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[dupe] Microsoft 4-day week boosts productivity and sales (bbc.co.uk)
492 points by shetill on Nov 4, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 242 comments

Duplicate? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21433710

The aha comment that made me realise why this probably won't take off by @claudeganon [^1]:

> "The whole arrangement is about control, preventing workers from having the time or energy to build competing enterprises, develop skills beyond a certain level, or organize against their employers. It’s the same reason why most big corps oppose a national healthcare system in the US: it keeps people locked in to their current positions and has the knock-on effect of putting downward pressure on wages and turnover expenses."

  [^1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21434297

> It’s the same reason why most big corps oppose a national healthcare system in the US: it keeps people locked in to their current positions and has the knock-on effect of putting downward pressure on wages and turnover expenses.

Is this... true?

One thing that has always came true throughout my life is a phrase: "If you don't know why, its money."

Why there is no national healthcare - money, someone makes a ton of it by preventing nationalization of healthcare system.

Everything that doesn't make sense, has better alternatives (somehow not adopted) always boils down to money :(

Another reason is people don't like sharing. In democracies the majority of people don't vote for a program where they have to pay for others, even if the net result would be in their advantage.

so it's money, and stupidity :)

Exactly this. I'm in the South (U.S.) and a lot of people here would benefit from national healthcare, but they continue to vote against it (rather, for politicians who are against it) because "if you don't work for it, you don't deserve it." They're so afraid of the few who would take advantage of it that they're willing to let the many who need it not get it.

Yes it sounds like common mentality in US - "you need to deserve your spot under the sun". This mindset can push society to achieve great things rather effectively (as seen numerous times in the past with US), but it can also mean cruelty to fellow citizens because... usually money, power, status.

Everybody for themselves ain't a good model for a healthy society in long run. Way too many predators out there.

I'm a Midwestern transplant into the South, and a significant proportion of the anti-welfare sentiment around here seems to me to be incredibly racist, plastered over with language that has been carefully scrubbed of any mention of race. And that poisons federal politics.

The fear is there, but to me it looks like white people afraid that some black people or brown people might earn the same money for the same work, or get equal representation in government. And it's all apparently justified in the politically segregated religious congregations.

There's that "if you didn't work for it, you don't deserve it" attitude, but it also combines with "whatever you have, you got because you deserved it" attitude. It's very fatalistic, and completely discounts the possibility that injustice exists in society, and that some humans actively create it for their own personal benefit.

It also seems like more of the social bonding activities are inherently organized around pre-existing in-groups and clique-sorting than I remember from more northerly cities. I had been accustomed to events organized around public schools, their intramural organizations, public libraries, chambers of commerce events, and city sports leagues in public recreation facilities--one thing, open to all residents--but in the South, they have entirely different networks organized through churches and private clubs, which are heavily segregated by political views, if not by race.

This leads to a lot of information asymmetry, and irrational beliefs or disinformation propagated through channels that are difficult for outsiders to monitor. So white blue-collar workers get propagandized against unions and democratic socialism. They are constantly being lied to, and subjected to rhetorical distractions. Black people go to different churches, so they aren't as politically self-defeating, but they get institutionally disenfranchised instead. Having lived in Chicago, Illinois, I recognize political corruption, and they definitely have it here.

There are plenty of concerns around the reliability of a single payer system or a publicized care system aside from what has already been mentioned. For instance, the sustainable quality of care is brought into question, as is the incentive for continued development in the field. There are reasons to be upset about the current system, but these are two things it undeniably excels at.

There is also simply anxiety over giving one of the most if not the most powerful government in the world power over its citizens in such an intimate fashion.

Forcing somebody else to "share" against their will isn't really in the spirit of sharing.

Thank you for pointing this out. Forced sharing is confiscation.

I've been thinking lately that half the US could opt out of public healthcare, the rest would subsidize them, and the per-capita cost on the payers would still be less than it is today through private insurance.

I am actually not opposed to some kind of national health program, but the supply problem (and therefore the price problem) needs to be addressed first. Partially socializing what we have today will only make things worse.

Proponents of national healthcare always say that it will lower costs, but unless the government seizes control of everything, doctor salaries, hospital employee pay, etc. cost will never go down.

I am not arguing that the government should do all that, in fact it would terrify me. But it should work to increase the supply of healthcare and to create efficiencies and price transparency to drive costs down. Once costs are manageable it will be easier to find a way to guarantee healthcare affordably without crippling the economy or having the government run everything.

Of course when a pragmatic approach like the above is offered you always run into the "my mom has cancer now" argument that we just need to do it as soon as possible. It is a hard argument to refute.

It is a complex issue.

I tend to agree, thank you for your thoughtful points.

Another thought I've been having is that since medicine is the epitome of a good with inelastic demand, then the government could/should impose rather strict laws about profiteering. For example, maybe a drug could only cost double what a university can synthesize it for, or a minimum of 3 manufacturers would make any drug sold in the US (to ensure healthy competition), or the government could provide generic options for all drugs (as a price stabilizer), something like that. So insulin would essentially be free, and the hepatitis C cure might be substantially cheaper, for example.

I realize that this might lead to problems with drug research costs. But, that's really what we should really be talking about here. Separating research cost to some degree from profit in their distribution. And spreading those costs globally somehow so that they don't fall mostly on the US.

Maybe incremental measures like these could be adopted over a 5 or 10 year period until private insurance costs are more in line with the public option cost in other countries, and then states could offer insurance plans. Once about 50% have done that, the programs could be made federal. We could still keep private insurance for those who want it, like in many European countries.

To be honest, I am personally against these incremental approaches because I have doubts that they'll be adopted, but, you're right that it's a complex issue so I'm open to ideas and hope we can get past the political disfunction and get back to helping people.

I am not saying the general idea is wrong, and probably it is true in the US. But.

You could equivalently say "why is there national healthcare almost everywhere in Europe" and answer "money", reversing your point.

Except we know why there's national healthcare in Europe: because it's more cost effective per citizen (economies of scale and collective bargaining for prices with no profit motive), and the US effectively subsidizes research costs.

I suppose in a way that is "money", but not in the sense that he meant (ie money directly exerting political power)

The answer is about money not the money itself. It all depends on who controls the money and why. In Europe the state controls it and most citizens are happy with that (not perfectly of course) whereas it is a complete non-starter in the US because 'everyone' has an adversarial relationship with the state.

Not necessarily, because the amount of money the health industries get in every other country is tiny compared to the USA

>Why there is no national healthcare - money, someone makes a ton of it by preventing nationalization of healthcare system

It could also be that things cost money, and taxpayers don't want to pay for some things.

The Democrats have decided that the rich must pay for it. Republicans have decided that it's too costly. By splitting the crowd, we have reached an impasse.

We could do what every other country has done, and have everyone pay more in taxes to get it, but both sets of votes have blocked it. Dems want European benefits without European taxes levied on the middle class. Reps realize how much these plans will cost and scare people with taxes in general. The end result is people want others to solve their problems instead of accepting the pain and paying for it.

It's not companies - it's voters. And it would cost a lot more in the US than anywhere else, and it's no single point of cost added - every part here cost more, from doctor and nurse salaries, to drugs (which are a small part of overall cost), to people wanting more end of life care, and on and on.

I'd consider myself a Democrat, and I'm willing to pay more taxes for it. If people take a good look at their paychecks, I think most folks would be better off. Instead of paying (made up numbers) $800/mo to an insurer, you may pay an additional $600/mo in taxes. That's a win. And like someone above said, it makes people less tied to their jobs, which I think all workers should support.

> made up numbers

And here lies the problem- you're using made up numbers.

Obviously if we can cut healthcare spending while expanding access while maintaining our contribution to medica innovation, that would be a great thing. People just don't think that it's remotely realistic.

Obamacare wasn't cheap

Medicare and medicaid are very expensive and don't achieve the same results that the private industry does.

Are VA hospitals as good as private ones? Absolutely not- and these are when the government has the opportunity to provide for a demographic that is a small minority of the population and is likely to have bipartisan support.

IMO- the only argument for socialized healthcare is healthcare as a human right. The idea that the government will magically become superior to private industry at spending money is completely unrealistic.

You and I may disagree on how effectively-run a government single-payer would be vs. private insurance (and there is no reason to believe they couldn't co-exist), but let's set that aside for the moment.

My intent in making this post was really to call out the fact that, even for those of us lucky enough to have coverage through our employers, we're still paying quite a bit in premiums. So the net effect of public healthcare may be positive, flat or something else, but it isn't just a new tax and reduction in your paycheck. You stop paying a premium and start paying a tax.

It's interesting to me that no candidate has seized on the chance to say that by decoupling healthcare from one's job, one would be more free to take risks in starting their own business

Just curiously asking, how does one pay for it if they don't have a job or lose their job? I think people should be less tied to their employers but how do they get coverage if they have no job? Who is paying for it?

Because it's paid by taxes, everyone has access and since it is taxes it is % of income. No income means access to healthcare but there's no cost associated to it. A median wage essentially pays their own health care, a high wage subsidizes lower income.

