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In Praise of the 5-Hour Workday and Other ‘Radical’ Ideas (nytimes.com)
539 points by grzm 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 326 comments





I’m a really big fan of this movement towards shorter workweeks.

Personally, I enjoy working hard - usually more than 40 hours per week. But we should distinguish between working for others and working for oneself. Working for oneself can be education, passion work, or anything that energizes you. Working for others is also necessary for most people but reducing the weekly commitment gives people more freedom in their lives and makes them happier and more productive.

For some, the extra time away from work gives them the freedom to spend more time with their family or children, or spend more time on their hobbies. But ultimately it makes these people better contributing members of society.

One belief I certainly don’t agree with is the idea that working less for others makes you a lazy person or a less contributing member of society. People need free time to care for themselves and others, vote and participate in democracy, and do their laundry. We will be better off with less time committed to working for others.

And of course I cant help but plug 30 Hour Jobs here since it’s very much relevant: https://30hourjobs.com


Curious - if you are a knowledge worker and getting through your tasks in say 4 days, does your boss/company really care how you are spending remaining 1 day?

I often use company time to learn about new things that are related to my work, but not necessarily immediate tasks. For example - While working on a Java app, I will spend some time learning AWS or Kotlin. Not one person in the companies I have worked for ever told me off for doing that, most in fact encouraged it. My personal diary/notes suggests I spend between 25-30 hours/week doing actual tasks or attending meetings and remaining I spend socializing at work to build relationships which will help get things done for me or learning. This of course is average over a year, some weeks are more work heavy (even stretching to more than 40 hours) and some less so.

I have come to prefer it instead of shorter work week, which means same amount of work needs to be done in less number of sleep/break cycles, reducing the quality I produce. When I worked for myself, I used to work only 3-4 days a week and observed that in theory it sounds good, but my personal experience was, I was spending far less time subconsciously and output was not inline with my usual quality.


>... getting through your tasks in say 4 days...

In my experience, there is no such thing as "getting through your tasks", as you are expected to pick up more tasks from a never ending bucket of tasks [1]. Of course this varies from place to place, but is in general true. Your peers and managers are more likely to notice you leaving early, or "not working" on the Friday, than they are to notice you working your butt off on the previous 4 days, to be honest.

[1] Edit: this is because of the nature of knowledge work, and the difficulty in estimating duration of work, difficulty, and quality. If you finish early, the powers that be are more likely to attribute it to bad powers of augury as opposed to extra hard work. This might sound overly negative, but I have seen this consistently throughout a few decades of experience (yet, I still work hard... go figure).


Same, I've never worked anywhere (other companies, or my own after the first couple of years) where you could really be "done". There was always more to do if you finished the critical path tasks.

One of the most important changes for me, going from normal employment to self-employed, was no longer being paid by the hour. I don't know what it is about it but when I'm on the clock, all I can think about is the clock. I love being rewarded financially for being more efficient than expected and finishing early, and I love having the liberty to take a bit longer (and accept that it's not going to earn me more money) to get the job done right to my own satisfaction.


I work remote for a company that is very intentional in not asking for any specific hours or amount of time worked—business value delivered is the only thing we care about. Yet, I still find myself feeling the need to warm a chair (in my home office!) for 40ish hours per week. Part of it is still external pressure (my wife would have a hard time understanding if I was working less than "full-time"), but I also have to fight this internal conflict of defining "work" as "butt in seat" vs. "delivering business value". This despite the fact that I've worked salaried positions for the majority of my career.

Interesting. Where I work, we have a well defined scope for a sprint. That will get divided into tasks and then are assigned to team members. So I usually know what is my pipeline for next 2 weeks and it is fairly finite. Unless of course I am working on a more exploratory project where scope is not well defined. Of course people falling sick, or getting stuck in their task and needing help, and few other attributes can change that to some extent, but not a lot. So in summary, even though there is an endless supply for tasks that can be done, for the sprint, it is fairly finite.

Also I dont spend less time at work, I just use post lunch hour, and 30-60 mins throughout the day to do learning.


Where I work it's generally assumed that when you run out of stuff from the sprint you start working on the backlog or looking at stuff on the list of things we know we'll have to deal with in the future.

Why are they happy for you to stop working before the working week is over?

This is exactly what I do as well both in my current and previous jobs. I've never advertised exactly how much time I spend on courses but did ask (and get) permission to spend some of my time on personal development. Sometimes I would take Coursera/EdX courses and sometimes just read through books and do some exercises, generally around analytics/computer architecture/numerical methods. I've generally always been able to apply some of the things I learned somewhere in my job, leading to happy colleagues because I injected new solutions and insights.

I feel like as long as you prioritize your work well and you make sure to finish enough high-value tasks employers tend to not care too much about whether you actually fill up 40 hours with these tasks. Being able to use any left over time for myself also incentivizes me to stay productive so I'm pretty happy with this system.


But on the other hand, you could be spending that extra time reading and learning about things for your own interest or socializing with your friends for your personal benefit and social health.

Ultimately there is a trade-off between spending time at work and for yourself/friends/family. What the OP and other recent posts are increasingly showing is that the amount of time we really need to spend at work (perhaps especially if you are a knowledge worker) is not as much as our normal hours dictate.

