a baseline for overtime pay though. Even professions that work 12 hour days still pay overtime over 40/week. We could move that back to 35/week and let workers and employers decide if it's worth cutting back hours or hiring more people to reduce overwork and overtime pay.

I haven't worked at many places that don't argue for more work - doing extra stuff on the side, on-call shifts, there's always something.

"Remember 40 hours is the minimum we expect of you. Overnight installations are just part of the job."

It seems hard to look at the US and argue we aren't working enough.

We are certainly at work for long periods, but are we working enough?

Productivity is historically high. Yes.

No one ever argues we should all try to gain 50 lbs either. Both are valid possibilities.

Overweight people apparently live longer.

Is there some kind of skew here?

Like 1 million malnourished people in Africa dying fast vs 1 million somewhat overweight software engineers with healthcare benefits?

So what happens when you factor in fit people (which the US is probably short of anyway)?

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