As someone living in a country with this what this means in the end is that I have never in my life considered health care as an issue. I.e. having a job living at my parents house, moving away and studying and so on.

Consider the case of my Mother-in-law. She has enough funds to retire, except that she can't afford insurance plans on the open market, (where they are generally more expensive and less effective) so she has to wait until full retirement age when she'll be able to get coverage from her former employer and ultimately Medicare.

A lot of people don't see/won't look at the cost of healthcare that their employees are already paying. Even fewer would recognize this as effectively the same thing as a tax.

“The Democrats have decided that the rich must pay for it. Republicans have decided that it's too costly”

When you look back at the last few decades you will see that republicans have decided that rich people should pay an ever decreasing share. the Democrat proposals i have seen don’t even try to roll back to tax rates during or before the Reagan years.

>tax rates during or before the Reagan years

The tax rates people quote are not usually effective rates; they're marginal rates, and no one really paid them.

The Reagan tax cuts were revenue neutral - they cut the top marginal rates and removed loopholes. During one of them the effective rate on the rich increased slightly.

>When you look back at the last few decades you will see that republicans have decided that rich people should pay an ever decreasing share.

The middle class and poor have seen very big tax cuts. For example, here [1] are effective tax rates from the CBO for years 1979-2005.

The lower quintile went from 8% to 4.3%, effectively halving their tax rate. 2nd quintile 14.3 to 9.9%, 3rd 18.6 to 14.2, third 21.2 to 17.4, highest quintile 27.5 to 25.5.

The top 1% went from 37% to 31.2%.

So, you claim rich do not pay their share? What is their "share"? The lowest 20% pays 4.4%, the top 1% pays 31.2%.

[1] https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments...

If you compare the share of taxes different groups are paying you also should compare the share of income they are receiving. You should also compare income growth of these groups over the last decades. It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that upper incomes did much better over that period compared to other groups.

>If you compare the share of taxes different groups are paying you also should compare the share of income they are receiving.

If someone pays 30% of income to tax, raising their income only means they're paying more dollars in tax. 30% is a ratio.

The rich also lost bigger chunks during the downturn.

The middle class is shrinking due to more moving up than down. That doesn't fit your narrative so well, but as far as I can tell, it's true, and has been true for some time. So of course their "share" is shrinking and the "rich" share is increasing - but then you might want to see what happened to the underlying people. After all, the set of rich people (and middle class, and poor) is always in flux.

If you really care to look at the numbers, the top 1% earns around 20% of all income, and pays around 37% of all taxes. The bottom 50% made 12% of all income, and paid 3% of all taxes.

So the top is paying almost 2x the share of taxes compared to their income than the average person, and the bottom half pays around 1/4x.

No matter how you slice it, the top do pay a lot in taxes. It's why the US is rated one of the most progressive tax structures in the OECD.


I don't have stake in it so I don't really care, but us tax payer pays more in taxes to support current system, then average EU citizen pays for their public system.

So there is rather large body of evidence suggesting that most likely adopting national health system will result in lower tax contributions and access to 'free' healthcare.

> Dems want European benefits without European taxes levied on the middle class.

Could you give a clearer example? Meaning, say somebody makes $40k/yr, $60k/yr, $80k/yr, $100k/yr in America right now, what would their taxes look like if they were at "European" levels?

In general you can check it here: https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=AWCOMP

Example from Prague, Czech Republic = an average IT position has it's total cost of employment (part is payed pre-brutto salary from the employer side) at 55k USD, take home pay is at 30k USD a year.

- this includes a social insurance (if you are let go, you'll get 750 USD up till 5 months of unemployment, if you go by yourself it'll be around 600 USD, and a promise of 1200 usd a month when you retire)

- health insurance on everything but non-diagnosed plastic surgery (like fake boobs and butcheek implants), dental and optician care

- salary insurance during sickness (has to be certified by a doctor, 1-14 day you get 60% of your take-home hourly salary for every workhour you miss, after 2 weeks this changes to 60% of you gross salary counted for every day of sickness (including weekends), after 30 days of sickness it increases to 66%, after 60 days to 72%)

- and of course tax (around 13% of total cost of employment) that pays for public schools, roads, etc

$55k gross -> $30k net means you lose 45% of your income ($25k is 45% of $55k)

For comparison, $55k gross is roughly $43.6k net in Florida for a single tax payer before insurance. Figure $200/mo for insurance (with employer paying the rest), that leaves you at $41.2k net

That's $11.2k/yr more than Prague taxes. What would I be gaining by paying $11.2k/yr more?


and how much is your co-pay?

you lose some (of your income), you win some (safety net, no medical expenses, free schools, higher social mobility). I don't mind to pay a higher share of my income to live in a functional society.

> The Democrats have decided that the rich must pay for it.

My only question to that is: what level of rich ($200k/yr? $400k/yr?), and how much must they pay percentage wise, etc.

When will poorer people ever be ok with how much / how little billionaires give? I feel like the mindset is "it'll never be enough".

People would be OK if all their basic needs would be covered. If they didn't get ruined by single complicated health issue. If they knew that social system will help them out a bit in case they lose a job - not too much, just to help them bridge the gaps between jobs. If they knew that their kids are getting a decent education for free. None of this needs to be worlds best, just good enough.

Have this, and you have a satisfied population that won't revolt against rich no matter how little rich pay in their taxes. But from what I read here over and over, US currently has none of this for below-medium/median income.

I think the thing keeping poorer US population from revolt is this common mentality that success comes only from hard work, and if you're not successful, well you just didn't work hard enough. Rags to riches ideal, which as we know is rather a myth due to real social (im)mobility. But repeat a myth a thousand times and it will become a rule.

I think money is only part of it. There's the cliche phrase of "There's Good, Fast, or Cheap, but you only get to select two."

Peter Attia put a healthcare twist on this idea. Paraphrasing, it becomes "Access, Quality, or Cost. You only get to choose two."

There's natural competing ideas in most any resource constrained environment.

I like that.

Might add a dash of the "prisoner's dilemma."

But then I would get carried away with this stone soup and throw in love, honor, culture...

...and then end up back at "I don't know why."

Say you or your dependents have a medical condition, and your health insurance is provided by your employer.

Your most powerful tool in negotiating with your employer is to threaten to resign. Even with COBRA, paying for your own health insurance can be a substantial burden for many people in the US. If resigning from your job poses substantial risks to your health and life, your employer holds all the cards.

A workforce that does not have mobility and security in the essentials of life creates negative externalities for society as a whole. If workers are unable to leave or report workplaces containing unethical or illegal behavior out of concern for their lives, that unethical or illegal behavior is tacitly rewarded with competitive advantage for the business.

> Even with COBRA

Why are COBRA prices as crazy as they are? I pay $200/mo for medical insurance, yet COBRA quoted me $800/mo+ I believe.

That is what your employer paid for your insurance. You might be able to get a cheaper plan on Obamacare/ACA. Companies pay large portion of your insurance that you never see. COBRA brings it all to light.

There is a movement to count medical benefits as income, which would shed light on this (in fact that was part of Obamacare/ACA, but politicians keep putting it off because they know no wants to pay taxes on their healthcare...)

Yeah, I would be more fine with employer provided healthcare if people had to pay taxes on it.

I work at a small company and around the ACA times they told us they were weighing their options: removing healthcare benefits with a corresponding bump in pay (including tax ramifications), or keeping healthcare. At the time they let us know what they were paying, and it was a shitload - something like $18k/year for my family of 3.

They ended up keeping healthcare. And now I have a family of 5. No clue what they pay, but I'm sure it's a ton.

As someone who has recently quit their job to start their own business, healthcare has been a huge barrier. I'm so, so lucky that I'm healthy enough to go on cheaper insurance and that I have people who can help me navigate the absurdly complex system of plans out there to pick a sensible one.

I know lots of other people who are petrified of losing their job because they aren't as healthy as I am.

I think this is better source - I was very skeptical from the original thread because the source did not seem trustworthy. I think BBC is slightly more reliable..

> BBC is slightly more reliable

You mean in general or only in the context of this article? because the BBC is certainly not a channel devoid of bias (just check this: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-BBC-called-British-Bullshit-Cor...)


Maybe a slight left bias although personally I think it's more a bias to the current sitting government.

However there is plenty of UK media that sees the BBC as unfair competition and would love to see it disappear.

To be fair the licence fee has served its purpose. The BBC should move to a £10 per month Netflix model and be available world wide. It'd be a very profitable business and would easily make more in revenue for its current output than it does now.

That would mean a drop in revenue and leave questions about radio, in particular the world service. Programs are already available worldwide so revenue wouldn't increase.

That's a conspiracy theory, predicated upon the idea that all these entities are working together with malicious intent.

Or, more realistically...entrenched systems evolve slowly.

The problem with this reasoning is that it doesn't apply to countries outside the US. Take Europe for example where the healthcare system is miles ahead compared to the US yet Europe is clearly not the most innovative space because of this.

So tell me then, why didn't the shift from 6 to 5 days cause that?