Culture is a strong force.


Some companies care, if you have one day free that means they can add tasks to your list.

Sorry, I was not completely clear in my comment. What I meant is having a 5 day work week, but having some gaps of time to focus on learning. I usually spend an hour after lunch to learn something, as that is anyways my least productive time. I also try to find 30-60 mins throughout the day as well.

Then you should have time to optimize your environment. Making documentation better. Or cleaning out technical Dept, making things more performant or more reliable.

If you got time to lean, you got time to clean!

Morale and productivity would increase if I was expected to spend 30 hours a week producing and 10+ hours improving my ability to produce through either self care or continuing learning.

Don't ask permission, just do it anyways. That's what I've done and it's only led to increased pay and broader opportunity to demand flexible work hours.

I appreciate the sentiment and agree on an individual level but it’s not reproducible across the entire workforce. There is a certain degree of privilege required to even feel comfortable adopting this policy. As software engineers some of us have that privilege but few other workers do.

Software engineers aren't special.

Please stop treating them as some enlightened class. They're not.

Software engineers face the same idiocy as everyone else. Every other industry has smart, creative, individuals willing to buck the system and try new things for an edge.

If you truly believe people can't express a simple argument for trialing this sort of thing without losing their jobs maybe they should be looking for a new job because their current one sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen.


The idea that you can simply find a new job is itself a privileged point of view.

Software engineers are special in the sense that they’re expensive to replace. It costs time and effort, both of which are much more scarce than money. Businesses are also usually expanding, so there’s no shortage of openings. This gives us more freedom by definition.

However, some sectors of software engineering are much more strict. You wouldn’t take a “Just do it” attitude in aviation, for example. It’s easy to say “move to some other sector,” but eventually most devs try to build a career in one area.


What do you think is being suggested here? All I read out of it is to dedicate some portion of your time at work towards self improvement. Why wouldn't you recommend that to someone in aviation?

Because that person’s work is probably scheduled and tracked to a higher degree than most software engineers, and if they’re seen to be slacking off they probably don’t get the excuse of “waiting for the test suite to finish”.

There's down time in virtually every job. If your employer discourages you from using down time to get better at your job, then get a new job. I did it even back in college working at a chain pizza store. I learned some management tasks, how to proof dough properly, etc. I'm sure there's some jobs out there where it's not an option, but I feel like you guys are really stretching it to find ways to say people are incapable of self improvement at work.

It's not a privileged point of view. You can find a new job. You might not like it. It might not be possible for everyone. But the idea that there are only jobs in tech is asinine.

All qualified and experienced people are expensive to replace.

That's not unique to software.


I work in a bar. If I was to take 20% of my time to learn new things and sharpen my skills (without being told explicitly by management), I would be fired very quickly.

It is a privilege not shared by the large majority of jobs.


You're right that it wouldn't be as easy for different kinds of jobs and working in a bar is a good example. Even there though, I think you could be clever about it - you can find opportunities that blend in with your work (e.g. coffee foam art, small talk in a language you're learning). These probably wouldn't increase your value as much but with some creativity I'm pretty sure in most jobs there is some kind of opportunity for learning.

> I'm pretty sure in most jobs there is some kind of opportunity for learning.

This is absolutely not the case.


There is a vast swathe of jobs that are labour under very strict conditions imposed on you by middle management, for example anything in a harbour or construction context. That's not the sort of rule that you can just opt to take some time for self improvement under. I would wager the percentage of jobs with such conditions is probably higher than without.

Mate you are mental. This simplified thought drives me nuts.

Software Engineering has a massive IQ-based barrier to entry. Not only that, your advantages are in large part, from a purely technical perspective, are reflected in your ability to consume algorithms, techniques, and hold more variables in your head at a faster rate than others.

It's an incredibly unique union of art and engineering, we are in demand as every industry needs it, and there is a genetic bottleneck.

We suffer from massive privilege because even semi-technical people have no idea what the fuck we are doing, so oversight is limited at best.

As someone who came from being a huge overachiever in a different industry, we are insanely privileged.


"Genetic bottleneck"? Really?

Certain people do tend to have an easier time with skills that make it easier to be a developer, but there is a VAST untapped potential of people that think of our work as "coding" and assume they're unable to learn. We really need an influx of people with systems thinking and other "high-level" abilities—development skills are required, but not the deep technical abilities our field has traditionally prized.

I've worked with plenty of "genius" types who can write advanced algorithms with lightning speed, but aren't able to see their work in a larger context—nor able to explain to others what they're doing. And I've worked with "normal" people (usually with an oversized dose of Imposter Syndrome) who are so much more effective because they understand the why as well as the how, while also being better communicators.

And let's cut out the IQ bullshit until there's a proven link between IQ and ability to deliver business value.


https://www.businessinsider.com/why-your-iq-strongly-influen...

>A growing body of research suggests general cognitive ability may be the best predictor of job performance.

I don't think there's any doubt between IQ and delivering business value. Some argue EQ is more valuable, but that doesn't mean IQ isn't important.


I'm not a member of BI Prime (nor do I have any intention of becoming one), so I can't see what they use to justify that bullet point.