I sure hope my workers don’t develop skills

> In contrast, Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba, has championed 12-hour working days. In April 2019, he described the "996" pattern, in which workers do 09:00-21:00 shifts, six days a week, as "a blessing".

Yikes, that sounds depressing.

> A report commissioned by the Labour Party in the UK suggested a four-day working week would be "unrealistic".

The report seems to be missing the point of most 4 day work week initiatives which is that we spend a ton of time not actually working because people feel like they are expected to always be in the office between arbitrary hours. Just because people "work" less doesn't mean their output is changing. Unless your definition of work is warming a chair.

You should check out the youtube video with Jack Ma and Elon Musk. Anything that comes out of his mouth is complete bullshit and crazy. It puts anything he says in perspective.


I believe the 4 hour work week only works for brain intensive tasks where it needs significant mental effort to get things done so ample time for rest is needed to be “refreshed”.

Meanwhile, if you’re building on shoes in a shoe factory, there should be a very predictable output for people working on 4 days vs 5 days.

I don’t condone people to be overworking but that’s just my take.

Have you actually built shoes in a shoe factory?

Long days of dull and repetitive work, day after day, week after week, month after month, can be super exhausting mentally as well as physically. And it does show in terms of productivity. You're right, the output might be very predictable but it doesn't mean people aren't more productive and motivated when they feel more rested and less exhausted/tired/bored.

I'm a skilled machinist. And I couldn't even pretend that a full day of work didn't make me feel exhausted or that I didn't get tired and feel productivity & attentiveness taper off with time. Observing the coffee breaks when managers aren't around is enough evidence that most employees seem prone to feel the burden of long days at work. People find ways to avoid working too much -- coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, etc. I don't think it's just laziness. I would prefer to spend less time doing more focused work, stretching out a long day is always painful.

Now I work an IT job and am generally more energetic, but I would still prefer to have more time & energy left for my own life and ambitions (which work probably won't ever satisfy).

There's less and less work where you can be tired and productive. There is either a customer watching you, a great deal of variety in the task or a machine with a quickly falling TCO after your job first.


"The name 996.ICU refers to "Work by '996', sick in ICU", an ironic saying among Chinese developers, which means that by following the "996" work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU (Intensive Care Unit)."

Many jobs are "warming a chair". Pretty much all of retail and service jobs. In manufacturing you will absolutely lose productivity if you shave a day off of the schedule.

Have you ever worked in retail or service? I have, and I know people who still do, and it’s hard work. Restaurants, for example, will usually send you home with no pay if there is so little to do that you are warming a chair, and I’ve worked minimum wage retail jobs that do the same.

It has nothing to do with whether or not the job is hard. I've worked retail, food service, and landscaping jobs through high school and university. I know those jobs aren't easy.

The difference is that those jobs require workers to be present throughout the day in order to get work done. As a software developer I could probably cut my hours per day and produce the same amount of output. As a waiter my productivity (and earnings) was dependent on customers showing up to the restaurant. If I only worked 6 hours instead of 8, or 4 days instead of 5, then I served fewer customers and earned fewer tips.

Do they? Retail is definitely subject to fairly predictable rush periods. All the while I was working at an electronics retailer, where my job was as much to educate or guide as sell, I wondered why we didn't have "sales hours" that were fully-staffed, and in between, some sort of remote assistance, where we would be on-call to help people out through video calls. When half your job is simply pointing people to items, why actually be there? And for the people who want to know about products, like the gentleman who wants to buy a full home theater set-up, shouldn't we be fresh and ready for them, not dragging after 8 hours of telling people where power cords are?

And, of course, we're paid the same or more, as we're making the company the same amount of money, if not more.

There is certainly room for innovation that makes sense for productivity AND for worker morale. But the people making the decisions are risk-averse and don't have to deal with the downsides of their heel-dragging.

There's an easy solution when workers are required to be present... don't make all the employees work at the same time. Need more hours of productivity? Hire more people.

Also, as a waiter, your wages should not be paid by the customers. Tips are bullshit, and the rest of the world knows this. You should be paid a fair hourly wage.

>There's an easy solution when workers are required to be present... don't make all the employees work at the same time. Need more hours of productivity? Hire more people.

And now you've increased overhead and labor costs for these companies significantly while reducing the pay of the average worker (are cashiers going salary now?) I don't see how that works for anyone.

I think the person meant that presence is a core component of the job, and reduced presence is on its own a reduced work output.

Yes, for years. It has nothing to do with hard or easy; the business doesn't function without you there. Comparing that to a job like ours makes no sense. Hours worked is directly correlated with output, unlike engineering.

Hours worked matters in software when the project is so mismanaged that there are regular emergency situations. Someone “has to” be around for those events.

There are too many places that function like a firehouse and hours in seat matter at those places.

Of course people need to be present or available for emergency situations, I think everyone understands that.

I think you missed the point.

The sort of people who want you in your seat 50 hours a week are often compensating for the other ways they're mismanaging resources.

I invite you to go work full time at your local big box store. Especially in Building Materials. Or Flooring perhaps. Yes, alot of retail is "hurry up and wait" on the front end, but in other departments there's literally tons of work that happens throughout the day and you'll never notice it if you're not there 40 hours a week.

Then we agree; hours worked in a job like that directly correlates to production or a butt in the seat is required at all times.

No, you statement was that "Many jobs are "warming a chair". Pretty much all of retail and service jobs."

Actually talking and helping customers isn't "warming a chair" any more than loading lumber or unloading appliances or working up quotes for custom orders.

Amazon did 60-hour weeks at the start, and paid the equivalent of $3/hour. If you create an "elite" culture, ironically, you can sucker employees into working for peanuts.

Fortunately, the Labour Party doesn't control businesses and every company is free to negotiate whatever contracts it feels like within the law, so a subset, such as 4 days instead of whatever the legal maximum is is perfectly possible.

Is this entirely true? A lot of state benefits are linked to hours worked, e.g. if you don't work full time, you might not get full state pension, employement insurance, etc... (Although admittedly these benefits are quite minmal in the UK, at least for London.)

Also some professions require so many FTE years experience to progress with professional qualifications (or maintain?).

I know a nurse that needs to do a minimum of 35 hours a week so that they can get full-time experience so that they can meet requirements for the next job.

There is a minimum to qualify - unfortunately a lot of employers game the system with Zero hours contracts.

> Unless your definition of work is warming a chair.

Breaking news: Electrically heated seats puts millions out of work.

“AI causes unemployment nightmare.”

> Yikes, that sounds depressing.

Perhaps - but more depressing is losing a high paying job and earning a minimum wage with no hope of living a comfortably life, in that local context. Taken it out of context makes it further apart from the true meaning.

Success has no shortcuts - it requires 100k+ hours of hard working and perseverance. Working leisurely is for the folks that are already prosper (read: take a look at Microsoft employees' avg. salaries.)

Working less and living a good life? No, you can't have it both ways, unless you're already rich.

> Success has no shortcuts - it requires 100k+ hours of hard working and perseverance. Working leisurely is for the folks that are already prosper (read: take a look at Microsoft employees' avg. salaries.)

Working leisurely is for companies that have a culture that encourages it and nothing more.

I don't consider myself rich (although this is kind of a relative measurement), but I definitely work leisurely and make enough money to buy a house, car, etc.

I also took a lot of shortcuts, like dropping out of college. People CAN and DO have it both ways without already being rich and that should be the standard for society going forward. We should always strive to improve the experience of workers.

> Working less and living a good life? No, you can't have it both ways, unless you're already rich.

As someone else said... why not? This isn't some immutable law of the universe.

12 hours days, six days a week is not a "comfortable life".

I've never had a job where I had to work more than 5 days and/or 40 hours a week. I did well in school, found a job that values work life balance, and have gone from security intern, to associate security engineer, and finally to security engineer over a 4 year period. It may not be a "high paying job" compared to someone who worked at FAANG, but I have been able to purchase a house and save for retirement in the years since I've graduated college all without ever having to kill myself by working a ridiculous amount of hours.

You can absolutely have it both ways

Why not?

I hate to burst the bubble here, but everyone I know at Microsoft Japan is still working at least a 5-day week.

It's just that they don't come into the office on the 5th day.

This is actually probably the key result from this experiment. Working at home that 5th day, allows workers, especially in Japan, where people feel a huge obligation to just hold down a chair even if there isn't work to be done, to work flexibly in a manner that works for them.

I’ve been working from home on Fridays at my current job for awhile now. I’m finding I’m vastly more productive on the days I work from home. That might be because I don’t have to commute, people aren’t bothering me, or whatever.

Even if they are still working the 5th day from home, it’s still a better trade off than having to be in the office 5 days per week.

That being said, 4 day work weeks would be great and I’m sure people would be just as productive, if not more so, as they are now.

I'm a big fan of non-traditional work schedules but I think it takes strong leadership to implement well.

At one company, I noticed Fridays were probably the least productive day as people would take breakfast breaks immediately upon showing up, extra long lunch breaks etc. Everybody was itching for the weekend. When they moved to 4 day work weeks, that same mentality just shifted to Thursday. Leadership wasn't good about holding people accountable and then suffered enormous backlash at the mere idea of moving back to a 5 day workweek to help meet the mission goals.