Even given studies that show a link, there's a big difference between requiring a minimum IQ of 85 to join the US Armed Forces (as mentioned in the Wikipedia article on Intelligence Quotient) compared to asserting a minimum IQ of 120 (or whatever) to be a software developer, as amosquito seems to be doing in their comment ("...massive IQ-based barrier to entry..."). Of course there has to be some floor of intelligence to perform the job—but I'd argue it's a lot lower than many in our field believe.


This isn't an argument for or against anything, just some real data.

https://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/Occupations.aspx


Interesting. Assuming the data is accurate (a big assumption, given the controversy and inaccuracy inherent to these discussions), "computer occs" has a range of ~90-130—well over half of the population. Of course, "computer occs" is quite a broad category...

This might be one of the most obnoxiously deluded things I've read all year.

Can you refute their points more directly?

First, there is no IQ barrier. I have several friends who, based on psychologist-administered IQ tests, are very, very close to average, who do well in the industry, usually better than me. They worked hard to get where they wanted to go. Sure, you probably can't do this work if you have an IQ under 85, but the same can be said for most any knowledge or even office job. It's not like we're unique in that regard.

Second, a "genetic bottleneck"? That absolutely reeks of genetic elitism. It implies, rather heavily, that they are genetically superior to those who cannot (or just don't) do this work.

The idea that we are special because no one understands us - finance, biotech, pharmaceuticals... No one really gets those, either.


Thank you

I used to do that with success but lately my company has tightened up deadlines more and more so it’s hard to get everything done even within 40 weeks. Problem is that more things actually get done but this comes at the expense of burning out people because they don’t get to breathe anymore. I strongly believe that development is not just continuous production but more of a creative process where you need room for inspiration to do things that don’t directly benefit immediate business needs.

Problem is that more things actually get done but this comes at the expense of burning out people because they don’t get to breathe anymore

If you sprint continuously you will collapse from exhaustion. The clues in the name! But I doubt the Agile crowd thought it through when choosing the name.


Agree, do it until someone has a problem with it, and then find another way to do it, like finding a new job (if you have the luxury).

Well if your work contract allows "not asking for permissions", why not.

Google had the "20% personal projects" thing company-wide for a while. I wonder if they have some statistics that maybe proxy productivity and how they look.

Gmail. That alone is a pretty consequential product of the ethos.

Actually Paul Buchheit said it wasn't 20% project [0]

> Gmail is often given as a shining example of the fruits of Google’s 20 percent time, its legendary policy of allowing engineers to divvy off part of their work hours for personal projects. Paul Buchheit, Gmail’s creator, disabused me of this notion. From the very beginning, “it was an official charge,” he says. “I was supposed to build an email thing.”

[0] https://time.com/43263/gmail-10th-anniversary/


Agreed

I wish I knew how common it was to have a full-time job but only work for a fraction of that time.

My last software job was supposedly 40 hours/week. I'd usually come in for two hours and leave. They wouldn't be an intense two hours either. Once in a while I'd stay all day. Based on what I hear from my friends from university, this experience is not the median but it's not uncommon either.

Many managers really don't know how to manage. Morale goes down the shitter, and unless you have children it's unlikely you'll care about getting caught.


It's a management problem. We have that "problem" where I work - the sprints and tickets are set up such that I can afford to work ~2-3 hours a day. I spend the rest learning new tech for my next job.

I'm not even a hard worker but having so little to do gets old and boring quickly.


These stories seem so weird to me! Everywhere I’ve worked, there has been 3-5X more development work needed to do than engineers to do it, so we had to always be prioritizing and only doing what absolutely was necessary to ship. Is there not even a bug backlog where you work? I’ve never seen a workplace like this honestly!

Unless you’re taking a 2 week task and estimating 2 years or something, and then just goofing off in the slack time, which I’d consider... somewhat less than ethical?


I concur, I've never worked anywhere that didn't have a continuous stream of work available to work on. I think it contributes to the burnout a bit, at least until you find a way to look at it differently. Because it feels like there is never a "finished" state to the job. You could in theory always do more.

That's like, the vast majority of jobs. And what that means is that there's no point in working hard to rush through ultimately useless work or work that adds less value.

Just focus on doing what's important in a timely basis and happily deprioritize the useless stuff.


I've worked in both types of places and reasonable places in between.

In some roles you have to fight for work because different departments are fighting for org budgets. Some places are afraid to make code changes so you go to meetings while some people signoff others raise random issues with the project. Scheduling the project takes months. Then months of finding the perfect slot to release.

I also been in places that bill every 15 minutes. All client billing time was added up and should equal 8 hours. But there were never enough hours to go around. And clients would nickel and dime over hours.

With employers I'm not sure ethical matters as long as a need is met. But be ethical to yourself. Always work hard learn and grow because the industry changes.


> Everywhere I’ve worked, there has been 3-5X more development work needed to do than engineers to do it

If the deadlines are reasonable I wouldn't care. If they aren't, it's time to start reviewing glassdoor before finding a job.


> 3-5X more development work needed

This is also by and large a mindset you foster. There are plenty of companies where you have engineers on both ends of the spectrum (both having a lot of leisure time and little).


I guess most people just dilute the effective 2-3 hours of work in 8 hours, to seem busy without getting overworked...

E.g. I would be happier if I could work fully focussed for 3-4 hours and then go home, instead of working at a slow pace for 8 hours so I don't get tired after 4.