I guess the moral is to ensure there are at least good management practices in place. Shorter workweeks aren't necessarily a productivity panacea.

They only tested a 4-day workweek for 4 weeks.

I was part of a similar test at a previous employer. We switched to a 4-day workweek for a few months. We were warned that management would be watching our productivity closely during the trial period.

You bet we worked incredibly hard during that trial period. Everyone was working long hours to get everything done early. Ironically, some people even worked Saturdays during the trial period. No one wanted to be the person who fell behind and ruined the four day workweek trial period for everyone else.

Employees are smart. If their management says they can have an extra 52 days off each year if they nail productivity during a 4-week trial period, of course they're going to be ultra productive for those 4 weeks.

In fact, although it's not super-common, some US companies have official "summer hours" where they maintain a nominal 40-hour week but Friday is a half-day or off entirely (maybe every second week). TBH, part of the theory is that a lot of people take short days on Friday anyway, especially in areas where a lot of people want to beat the weekend traffic to the beach/coast/mountains.

And if it's going to tend to happen informally anyway, it's probably fairer to make it an official policy for everyone.

That said, I personally mostly lean towards more vacation days I can take together rather than every week being shorter.

I'm not surprised. The only empirical evidence we have for a practice that increases productivity and reduces errors, across all forms of knowledge-based work, is sleep and low stress.

As I understand it the only reason we have a 5-day, 8-hour work week is because North American rail workers' labor unions struck for it. Because workers, over tired, were losing limbs and dying on the job. It's not because it's the optimal work week for managing teams of knowledge workers.

What I am surprised by is how long it has taken the MBAs and suits to realize this.

Wasn’t it Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union of America?

It was long fought for and many parties were involved. I'm a little light in reading on the subject but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day#United_States seems fairly thorough.

Something I've noticed about the culture of "work through midnight if that's what it takes" is how much work gets thrown away. I worked at a few places with this culture (startup and established), and it seemed entirely normal for something to be the most urgent thing ever at 9pm and then, "actually, we've decided to approach it differently" the next morning.

I think this is because the impact of an error of commission is low. The worst that happens is people work a bit later, and since they're always working later... well, it's fine to build things that don't need building and have meetings about things that aren't happening. Nobody worries about wasting time because it's just pushing work into a buffer that is treated as infinite. But with limited incentive to select high-value work, it's easy to fall into a trap of working 12+ hour days entirely on low-value stuff.

"Go home on time" cultures are forced to prioritise to be effective. If you know you're going to shut down the laptop with tasks unfinished, you have to make a choice on which tasks you're willing to accept not getting done today. In this situation there is a significant impact of an error of commission, because it means something more important not getting done. IME this results in higher-value work overall, because the organisational instinct tends toward scrutinising everything to see if it's worth doing, not just the things which will take you past 5pm.

I've not been fortunate enough to work somewhere with a 4 day week, only places with generous working hours, but my feeling is it would be a further improvement on this. (Especially since with more free time, people are not going to assign such a high importance to doing their finances, keeping track of Reddit, daydreaming about DIY or any of the other thousands of things people in long-hours cultures do on company time).

While I really appreciate the conclusion and goals of the study, I wonder how accurate this test really is. Imagine your boss told you, "we are going to test out 4 hour work weeks". You are naturally going to be productive during the entire experiment because you want to keep the 4 day week. If left as a permanent perk for longer than a year, does productivity slink back down below the 5 day?

This is called the Hawthorne Effect [0], which has also been criticized for not being rigorously measured.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect

Great question. No study is going to answer this sufficiently. But, remember history. The generation that goes through war remembers that hell and appreciates the following peace because they know the contrast. The following generations generally don't have this anchor. It makes intuitive sense when it's framed in basic mammal psychology, which is how we tend to act, despite attempts to ascribe higher meaning.

There's no reason to rely on imperfectly controlled-for studies when we can generally predict a compounding chain of essentially true things.

Furthermore, less work is more freedom and is preferable, whatever the rationalization of the era is.

We'll probably all be better off when we see tenacious belief in "work ethic" as Stockholm Syndrome's cousin, and realize we're still getting things done because we want to be creative and useful.

Also novelty could play into it, but then again also people don't like change.

I've been working 4d/week for the past 2 years as a software engineer, and it would be very hard for me to go back to a full time position.

I'm pretty sure I'm making more right now compared to how much I was when working full time.

I explain this by having had more time to become a better engineer, as I've been able to spend time on side projects (learning new things), distancing myself from my professional duties (thus avoiding unnecessary/inefficient work), and recovering better during the weekends. Exercising more probably helped a lot too.

Overall, I deeply think that more small tech companies should start offering 4d/week positions, as it will make them able to compete against bigger companies that can offer bigger compensations. Most of the best programmers I know would happily trade a 15% net income reduction for an additional day off. This is also reflected by how popular such articles get on Hacker News or Reddit.

As a side note, part time work for white-collar positions is already very common in the Netherlands[1], and the country if one of the richest in the world.


[1] https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2015/05/11/...

There's a sub-set of engineers who would provide serious value (to employers) by having regular 20% freetime to work on what they wanted.

I sorta "steal" (do without asking permission) 10% of time to work on what I want (stuff not PM sanctioned bugs/features), and not only is it GREAT for mental health, it often turns out to be greatly appreciated by others at work. There's always stuff that many people wish for but never gets prioritized. Or just me cross-training myself in other languages and frameworks so I can support a larger set of code-bases also provides a lot of value.

But not everyone works like this. Many people just take any extra slack they can get and use it to chill. :shrug:

This is a partial copy of my previous post re reduced work hours: A German startup that develops websites, apps and e-commerce platforms (Rheingans Digital Enabler), has a five-hour day work policy. Employees come to work at 8am (apparently 8am is not even strictly enforced) and leave at 1pm. Apparently productivity is kept up by cutting out the fat - cell phones are turned off, company emails are checked only twice a day and meetings are kept to 15 mins. The company was profitable in 2018, its first full year in business. A San Diego startup (Tower Paddle Boards) experimented with five-hour workdays and after two years limited it to the summer months only. This is all reported in the WSJ.

I think an important point to consider in this discussion for the US is that when you look at GDP / productivity growth since the 70s alongside median wages, there's been a large steady growth in our output despite mostly stagnant wages. At this point a 4 day week rightly should be the norm, because if we're not going to be compensated for the growth we create we should be getting our time back.

Anyone working at MSFT know if the work hours vary according to your country? e.g. If you are in the US, do you punch in at 9 and go home at 5? how about Europe? If you transfer offices from Seattle USA, to say, London UK, do you suddenly get more vacation days due to EU standards?

I hear Japan has cultural practices where workers are supposed to remain in the office until the boss goes home. Was it like this at MSFT before they tried the 4-day a week experiment? Or were they doing a Westernized 9-5 gig? Which in that case, would probably already be viewed as a 'dream' lifestyle to normal overworked Japanese citizens.

You don’t punch anything in MSFT US. Work hours are completely flexible. You just have to meet the deadlines and show up to the meetings.

Interesting. In some European countries time tracking for employee working hours(punching in) is mandatory by law for positions with flexible working hours for insurance purposes.

IE: Did you sprain your ankle/fall off your bike during work hours or private time? If it was during work time then it's a working accident and you get all necessary treatment and long term recovery paid by the insurance. If it's during private time then it's on you and your insurance covers standard treatment but some lengthy recovery and physiotherapy costs may come out of your pocket.

Salaried ones? or low level office jobs like a clerk.

All of them.

> If you transfer offices from Seattle USA, to say, London UK, do you suddenly get more vacation days due to EU standards?

Yes, this is how it works. When I moved from California to the Midwest while working at Microsoft, I had to be paid out accrued vacation because California requires employers to keep accruing vacation time, while other states allow companies to put a cap on it.

It’s somewhat common in oil companies to offer salaried employees a 9/80 schedule. The employee works 80 hours in 9 days and gets every other Friday off. Typically people are split into A and B crews so half the office is in on any given Friday. I enjoyed this scheme for two reasons: 1) every other weekend being three days long is magical and 2) even on your Fridays on, you can usually work meeting-free since half the office is out.

> The technology giant said it was planning to implement a second Work Life Choice Challenge this winter but would not be offering the same "special leave".

Given the benefits to the organization, wonder why the repeat experiment will not have the "special leave" benefit.

I'm interested in hearing from business owners.

For those of you who own businesses with employees -- how do you feel about 4-day work weeks? Would it be practical for your own companies?

I think it is good for Microsoft and others to begin experimenting with changing the default work arrangement. This may give them a significant advantage moving forward.

By 2030 all "baby boomers" will be older than 65. These people will need to be cared for on a scale that we have never encountered before.

Companies will need to find a way to continue to conduct business while the workforce contends with caring for the aging population. Work-at-Home, Flex Schedule, and 4 Day Weeks and other things that are currently seen as perks can all become part of a core solution to that problem. Companies can essentially beta the potential solutions as a perk today.