If I could honest 4 works, hard, and then go home, without worrying about emails coming in or server alerts or whatever, I think I'd be very happy and very productive for that time. I can't say the same now - even when I'm off I'm still at least partially thinking about being on.

___

What industry do you work in?

You are describing it as an unpleasant place to work, but what's the background to this?

If you are keeping up with your commitments, and the company is not crashing, is morale the main problem?


My point is that the "5-hour workday" might be more common than many of us think.

My employer is about to start a 10hr workday 4 days a week. Essentially all errands, chores, and kid time will get shuffled to the weekend i suspect.

Have you taught your kids about the benefits of fasting? xD

I am a proponent of fasting actually. I am curious about the effects on tiny people in growth spurts.

Basically you use carbohydrates, fat, and protein to make energy and when you don't eat those things you don't have energy. Really interesting stuff.

This feels like a flippant, uninformed comment. When you don’t eat those for a 2-3 day window your body ramps up energy production through stored fat. So I’d say you still have energy.

I've tried both eating a little often and a lot very little and from the experiences of me and everyone I have ever spoken to in the flesh about this, it really is as simple as "more energy when you eat more".

Fasting won't give you mountains of physical pep. Sure, there is that golden time after you have done it for a while where you get great mental clarity and you feel good but you will not be voluntarily running laps or pushing your absolute peak weight in the gym.

That barrier is something you'll always feel, even if you're not pushing the limits. The fact of the matter is that barrier is closer when you are fasting.


Stored fat in a teenager going through a growth spurt??

Their bodies (and brains) are doing a lot more developing than just growth spurting, which is why such a teenager can eat huge portions[0] per day and not put on any fat at all. Because their bodies use it all up, because of all the transformations and puberty things going on.

I would suggest, in that stage, just giving the body everything it craves, and worry about the benefits of fasting later.

[0] obviously doesn't hold in parts of the world where these are considered "normal" portions.


I'm not responding to this because it seems like you really don't realize how vapid your comment is. If you want to learn more, please open a book, don't read internet forum research.

I can't imagine you'd want to calorie starve the human body when it needs the calories the most. I guess if you could get all the calories you need while you're un-fasted and can store it all as fat for when you do need it, maybe that would work, but we know that caloric deficits in childhood lead to reduced growth. I really can't see a good argument for children fasting.

"...Morale goes down the shitter, and unless you have children it's unlikely you'll care about getting caught. ..."

Instead of bitching about morale it is best to see it as an opportunity. Use time to better yourself, find new job, start your own business etc. etc.

As for how well it plays for the business owners, it is their problem, not yours.


The topic of the thread was the 5 hour workday. I proposed that the 5 hour workday already exists in the form of shitty managers.

> Personally, I enjoy working hard - usually more than 40 hours per week

I would call that working long, not hard. If hours determines how hard (i.e. effective) you are when working, then it certainly doesn't apply to some people I know who spend 40% of their 40 hours a week browsing Facebook.


>I would call that working long, not hard

I agree with this. When I first started my current job, overtime hours were utterly ridiculous, over the years I've managed to cut it down to mostly 8 hour days while increasing productivity fairly exponentially. A lot of time was wasted manually doing work pointless i automated as much as possible.I feel I work a lot harder now and get more done in less hours than I did before working 10-11 hour days.


I wouldn't consider those 16 hours on Facebook working as much as being at work.

> Personally, I enjoy working hard - usually more than 40 hours per week.

The very first thing that needs to go is this glorification of working hours. Nobody should care how long you work. Time doesn't have any inherent value in a knowledge industry.


I'm not sure if shorter work weeks will ever appear or work but ever since I have had kids I feel guilty working 40+ hours a week. I see my kids when getting ready in the morning and driving them to creche and then the reverse in the evening. About two hours contact time per day but not quality time. Weekends are spent on jobs and chores and some quality time but not enough. A five hour day would allow for so much more contact.

I work ~40 hours per week over 4 days. The difference that having a 3 day weekend makes to work life balance is significant. I don't work Monday's, I work slightly longer each day for the other 4 days.

I never have that Sunday night/Monday morning feeling about work coming round too soon. I miss some meetings that are scheduled for a Monday but guess what, the world keeps turning.


Exactly! I have so many side projects I like to tinker with while I'm at home. I use them as a way to learn a new skill. Eventually those skills will come home to my employer, either with new ideas, frameworks, experience, etc. But for that to happen I need the time to self-explore and follow my own ideas.

You might know running that job board - do 30 hour jobs pay as good an hourly rate as regular 40 hour jobs?

I think that depends on the company. There are companies that offer flexible hours and shorter weeks without a reduction in pay. I think it is more common to find companies that support shorter workweeks with a relative adjustment in pay.

Contributing to society shouldn't even be the desired metric. With freedom it often comes as a byproduct.

If you don't care about contributing to society, then:

"shouldn't" -- according to who?

"desired" -- by who?

"freedom" -- with regards to what exactly?

I guess ... enjoy your old age when you're unable to work but not part of any society you contributed to, I hope people will care enough to spare some "freedom byproduct" for you.


I probably will. Additionally it allows me to see value in life just for the sake of it.

Oh damn 30hrjobs looks great!

I also like to work hard but I gotta say running a side business while also working full time is getting harder the older I get. There’s really only so much you can squeeze out of a day.


Out of curiosity what’s your side business?

> Sick of round-the-clock work emails and Slack messages? Here’s some hope.

This is exactly why articles about 4-day workweeks, 5-hour workdays, and the idea that productivity is inversely correlated to hours worked are so popular; Many of us are buried under expectations of around-the-clock availability and commitment to our jobs.

One of my employers made an official policy banning vacation statuses in Slack because, in their words, it implied that people were off the hook from responding to Slack messages. I was threatened with demotion for taking a 2-day weekend backpacking vacation out of cell phone range once (not an on call job). My management team just couldn't tolerate the idea that one of their employees was out of their control.

At this point, I'd gladly take strict 8-hour workdays, 5 days a week. These articles about 5-hour days or 32-hour workweeks feel like a pipedream.


Your experience sounds unacceptable.

My best work experience was in Germany with a strict 35 hour week. Overtime was difficult to get approved and also required 1.5x pay. You got to the office and actually worked until you went home. Nobody had time to sit in endless meetings or to be indecisive.

It was very productive and you actually had a life during the week.


The least productive places I've worked had the longest hours - companies in Japan and Taiwan. Lots of time fuckin around on phones, and the obligatory period from 5pm - 8pm to "wait for the boss to go home" was almost entirely filled with Candy Crush. Stupid.

haha, yeah, I've never seen anyone so unproductive as a Japanese or Chinese engineer putting in 72 hours a week

I think this whole system of paying people an hourly wage or a salary is toxic when it comes to knowledge work. I'm pretty confident that today I could do something in a day that would have taken me a month when I started out 10 years ago. (And I can do stuff that would have been inconceivable when I was at the college student/new hire level) But I'm only making about 2-3x as much as a new hire at my current company.

I wish the whole system were a lot more freeform and mercenary.. I'd love to roll in and spend a few months building some GPU firmware or debugging camera latency issues, collect $100k at the end, and then spend a few months backpacking or whatever.

I guess that only a tiny fraction of the people I've met would be OK with that sort of existence, though..


Wouldn't work sharing among collegues be quite toxic? Who would pick the need to be done-paperwork or whatever time consuming less glamourus tasks when the collegues do the glamourus quicker tasks and go home.

I've met people that are perfectly content doing mundane tasks for a set amount of time, then going home to watch TV or whatever. It's unlikely to find them on this site though...

Sounds like too many places are willing to pay young developers too much. Why pay a third what they pay you for an order of magnitude less value?

Are they paying young devs too much or OP too little?

Surely the boss realises what is going on in that kind of case? I guess they are a slave to the culture just as much as those beneath them?

Yea, I mean, slave is a strong word but they're fully "indoctrinated" to it. Like many elders in any given culture. Nothing surprising imo.

I had a job once where we worked 35 hours a week. I agree, you had little time to mess around. Yet, I felt like I managed to get everything done on time.

I don't get this. I'm a software developer in Belgium, and basically all cards are in our hands over here. There is a huge shortage of software developers.

If I quit, I can get a job within a month which gives the same or better pay.

From the company view, they need to spend several months trying to find a new employee, and then give full pay while that person is still learning the codebase, and other employees wast time getting him/her up to speed. It takes another few months before this person is 100% productive.

So as an employer, you are basically pulling on the shorter end of the string.

So my question: why is it so much different in the US?


I'm an American who lived in Belgium for 15 years, first to study then for work.

I always told people that the difference between the US and Belgium is that you "live to work" in the former and "work to live" in the latter.

Belgian labor laws are much more enforced than they are in the US. The unions in Belgium have a lot of sway in big companies and employers tend to respond positively to work-life balance.

In the US, there's the expectation that if you're hired for a role, you should be able to onboard as quickly as possible. There's no 6 month trial period or even the concept of an indefinite contract (CDI in French, I forgot the acronym in Dutch) (EDIT: in the private sector).

Likewise, an American employer can get rid of an employee (and likewise hire one) in less time and with less cost than a Belgian one. That flexibility drives a lot of the business decisions in a way that would never translate in Belgium (or much of Western Europe, for that matter).

On the other hand, if you're in a situation where your employer goes over the line (like the person at the top of the thread describes), you can generally just walk away from the job. There's no 6-week notice.

There's for sure a lot more to it, but that's mainly where I see the difference between the two countries.


> On the other hand, if you're in a situation where your employer goes over the line (like the person at the top of the thread describes), you can generally just walk away from the job

I think this is exactly what was meant by op. Why is there so much complaining? If it sucks, just walk away. It should even be easier in the US than in Western Europe.


Legally it's easy to walk away. Just stop showing. You'll probably get a few phone calls wanting to know where you are before they terminate you as an employee in a few days.

Realistically, in the US so much of your financial health is tied to your employer that the advice to "just walk away" is only safe if you're already financially secure and don't need a job. Aside from the steady paycheck you're likely to lose: medical insurance, dental insurance, tax free retirement savings, and the unvested portion of your stock/retirement savings at a minimum. If you're in a position that tends to pay a yearly or even quarterly bonus, you're walking away from that too.