I wouldn't be surprised to see elder care benefits start to appear in company benefit packages as well. Currently parental/birth benefits are a distinguishing factor in HR circles and gaining traction. I expect elder care benefits to take a similar course as caring for the aging population increases in burden.

I'm all for less work mostly but where is the medium. If they had done 3 days a week would their productivity jump another 25%? Two days a week? One? I'll bet at zero they have infinite productivity?

For me often my day is just busy. Update that library, write test, ask for review, start updating deps for if/when review passes. review passed. put in CI queue. Made through que. Submit deps version bump for review. Review approved, add to CI. Oh oh something broke. repeat. Entire days are just busy work. Working less hours would not remove the busy work or make it more productive. Maybe it's a bad workflow.

In any case yes , would love to work less hours but still questioning where the optimum is. Why 4 days? Why 8hrs? Why not 2 days for 2hrs etc... Is 4 only special in relation to 5? Is it 4 on 3 off or would 2 on 1 of 2 on 2 off be better? Or On Off On Off On Off Off. Is 6hrs better? 4? 10?

I'd love to see them do an experiment that compressed hours per day instead of days per week. I used to do consulting around the world for an American software company and Japan is the only place where I saw people straight up fall asleep in meetings. When I asked my hosts about this phenomenon they thought for awhile and then attributed it to a culture of "presence", which was basically a layered phenomenon of trying to be in the office before (and/or stay later than) other workers in your hierarchy. Seems this was a more obvious thing to measure than productivity since your boss notices precisely when you come in or leave. Tack on long commute times and pretty soon the workday has expanded to the point where getting enough sleep is physically impossible.

Very skeptical about these kinds of studies that claim great productivity gains by cutting work hours by significant amounts. What is the cut-off point here? Why not make it a 3-day week and get even more productivity gains? Obviously, there are diminishing returns, what are they?

And how do they differ per industry? I can tell you right now, the vast majority of jobs do require the current hourly investment (and then some). Are there industries that would see productivity gains from a 6-day or 7-day workweek (not that we want to change to that schedule - but it's worth a contrast)? Many businesses will pay out over time even though it means paying out 1.5x or 2x or even 2.5x base pay - they aren't stupid. Clearly, there is SOME benefit.

Reminds me of another post (3 hours but everyday) by indie app developer with a good discussion on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11277033

I would please a 4days/8hrs instead of 5 days, but keeping the same pay.

The situation is still a win/win for the employer, since my increased productivity makes more profits and therefore salaries can be kept equal (or increased, if sales go up)

I'd rather have a concept where some hours of the day or some day(s) of the week are considered "no meeting hours/day." I feel we waste a huge of amount of time meeting with "stakeholders" trying to get consensus and establish "sync" and deliver "status." I purposefully blow some meetings off and ask for meeting notes instead of sitting 30mins/hour long meetings. May be its just me but I strongly feel there needs to be less meetings. I have started to block my calendar two-three hours everyday that I use to auto reject meetings, turn of slack and focus on deep work.

Extrapolating from my laziness, people will get used to 4 days and productivity will drop eventually. People presumably only work harder to achieve the change they want to see, namely fewer workdays.

Somewhat tangential, but I've been waiting for one of the Democratic candidates for President to bring up the 4-day work week as an campaign issue and extol the benefits of such a proposal. Labor unions and Democrats have achieved rights for workers in the past similar to the '4-day work week', so why not push for it? I legitimately don't know - is it because corporate lobbyists would frown upon it? Assuredly though, such a proposal would have bipartisan support among voters.

A minimum statutory holiday allowance might be easier to sell than a 4 day week.

It would also boost internal tourism so would have that advantage as well

"During the month-long trial, electricity consumption had been reduced by 23% and paper printing by 59% compared with August 2018, Microsoft said."

Oh I think MS didn't say that. [1]

Paper and electricity was compared to August 2016, as far as I can see from the image.

Actually they look like on the trend line.

[1] https://pbs.twimg.com/card_img/1189857355908833280/Pz8s9574?...

Upstart companies can compete with such employers by offering workplace flexibility. They can score deals on highly qualified personnel for whom 40 hour workweeks are not feasible.

I'm helping out aging parents. I can do that, and keep my skills up, and have a life, if I work 4 days a week or less. That's what I negotiated at my last gig — but it was with a great small company and not one of the typical major employers where 40 hour workweeks are a baseline requirement.

Probably because I have no children and I am not weekend-traveler but I really don't get why some people are so excited about 4 days week. My utilization of hours during weekends is horrible. What I find attractive is idea of working less hours during normal week. Having one more hour at the end of the day sounds way better for me. Moreover from productivity perspective I believe it's better too because nobody is working 8 hours with maximum productivity.

Japan Microsoft * 2018/06 => 2019/06 Sales +32% * Operational profit & profit ratio is worse y by y. 2018/06 => 2019/06: -26%

Selling products by low price is meaningless. Productivity should be measured by profit per employee, not sales per employee.


I have found working from home just one day every two weeks or so relieves me of a ton of stress and greatly helps the rest of the working days in a week. It’s not about working one less day but giving me the freedom to relax and work in my own environment.

We tried a three day week in the UK, 1974, during the oil crisis.

I vaguely remember seeing articles, that I now cannot find, that claimed that the forty percent reduction in days worked resulted in much less than a forty percent reduction in production.

There was a decent BBC documentary about this fairly recently. From memory the 40% reduction in working hours caused low single digit drop in productivity. Wouldn't be surprised to find if it were repeated without all the personal impacts that the three day week brought to find productivity rise markedly.

Here's a government pdf on productivity. The three day week doesn't stand out on any of the graphs, it's just lost in the regular variation.


I think what if this kind of post will be get more upvotes? I believe companies will eventually move down the shorter work week path when they find its actually productive. I believe 4-day week companies will attract great talents.

This is partly a function of Japan. They have rock-bottom productivity, and very long working days. It is very difficult to actually stop employees working 12-hour days there so knocking off a day makes perfect sense.

8 days per week. 5 days of work. The calendar has been conspiring against us.

If offered 4 days a week (8 hours/4 days) it sounds like a lot of people would join a new company. I would jump in a heartbeat.

Why aren't smaller startups already using this tactic to lure away "talent"?

The part I don't get is they tried this experiment, claim phenomenal results and then just went back to doing the usual? If it worked so well wouldn't you keep doing it?

I would love a four day work week, but I don't think my child's daycare would be up for that. It's hard enough getting my child picked up by closing time as it is.

provides new opportunities for daycares that will.

Maybe I'm wrong but I have the feeling that the increment in productivity is due more to the restrictions in meetings' length than the 4-days weeks per se.

If this was viable for the bottom line, all businesses will be doing it. Idk what the point of these feel-good posts are every year.

In my experience most companies don't even measure worker performance metrics so how can they even make a rational decision to improve their bottom line? Many companies can tell you how much money they saved by implementing an open office plan and squishing more people into a smaller area, but very few can tell you the cost of having more disruptions, more noise, more context switches, and less privacy. Companies are very good at optimizing their costs (open office, hiring temp contractors, curing budgets), but many companies do a poor job optimizing for worker performance.

It would be nice if HN could tag commenters with ceo, mgr, lead, worker titles to see the distribution of support.

Honestly I’d rather have this over unlimited vacation.

(This is a duplicate of a story posted this past weekend. I want to copy my comment from it for greater visibility.)

Fuck everything about 5 day work weeks.

I'll gladly switch to any job that offers a 4 day work week. It's one of the best perks.

As someone with ADHD, work days are entirely spent getting work done. There isn't any extra slack or allotment for personal tasks. They're 100% owned by the employer.

Weekends offer barely enough time to catch up with chores. There isn't enough time both to catch up and still have fun. I use vacation time to catch up on chores, so that's spent too.

I don't want to spend most of my life working. I feel like a slave, and now my youth is almost gone.

I don't care if it's a 10hr/4day schedule or a 9hr/4day 8hr/4day with less pay, I want an extra day for myself. I'm an excellent engineer aside from my ADHD quirks, and I'll go anywhere that offers this where I live.

My own startup (I almost have the capital for a long runway) will be 9hr/4day.

Fuck everything about 5 day work weeks.

Please don't copy/paste comments on HN. Threads are supposed to be conversations. In conversation, people don't play recordings of previous conversations.


> In conversation, people don't play recordings of previous conversations.

Although, sometimes we wish we could.

TBH I get 90% of my work done in the first 4-5 hours at work and then my productivity drops of significantly. When I was an independent roofing contractor me and my employees only worked in good conditions and only worked 4 days a week. I always paid them for 40 hours. I did really well as an independent contractor despite the offset in time.

Do you mind me asking why you got off of it? Housing downturn?

Not OP, but that is quite a physically demanding job with alot of time in the sun.

Bad on the back and knees, high risk of falling, strokes from heat for older roofers, and the careless ones start throwing hammers around. (I'm not a roofer, but used to be a jack of all trades that sometimes did roofing alongside actual roofers.)

No one wants to roof forever. It's hard and dangerous.