You're also going to lose a number of smaller items that can be expensive. Does your employer pay for the tools you use to be productive? How much does a JetBrains subscription cost these days? Or an MSDN license? How about all those AWS instances you use for sharpening your skills? Time to start ponying up or doing without.

This doesn't even count the other perks and benefits that companies are throwing at employees for highly competitive positions. Enjoying that free gym membership? Not anymore. How about the free snacks and lunches? That's another expense you can add back in now that you don't have any income. Free coffee in the break room? Time to find out just how cheap you're willing to get with your daily dose of caffeine.

Now factor in that for many being unemployed for extended periods of time can lead to severe depression and a lack of self-worth.

Don't forget to also factor in that 22% of divorces in the US are because of "money issues" which can usually be translated to "lack of money".

Taking the above into account I would likely put up with some pretty awful employment practices while looking for a new job rather than just walking away.


in the US so much of your financial health is tied to your employer

As well as your literal health, since your health insurance is so often tied to your employer. Extended unemployment could literally be fatal. It's a bit easier to get health insurance without a job than it used to be, but there's still a lot of overhead and hassle.


In Belgium, you can't just stop showing up without consequences. You need to give 6 weeks notice, otherwise, they can take legal action against you, along with firing you, which means you lose any claim to unemployment benefits.

Likewise, if you quit voluntarily, you aren't entitled to unemployment right away.

But I agree, you'd most likely want to have your next job lined up before putting in your notice.


US is so big, there are absolutely parts of it where it isn't much different.

If you are a decent engineer in any tech hub like Bay Area or Seattle, you can absolutely walk out of your job and get a ton of interviews scheduled by the end of the week and have at least a few offers by the end of the following one.

And hiring is just as costly and difficult for employers as you described. A lot of times, we have to go through so many candidates just to fill one position, and it isn't just for something ultra-specialized like an AI researcher or a kernel dev, we are talking your run-off-the-mill solid software generalist. The estimates easily go to above 30 candidates interviewed per position filled.


If your manager demands you be available over the weekend, you are on-call and should be compensated.

May I add, if your manager demands you're available anytime outside of business hours and you're not compensated for that time, you should immediately be looking for your next job.

Unemployment has never been lower in 40+ years (in the US). You're likely to get a pay bump moving. Always Be Interviewing. No one is going to look out for your comp and work/life balance except you.


Well, most jobs are salary so there's no notion of compensation per unit of time. I rarely expect overtime but sometimes I need help outside of regular work hours; I also don't make you get HR approval and book off time to go to the dentist or pick up your kid.

It seems like the same people who complain about a lack of employer care & "greedy corporations" are also the same people counseling "always be interviewing" and the only priority is #1. It must be exhausting.


I'm going to split the difference between you and toomuchtodo. I accept that overtime comes sometimes in this business. I accept it as long as it's rare. There's a crisis for two weeks? OK, I'll be there - maybe not every possible second, but quite a bit more than normal.

There's a crisis for six months? That's not a crisis; that's a management failure. Management should have fixed it by then. That's on them, not on me.

They want overtime every week? FORGET. THAT. NOISE.


Why always the jump straight to interviewing? Raise the flag that the team needs resources, propose a solution, negotiate with management (it’s going to take a lot but we can deliver x & y, or z but not x, y, and z). There’s a bunch of things you can do besides jump ship, coincidentally these are all management skills and it’s called managing up.

The jump straight to interviewing comes with the ironclad faith that changing an organisation from the inside is now much harder than changing organisations. In the end, salary and work is something you do to support yourself. If you are going to take time and energy out of your life to improve the company where you work, that's time and energy you're not using to improve yourself (or at least, you're not using it as efficiently).

I don’t get this rebuttal. You don’t need to change the organization. You just need to set expectations with your boss. This is what allows you to go home on time. Instead, technical workers tend to let the deadlines be driven from the top and then they complain about working for slave drivers.

I have worked a job that was salaried, in the sense that I got paid a lump sum for the year and didn't track my hours, but also paid extra when I was on call. This is possible, and it works fine.

Yeah, but that only tends to work in favor of the company. Try telling them you're salary, so you'll only be working 25-35 hours / week. Even if you get your work done and don't have a 'butt needs to be in the seat' type job, they'll laugh at you.

The usual is to get time off in lieu for working weekends.

It's sometimes unavoidable to work on weekends - e.g., a tight deadline. But I would ahead of time get the agreement in writing that the weekend work is going to be given back in time off in lieu after the deadline - otherwise, don't work weekends. there needs to be a feedback loop (via money or capacity) to management. Otherwise they'd just see amazing results, and keep wanting more. That's how you end up in a permanent crunch job.


> unavoidable to work on weekends

It was avoidable, just not by you. That's not your problem though - it's your bosses' problem. Letting them make that your problem is a choice for you, but I would posit it is a poor choice.


> It seems like the same people who complain about a lack of employer care & "greedy corporations" are also the same people counseling "always be interviewing" and the only priority is #1.

Did you consider that perhaps the latter is caused by the former? When executives and managers, in the main, are rewarded for "optimizing" at the expense of humans, those humans are eventually going to push back.


I mean, that's how many employers may want you to think, but I suggest you actually look at the laws, both federal and state, surrounding overtime and salaried positions. Just declaring a position is salaried doesn't mean that you don't get overtime.

> most jobs are salary so there's no notion of compensation per unit of time.

Most jobs are wage and it's perfectly normal to be salary and non-exempt. Unless you are a founder or management if an employer is trying to classify you as exempt to avoid paying overtime they are breaking the law.


How would anyone in the software dev industry not fall under the "computer professional" exemption?

Exempt status means that you may not be paid for overtime. It doesn't mean you can't be. I haven't tried to push that point in a negotiation but I'd be curious to see how it goes. It could backfire on you, for sure, but who knows the balance until one tries?

And while I haven't negotiated for it, I was paid overtime on a contract gig once. Pulled in ten thousand dollars a week. That was a wild summer.


> Unemployment has never been lower in 40+ years (in the US).

Big difference here is quality of jobs. Lots and lots of underemployed and low quality work.


When the rules are stupid, play by the rules.

Set up a PC at home, logged into slack that keeps the status as available.

They didn't say anything about actually responding to messages, right?

Alternatively I'm sure there is a law they are breaking, so let them know about it.

But more simply - any company that comes up with such a rule has got things backwards and doesn't understand how to manage people, and probably doesn't understand tech. They probably love emergencies where "the team comes together" and hate spending extra time on ensuring quality and paying down tech debt. Leaving becomes a sensible option. They are shortsighted and I am guessing they don't make a lot of profit. Is my tea reading right?


Employer expecting you to be available 24-7 on a 40 hr workweek contract sounds like the sort of thing I'd talk to an employment lawyer about: seems like they are not paying for 128 hours/wk of 'engaged to wait' time.

Ah, they're posting on HackerNews.. He/she can just spend a few months grinding on those stupid coding challenge sites and then snag a cushy job at one of the tech megacorps. Or dig up the last "Who's Hiring" thread on this site and find a nice gig at a smaller company

Can be prudent to wait until after a new job is lined up to before litigating wage theft

I've had the luxury of a 36.5 hour work week, with no on call for about 18 years. It exists, but don't expect $300,000 salaries with it. You want to be rich, or do you want to live a rich life?

Fwiw, I've made >300k with a hard <40 hr week. Honestly, high salaries and flexible work hours seem like they should correlate (and always have for me): both are simply a result of how in-demand your labor is. There are certain jobs that require high availability, but many that don't, and if you're able to command a high salary, it shouldn't be very difficult to get some of your effective comp paid out in flexibility.

Sounds like you hit the jackpot. Generally high compensation demands high hours. You the man!

I was very very lucky, a couple times, with the timing of what I was passionate about and what the market was interested in. And plenty of the people I know work longer hours because they're so in-demand. But I think the underlying principle is sound: if you have the market power to command high salaries, most companies wont push you away for wanting reasonable working hours.

I'm a consultant, so this doesn't really match 1:1 with expectations of a salaried employee.

My work phone goes into DnD from 5pm until 8am. I don't answer emails or phone calls, and I don't make exceptions for free.

If I'm on call for a weekend, I bill 16 hours, regardless of if I worked, because I cannot go anywhere if I'm needed at my laptop.

When I go on vacation, I leave my phone at home and take an sim-less android, and buy a new sim/number when I reach my destination.


A while back while working in a game company as one of those who could resurrect the server I was the in-house DB expert, this sounds a bit stricter but close to the philosophy we took during a company-wide winter break we had, we had shifts where someone was expected to be phone/text/email immediately responsive to error notifications coming out of the server, that person would then triage and, in the event they couldn't handle the issue, be able to pull in other folks as needed according to their availability - for instance if there was an issue with a data corruption I'd likely be pulled in.

Thankfully that never happened because while we were all quite respectful about each other's time due to the jurisdiction and industry we worked in none of us were eligible for OT even during stat holidays. Were that company within a more reasonable line of business I'd demand a setup like that and feel perfectly justified - and that's pretty much why I don't work in the games industry anymore.


Do you have any advice for younger developers looking to get into the consulting life? I really hate the 9-5 life, and consulting seems like the best way to break out of it.

Be a contractor a bunch of time, build up your network on linked in, and "Always Be Closing" small projects with your network. Each time a past manager moves to a new department, new company, new something, I reach out after a couple of months to see if they have any gaps in their current team I can temporarily fill.

It takes a lot of work to not work that much. I used to spend 20% of my time selling/pitching/quoting/etc for free.

Right now I have a semi-stable 30-35hr/week gig, so I'm not having to sell any.


From my experience these gigs are great but also dangerous. When I was consultant I got lazy and complacent once i had a good gig and stopped selling. when this one customer went away I was back at zero.

I agree with that. I've actually cut my income by a lot just because I don't do as much work. But I'm getting to an age where I don't really want to work more than this anyway.

So now I just need to keep upping my rate.


Don't expect consulting to be less demanding. If anything you will work more.

And expectations are much higher (assuming your an indy contractor).

From my experience being a highly paid consular is a good experience. There are high expectations but you also get treated well and usually get what you need quickly, be it information, meetings or something else.

Just start doing it, in your free time. You'll be burning the candle at both ends for a while as you build up clients, but you're young, you've got the energy and the time.

>> Just start doing it, in your free time. You'll be burning the candle at both ends for a while as you build up clients, but you're young, you've got the energy and the time.