Yes as other have stated the profession is rather hard on your body. I suffered some serious back problems as a result of the manual labor and decided to peruse my interests in engineering instead.

We do 4-day (32 hour) work weeks at Monograph, and we've been doing it for 3 years now. I believe we're one of the only companies in SF that are advocates for working less, but more productively.

Similar to Microsoft, we only have one 45-min meeting each week and then everything else is heads down work.

To maintain efficiency, we also have strict Slack protocols in place to keep everyone in deep work throughout the day. (No @ or DMs, everyone checks Slack at 11am and 4pm).

The major downside so far has been customer support, which the founders still manage to maintain our response rate.

Oh and we're hiring! If you're frontend engineer and like 4-day weeks + side projects, reach out directly moe@monograph.io


Re customer support: A company-wide four-day week doesn't mean that everyone has to work the same four days. Actually, there might be people who'd prefer their weekend to be Sunday to Tuesday for some obscure reason.

The team behind Todoist came out with a product called Twist, meant for more async and productivity focused approach and directly going against Slack distractions. I wonder if there are companies who have tried it in a bit bigger scale or why isn't Twist more known?

Thanks for the suggestion, it does seem like a compelling product. Your same questions about working at a bigger scale also give me pause to move our team off of Slack.

Will you consider people from London who would need a H1B?

right on.

...as though the 7th through 10th hours of those days will be the same quality as the first 6. We do not need to assume that a 40-hour work week must be preserved in order to cut the work days per week to 4.

A 6 hour x 4 day work week is 75% the regular work day and 80% of the regular work week, but I bet it gets a lot more than 60% of the regular work done. That is largely cutting out the unproductive "slack time", and giving it back to the employees so they don't have to look busy when they are already spent for the day/week.

If you need to squeeze more out of the workforce, please hire more employees, and worry less about their specific "qualifications". Instead, spend more on management recruiting. Get managers who can coordinate the efforts of people working together asynchronously. Just like asynchronous programming, it takes a little bit more skill than just managing everyone together in the same office location, at the same time, doing the "manager walk" and demanding status reports and status meetings. And employees are universally happier with managers that are more skilled at management.

Don't sell yourself short. The economy could support everyone working four 8-hour days or five 6-hour days at the same pay (or, rather, with the same median pay, better distributed) as now. Our productivity gains over the past 4 decades prove it.

People who want to work more should be able to, but we generally need a massive reevaluation of what work in America is worth, in favor of labor. We're giving up way too much because we're afraid.

> People who want to work more should be able to, but we generally need a massive reevaluation of what work in America is worth, in favor of labor.

We also need a reevaluation of what work is worth, in terms of self-worth and position in society. We're too far on the side of "you are your job" (and its less-savory friend "your net worth is your worth").

Out of curiosity, why do you feel it necessary to use a throwaway? I echo your thoughts entirely and feel strongly enough about them to attribute them to my name.

I think we (as a society/industry) need to start publicly having this discussion.

ADHD is considered a mental illness. That's why.

Thanks for taking the time to create a throwaway to share. I get why people hide what society has deemed "mental illness." It requires powerful people that are non-normative to be open about their unique condition for these conditions to be widely understood to be something folks should want on their team rather than something to blacklist.

Yes - it can have that stigma. ADHD is present, however, in many entrepreneurs. It can also be a hindrance in SaaS startups, I'm mentioning it as a help. Pre-plan to have someone help with the details and keep someone on track. You either focus on opportunity, or have a project manager.

I am not ADHD/ADD, but have interacted with a few in this situation..

As someone with ADHD, this is strikes me as overblown. I certainly wouldn’t require dedicated personnel to compensate for my ADHD. Especially if medicated.

You're not trying to get a startup off the ground - with a personality that squirrels every 5 mins. That is a distinct difference. SaaS are marathons of grit and will.

I don’t mean to be rude, but you don’t know what I’m working on :). Anyway I agree that adhd posses obstacles and I’ll consider your advice to avoid some of them should I be in the situation you’ve outlined

and as someone undiagnosed, but very probably with it too, someone with less variable productivity than me, and in the same time not my manager, would be of enormous value to me. That shouldn't be a "dedicated personnel", as an assistant or whatever, but project manager for example would be helpful for other people too. I'll certainly try to have such an arrangement at some point.

For what it's worth, the people I know that have ADHD tend to be very quick at picking up stuff when they can focus on it (i.e. it interests them). I have a pretty healthy opinion of my capabilities, and I do feel a bit awed at points.

Regardless of how it's classified, I tend to think of it more as just a different way the mind works, and not necessarily an inferior one (even if our society seems to make it harder to thrive at a young age when that's how your mind works[1]). Given the number of people I've seen that seem to leverage this aspect of how they function to good success as adults, I definitely wouldn't consider it a disability.

1: My daughter has ADHD and takes medication because the structure of school and the constraints it puts on the people in it doesn't really allow for other options that don't result in her failing or one of her parents devoting ourselves to her education. I have complex feelings about this, but believe it's beneficial at least for now.

So? There's nothing wrong with mental illness. For the record I also have ADHD.

You're right that there's nothing wrong with it, but not everyone thinks like that.

Because people like their privacy and not everyone is a advocacy warrior.

Slightly off topic, but I was just thinking about how when I was young, I was under the impression that most of my work week would be showing up on time, and doing work for roughly 40 hours a week.

In my 10+ years of office experience I never even come close to 20 hours of actual work in a week, even if I was there for 40-60 hours. Usually, half the time or more was dedicated to office politics and making people who need to constantly socialize feel good about themselves with various meetings and team-building exercises and chit-chat. During one particularly bad period of time, work often only happened the little gap between morning meetings and noon because certain people would come back from lunch pissed out of their minds and make it impossible for anyone to do anything. I never had a problem with the actual work, but the non-work I was putting most of my time and effort into was exhausting and lead to long bouts of depressions.

Now that I'm freelancing from home, with no commute and no babysitting egos, not only am I spending most of my work time on work, but the time I do spend is about 10x more productive, due to lack of office (and commute) stress.

Worked 4 x 9 at one job, so only 36 hours. Would have gladly worked 4 x 10 for the joy that having a day off added to my life.

I'm with you, though I'd go further and say that 3 day work week is probably the maximum I could be content with. I'd gladly trade half my salary for half my work hours back.

I worked at Chevron when they were first toying with 4/40s and 9/80s. The firm decided people could either choose Monday or Friday off. It was glorious! Suddenly 40% of the schedule was free of meetings since there was no way to get a quorum on Monday or Friday.

Your own startup will probably be 12hr/7day until it's funded or otherwise self-sufficient.

It could be 9hr/4day, and you will do that until you run out of capital after 1800 work hours.

OK don't get mad - just work remotely

Be careful starting a startup. It will be hard to find an investor willing to invest in a company whose founder only works 4/7 days a week

Guilt tripping much? Also, that work ethic attitude isn't exactly healthy, just a chimera confusing bullheadedness with productivity.

Not every startup seeks investors

Not everyone wants to be a CEO.

Sounds more like a lifestyle business strategy.

I understand this thinking. I think, though, that the more we understand about cognition (and sleep and health in general and its impact on thinking), the more we'll tend toward somewhat lighter hours (more like 30-40 hours a week even in a startup situation). Not because we can get away with it, but because the output is actually superior.

From a business strategy standpoint, my experience has been that sometimes companies try to compensate for poor strategy by piling on the hours. To me, it's like trying to do push ups to solve math problems faster.

Similarly, I have noticed that strategic structural soundness is vastly more important than hours worked. When the structure is there, all your efforts are leveraged many times over such that, effectively, 30 hours a week becomes more like 300.

Hard work is important and satisfying but duration is not the real measure we should look at, imo.

You're going to have a startup that doesn't demand life-consuming overtime? I find that hard to believe.

I know plenty of non unicorn startup founders that don’t work overtime, and they net about $1Mm per year. Sure, not a path to billionaire status, but not too shabby either.

That doesn't sound like a startup. It sounds like they are running a lifestyle business, which isn't a bad thing.

Startups, by definition, try to scale up quickly..which means lots of money (investors) and lots of time (overtime and long hours).

Show me a definition of startup from a reputable source that claims that scaling up quickly is a requirement. All companies start off by being a startup [0]

[0] - https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/startup.asp

I don't understand this point of view.

Developers generally agree that it's better to spend some time writing tests, as even if it increases our latency in the small term, it will improve output it in the long term.

Yet, we also seem to think that it's totally fine to sacrifice mental and physical being for the sake of short term gains instead of long term ones?

I am not saying one should not do the occasional push, but surely as a founder it's better to work 40 hours a week and keep yourself sane, than push yourself into burn out after 1 year of 70h/week and no holidays?

Not everyone thinks of the same thing when they think startup. I think the main difference is that some people also include starting a lifestyle business, or a business that's much less ambitious in scope than being a globally known name. There's nothing wrong with a business that employs less than 20 people, and nothing that necessarily means it has to grow.

I find that hard to believe.

Only because you've surrounded yourself with people that don't know any other way to do it. Find more creative people to hang out with.

So... stop hanging around ycombinator? no u

>I don't want to spend most of my life working. I feel like a slave

I've never understood this line of thinking. Providing for yourself is being a contributing member of the species, work is a means of providing for yourself. For all of human history you've either had to get up every day and go be productive bringing resources in or you had to depend upon someone else to do it for you.

I see this "working is slavery" attitude constantly in /r/leanfire and other personal finance subs and I just don't get it. Every single thing you use required labor to come into existence. Your phone, your computer, where you live, the clothes you are wearing, the food you eat, all of that required human labor to produce.

Worse, I often seen the 'work is slavery' form 6-figure salary types (at least in /r/leanfire) that have great benefits and are griping they won't be able to retire by 35 or from people that are on their first job (usually retail) and think it is unfair they can't sit at home playing video games and having all their needs met.

This sort of mentality can't be good for the future of mankind. Sitting in an air conditioned building, listening to spotify, while you decide if you want to go get the catered lunch or sit in your cubicle while you screw around on HN/reddit and pretend to work is NOT slavery.

If you genuinely feel this way, go get a job throwing trucks/planes in the dead of summer or go get a landscaping job for a few weeks. Seriously, go get a manual labor job part time on the weekends and realize there are people doing that 40, 50, 60 hours a week all year long.

Go tell someone from the 1950s, 1850s, 1750s, 1650s how hard you have it and how bad it is having to sit at a computer all day in a climate controlled building. They'd look at you in utter disbelief and beg you to tell them how to have such a wonderful life.

I've had a job since I was 12 and working full time since the day I turned 18. I'm grateful that I get to work, grateful that I am able to provide for myself, grateful that I do get to sit a desk and am no longer humping a backpack full of diesel weed eating and digging graves. I'll take sitting at a monitor over getting sunburn to the point of blistered skin from being outside working all day with no cover any day.

I am overwhelmingly more productive and valuable now as a specialized, highly educated, experienced engineer than I would have been as a subsistence farmer. As a result of my efforts and the efforts of the rest of society, I have a much higher standard of living.

However, I can't truly pick when I want to work. There are no jobs in my area that pay 80% of my current rate for the same task done 4 days a week.

If a job was truly an even exchange of value between employer and employee, I would expect to see some people working 7 days a week and making 40% more than me, and some people working 3 day weeks and making 40% less. But aside from service workers with work on nights, weekends, and holidays, everyone in my city went to work in the dark this morning and will go home in the dark tonight.

I am not against trading labor for money - that's the point of a job. I am against trading freedom plus labor for money.

> There are no jobs in my area that pay 80% of my current rate for the same task done 4 days a week.

You can totally get this kind of flexibility as a self-employed contractor. The fact that you aren't just as easily allowed it as an employee is ultimately due to excess red tape in the paid-employment sector, nothing else. Every bit of red tape in the employment arrangement is an extra fixed cost that has to be paid-for somehow, meaning that the employee has to work that much more just to break even.

> If a job was truly an even exchange of value between employer and employee, I would expect to see some people working 7 days a week and making 40% more than me, and some people working 3 day weeks and making 40% less.

Why? There are plenty of concentration effects that go against this; e.g. it's better for everyone to work the same hours for communication reasons.

>I am overwhelmingly more productive and valuable now as a specialized, highly educated, experienced engineer than I would have been as a subsistence farmer.

I've got some news for you, many manual labor jobs aren't just picking up a shovel and digging a hole or picking up a box and setting it back down.

Your first sentence, to me, reads "I'm more valuable than you because I know thing, so I want more resources for less effort".

That is a perfectly reasonable sentiment. It is the essence of a specialization economy. Skills that bring more value to the market can take away more resources from it. From each according to ability; to each according to the best deal they could negotiate in exchange for their abilities.

One can state a fact without making it into a brag. Saying, "I get paid more than you" is not the same as saying, "I am a better person than you", despite the culture that the rich prefer to cultivate that equates the two. A person that gets paid $15/hour is the same amount of person as someone paid $100k/year. The latter is "more valuable" only in the economic, marketplace sense, and gets roughly 3x the resources for the same amount of labor, which likely does not involve work that requires separating ass from chair.

If you don't pay people more to acquire the difficult skills, they won't bother, except in rare cases.

Sorry, I didn't mean at all to suggest that I am a better person or have greater intrinsic value as a sentient being. My economic output is entirely decoupled from those moral or ethical concepts.

I was only saying the engineer version of myself adds greater resources to an economy than a hypothetical hunter-gatherer version of myself - who, being myself, obviously has equal moral worth.

>"I'm more valuable than you because I know thing, so I want more resources for less effort"

Congratulations you just described capitalism.

That's not even true - it's "I'm more valuable than you because I have more resources". That's literally it - sometimes it matches up with knowledge, but many times it doesn't.

Then go dig holes and make less money and he can continue on with his life. No one said an engineer was worth more than a ditch digger, just that an engineer is going to be economically better off. I'm an engineer who dug ditches in his youth but also took the time to go to school and put off having a family until it became economically viable to have one. Communism doesn't work it, it kills passion and leads to authoritarianism. Capitalism isn't going anywhere.

When you take a normal job you're submitting yourself to a tyranny. The only true power you have is the ability to quit, but depending on your circumstance, you may not even have that (seems most people don't). Plus, you quit and you'll just have to find a different tyranny.

That's how it is for most people anyway. Sure there's other options like starting a business or whatever, but those are restrictive in their own ways and aren't possible for most people.

There's no reason work needs to be structured in the tyrannical matter it is. Work could be democratic, but it's not.

Obviously work is necessary, but not _all_ work is, especially in today's world. Society as a whole is taking the path of working more in order to consume more, instead of working less and having more free time. It's hard to escape this. Most part-time jobs are minimum wage type jobs.

Consuming more vs working less is totally within an individual's control though. Current productivity is amazing, even with a relatively average salary (let's say $50k) it's completely possible to spend only a third to half of that if you don't have children. That means for every week you work you get 1-2 weeks of life with no work responsibilities.

You'll have to choose that though, it means you adjust the location where you live so that rent is reasonable, and it means not constantly buying new shit. Of course if you're working for an employer you more or less have to do what they tell you but I don't think there has been any time in history that it was this easy to earn your freedom.

I think you're wrong.

I make a typical SF software engineer salary and I live in a low cost of living area. The reality is that I still need about $3M to permanently stop working. Healthcare is expensive and the dollars that I'm making now will be worth much less later in life, even when prudently invested.

I'll probably be able to achieve independence by 40 or 45 instead of 55 or 65 because I have a low CoL and won't have kids. I'm very much looking forward to the freedom I'll have purchased for myself, but it's still an absurdly long time to wait to start living.

Until then, it's more pills and more work.

I have no idea how people manage to live fulfilling lives while still working 40+ hours a week, but I sure can't do it.

Do you mean that you don't expect the gains of investment to offset the losses from inflation? Because I would find that surprising.

$3M is a lot, typically the rule of thumb is that you need 25 years worth of living expenses to be financially independent. That means you expect to spend $120k yearly? That's up to you of course but that fits exactly in what I said about choosing how much you spend. My monthly expenses are currently < $1500 per month (for 2 people, in Sweden), and I think it's more likely that I will taper off working (work fewer hours, more fun but lower paying jobs) than that I will stop working altogether. That means $300-400k would probably be enough to provide a significant level of freedom especially once my girlfriend graduates and has an income as well.

My salary is far from an SF salary and I do work full-time but I find my work quite fulfilling. If it weren't I wouldn't have much difficulty finding work with more freedom for e.g. part-time employment.

The gains of investment can offset the losses from inflation, yeah, but I'd also be drawing down. The problem is that I might live longer than 25 years and I might not be able to work by that point.

I checked my math again with https://www.firecalc.com/

I would need about $50k/yr in expenses at present (adjusted for inflation in the future). If I'm planning for 50 years out, that means I need a portfolio of about $1.6M to have a high probability of being able to make it 50 years.

So not quite $3M, and maybe I could cut more expenses, but I think at least $1.5M in liquid assets is what I need. If by some miracle I can get a $1M payday when my current employer sells, then maybe I've got a chance at being done in the next few years.

If I could get my spending down to $30k/yr, which might be possible, then I could get away with $1M, but I'll still have to put in another 5 years or so to hit that $1M number.

Keep in my mind for US people, we have to buy our own health insurance, and if something medical goes wrong and you can't work, you can easily go bankrupt that way. There's such little safety net that I'd like to have more than I think I'll need.

5 more years of work to then have $30k/yr to spend basically indefinitely seems pretty good to me. Sounds to me like you can cut down on the pills and relax a bit ;) But yeah I get what you're saying about medical catastrophe.

Your entire post feels like a boomer meme. You're just telling people to be happy with their job, ignore feeling miserable, and how much worse they could have had it.

I want to hone in on the part about "all of human history".

I don't know if you've met tribes people or those living in agrarian societies, but while they do tend to have excellent work ethics and do a lot, they also tend to have _more_ down time and family time than someone working a 40 hour week, tilling fields is hard fucking work, maintaining all your own equipment and making things by hand is slow and laborious, but you do get to finish. Sometimes there's weeks that you're working every single day, but there's also seasons where you aren't.

Really, you can't understand it? You've never had to work long hours at an unfulfilling, repetitive job you hate just to pay the bills and survive without being able to save anything? You're lucky, a lot of people in the US are not so lucky.

Saying "just to pay the bills and survive" implies you are barely scraping by. We're still talking about 6 figure IT incomes correct? I think that's a little dramatic.

>Really, you can't understand it? You've never had to work long hours at an unfulfilling,

I've literally dug graves for a living.

I've thrown trucks for a living in 90F heat in 80%+ humidity.

I've worked 40 hours for a company and 40-50 hours a week for myself trying to get ahead some.

I've been working since I was 12 years old just to help make ends meet. Sitting at a desk doing 'unfulfilling, repetitive' work is the easiest thing I've ever done and I'd take it over every single other job I've ever had without hesitation. I get to sit in a temperature controlled office all day, I can go to the bathroom when I need to, I'm not in the heat/cold all day getting sun poisoning anymore, I have set hours with a reliable schedule and steady pay. It's amazing.

Have you ever dug two or more graves for one dead person, then filled in the ones that didn't actually get used for the interment?

Probably not. You wouldn't want to waste time on back-breaking labor that has no productive purpose, would you?

But the white-collar desk job does that every time it says "work 8 hours every day" while the worker consensus is that the 7th and 8th hour is mostly useless, and subsequent hours in the same day are often counterproductive.

If you spend 8 hours digging a grave by hand with a shovel, your muscles get tired. But if you do it long enough, the muscles get stronger, and you can dig graves for longer before getting fatigued. If you spend 8 hours a day thinking about difficult problems, your brain gets tired. If you do it long enough, you get smarter, but also burn yourself out, go slightly insane, and lose the ability do the job at all any more.

They're different kinds of cells. They have different physiological processes for maintenance and repair. Muscles don't sleep and flush with CSF; brains don't bulk up and add additional nuclei.

i think your argument of "just be happy that you're not in grueling conditions of working hard labor outside" doesn't really apply to the argument of "work less and be more efficient."

its the same argument of saying "yeah well someone in a insert 3rd world country has it way worse than you so your problems dont matter."

you need to step back and understand that people in white collar jobs are allowed to be miserable regardless of whether theyre breaking their back or not, and if that misery can be subsided by having an alternate schedule to work to produce efficiency, then why is that such a crazy ask? because that's just "the way things have always been done"? when was the last time that argument has ever worked out well?

>"work less and be more efficient."

This doesn't apply to MANY jobs, unless you're talking about replacing humans with robots with superior strength and agility that do not need to rest.

The majority of HN, and silicon valley types in general, are incredibly myopic. The vast majority of people here automatically assume everyone else in a thread works in CS, they assume everyone has a degree, they assume everyone hammers away at code in a comfy office all day.

The vast majority of the world is not sitting at a computer coding for 6 figure salaries with great benefits and profit sharing.

FYI im not downvoting you, but a large portion of the modern workforce (at least in the US) do have their asses in seats 9-5 at a desk. whether its administrative tasks, finance, law etc. there's a giant world out there aside from CS peeps, and im not even approaching it from the tech angle. either way, you havent addressed anything i mentioned except immediately indirectly attacking the people that visit these forums.

That makes sense, I can see why you appreciate your current job.

Why does that mean other people should feel the same way you do?

Agree. I love working for someone and not having to worry about sales, finding customers, etc. I don’t feel like a wage slave at all. I’m actually very happy with my choice in career and still love programming after decades.

You can contract for 4 days per week at plenty of employers. It's called a part-time job.

I'm gonna borrow OP's mindset for a second:

Fuck this.

In the United States the benefits of full time employment are mandatory if you want to live a much less stressful life. Tying benefits to employment has given employers far too much control over their employees lives, without a huge savings or secondary income source anyone without insurance is one bad day away from bankruptcy (and too many people /with/ benefits are as well).

If a 4 day work week lowers stress and increases productivity that much, I don't see why many industries shouldn't adopt it. And don't tell people that "You have a choice, just get a part time job instead". Thats not a choice, thats a financial death sentence.

The US economic system is broken in many ways and workers rights there are next to non-existent. It is also not the only country in the world and there are plenty of examples of how it can be done better.

If you want to change that start with changing how you vote, the two party system is broken beyond repair, the US would fare much better under a coalition government.

I agree with your sentiment regarding benefits in the U.S. Couldn't companies provide the important benefits (healthcare, 401k matching) to employees who worked a 4-day week as well?

One potential issue is that I think there are fewer legal requirements, but competitive employers already provide benefits that exceed the legal minima.

Employers should not be involved in the health care game at all. It should be a universal right provided by the government as it is in many other countries. This would lead to a healthier population as a whole. It would also lead to a reduction in costs associated with poor people who put off going to the doctor due to inability to cover even co-pay ending up in the emergency room and defaulting on a ~50k bill. In addition government could negotiate for vastly cheaper medications as they would essentially be the only game in town.

This would also allow industry to focus on what industry does which is make money. They no longer would have to spend on expensive Cadillac health care plans in order to compete for employees. Governments job is to keep its populace safe and healthy, that is not the job of private industry.

The only reason we don't have this is due to lobbyists.

My only question is why do employers have to be responsible for healthcare?

Retirement makes sense as this is your source of income. I feel that company resources would be better spent elsewhere than on healthcare.

This would, of course, require universal healthcare or direct market healthcare. This would help new businesses thrive, especially the "mom and pop" types.

I guess I am jaded on this as my parents lost their business when I was growing up due mainly to the cost of healthcare. Not all companies have monolithic budgets.

Well, Henry’s Ford and Kaiser were there before the govt was, and Sen. Edward Kennedy didn’t want to help Nixon with health care reform so Edgar Kaiser’s HMOs won out.

I doubt most Fortune 500 employees would support turning their company plans into some medicare-for-all. Next step would be turning Social Security over to Goldman Sachs.

Well, they could, but. Benefits, particularly health care, are very expensive for employers as well as employees, so employers, especially for lower wage work, look for ways to cut that. Not-quite-full-time is one way that's done.

Getting health insurance, whether public or private, out of the hands of employers is probably the single best thing that could be done for working conditions in America.


My understanding of the current law is benefits are mandatory for employees working more than 32 hours a week. I don't know what the rules are for exempt employees.

Which is the problem. We're trying to say we've generally exhausted our productive capabilities after 4 days of work per week, which is what this article was saying as well.

If I've contributed my maximum amount in 4 days rather than 5, it should not be called part time. Part time should be reserved for instances where you are indeed contributing less than a full amount per week, such that you could hold two part time jobs.

Well, if enough people do it then it will be full time. It's more about what is considered to be the norm than anything else, and of course you will get paid for four days, not five. But over time pay will go up again and then we can repeat the cycle with three days. The interesting question is not 6, 5 or 4 but what the lower limit is. I suspect still quite a bit lower than 4.

For the purposes of health care in the US, 30 hours is the threshold for full time. At my last gig I was 32 hours a week and considered a full time employee.

So the question is really why some employers insist on the full 40 rather than being open to a range from 30 to 40.

We should switch everyone to rolling weekends.

It makes no sense that everyone gets the same two days off. It is such a hassle scheduling doctors appointments, receiving repairmen, going to the DMV, etc. on a weekday.

The only reason we have the same two days off is for historical religious reasons. And a rolling schedule could still accommodate that for those who care.

For everyone else, just put them on a rolling schedule of five (or four) days of work per week, any days, with some predictability.

Russia tried this 90 years ago. It was awful.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_calendar#Five-day_weeks :

"Eighty per cent of each factory's workforce was at work every day (except holidays) in an attempt to increase production while 20% were resting. But if a husband and wife, and their relatives and friends, were assigned different colors or numbers, they would not have a common rest day for their family and social life. Furthermore, machines broke down more frequently both because they were used by workers not familiar with them, and because no maintenance could be performed on machines that were never idle in factories with continuous schedules (24 hours/day every day). Five-day weeks (and later six-day weeks) "made it impossible to observe Sunday as a day of rest. This measure was deliberately introduced 'to facilitate the struggle to eliminate religion'".[25]"

See also https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/11/why-don...

I broadly agree, but with one exception: I think it should be allowed to volunteer for alternate weekend days. Working on Sunday and Saturday should be totally fine for someone who is neither Catholic nor Jewish. My country is in the process of eliminating working Sundays, and it kinda forces people to do giant shoping on Saturday, while limiting leisure options on Sunday (no aquapark etc). That kind of opt-in should be fixed in the contract.

France too.

Rolling weekends are problematic because it limits all social events to the evening. If no one has a shared day off, then daytime events which involve groups of people aren't possible.

A 2-day weekend, with one day/half day off during the week for appointments, would be a much better system. The employee could select the day themselves to suit their preferences.

I presume almost everyone with school age children would, during term time at least, prefer to keep weekends as they are.

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