While you're employed? This is terrible advice. You get consulting money for combining expertise with availability. Younger employees have neither of these. If I found out one of my salaried employees was moonlighting I'd immediately be looking for evidence that it had the slightest impact on their responsibilities & performance. I'd be very surprised not to find any PDQ


>If I found out one of my salaried employees was moonlighting I'd immediately be looking for evidence that it had the slightest impact on their responsibilities & performance

a predictable response, but it's the wrong one which will surely lose your company plenty of money and valuable employees extremely rapidly while generating a tremendous amount of ill-will from the people in your network. really, it's the attitude that's creating the problematic and unprofitable approach here. aside from being disgustingly invasive and utterly reprehensible from a social perspective, you've also put yourself in a position where you're spending your company's time on something that will never generate it any financial returns, only more costs when the employee discovers your snooping and inevitably ditches you and you need you find a replacement on short notice.

the correct response here is to re-evaluate how much you're paying the employees that are moonlighting because it clearly isn't enough to keep them appeased, which means that by definition it isn't enough to keep them operating at 100% during the hours you expect to be getting 100% of their energy and potential for productive output. in other words, moonlighting employees need a raise because at the salary you're paying them, they know they can't afford to stop looking for more opportunities to work for pay. when you do find a reason to give that employee a raise proactively, you'll increase their output to the level you thought you were purchasing with the initial salary negotiations. you'll also increase their loyalty to the company, and avoid intruding on their private life, which is explicitly, irrevocably, and unimpeachably beyond your purview, consideration, or examination under any conditions whatsoever.

in a nutshell: focus on things you can change, then stay in your lane.


> the correct response here is to re-evaluate how much you're paying the employees that are moonlighting because it clearly isn't enough to keep them appeased,

Might be true for some people, but it's not the primary motivation for freelancers. Usually it's the highly-skilled, highly-paid people who are in a position to pick up freelance work, not your lowest-paid workers at the bottom of the hierarchy. They do it not because they need the money, but because it's there for the taking and they get to work on something interesting while they do it.

With a salaried dayjob, your effective hourly rate goes down with each additional hour you work. With a freelance job, your effective income goes up with each additional hour worked.

Someone who has both types of job at the same time has an incentive to minimize their input to their dayjob so they can maximize the incremental income from their freelancing work. Sure, theoretically a perfect employee could keep their dayjob perfectly isolated from freelancing work, but in practice people with an hourly side hustle can't resist the temptation to sandbag at work.

The whole crux of the argument for shorter workdays and shorter workweeks is that people only have so many productive hours each week. Past the point of diminishing returns, their work quality and productivity drop. If someone is working 40 hour weeks, commuting, and also freelancing for another 10-30 hours per week, which job gets their best hours? Which job gets their least productive hours?

In my experience, side-hustle freelancers always let their dayjob work output slip, whether they expect to or not. This is why you need to watch employees very closely as soon as you get wind that they're freelancing.


Almost everyone I know has some kind of side hustle. Whether it's a job, a business, a serious hobby whatever. And unless you hire a 22 year old with zero responsibilities, you're never going to get 100% from anyone.

It's absurd to expect 100% in the first place. All you should be concerned with is whether or not someone is getting their work done. Not whether they are capable of doing even more.


Would you watch an employee closely if their performance dipped after they started a hobby game development project? Or night classes? How about if they just had a new born?

Do you also acknowledge the weeks their performance is better than average? Do you compensate them for it, or is it just a given?

You have the right to be concerned about someone's time but only while they are at work. Your employees get to do what they want outside of work hours.

I'd wager those X hours a week in the office are often not the most important part of your life, why should it be for them?


As businesses have slashed-and-burned the concept of job security for salaried workers, they can no longer expect an iota of "all for the company" esprit-de-corporation buy-in, from anyone. The workers all know that they will be dropped like a live grenade the exact millisecond that they become unprofitable, so we're all looking out for ourselves now.

Every second you are employed, you should be keeping one eye on whether your current employer is about to screw you, and another eye on your exit strategy for when they inevitably do. Scan the job postings monthly. Never reject a feeler that comes through your network. No loyalty for the disloyal.

If I found out that my boss was cracking down on a co-worker for suspected moonlighting, I'd start looking for other work myself.


You sound like a terrible employer, and I would immediately be looking for employment elsewhere. MANY people work multiple jobs in this world. If they are doing the work assigned to you during the hours agreed upon, what say do you have otherwise? You don't own people.

Booooooooo not cool. If someone is underperforming, do what you will. But why would you go looking for it just because they're doing a second job? What if they had a kid and were getting less sleep, would you put them under the microscope then?

> If someone is underperforming, do what you will. But why would you go looking for it just because they're doing a second job?

I've done some freelance work while also having a full-time job. It's great at first, when you still think that you can give 100% to your dayjob and fit the freelance work into your free time on evenings and weekends. If you can find relaxed contract work that fits to your schedule without detracting from your dayjob, then by all means go for it.

The problem is that contract work is rarely perfectly asynchronous like that. It won't take long until the company has some questions about your work that require a phone call during daytime hours. Or they find a one-liner issue that they need fixed ASAP, not when you have free time. Or they say they would like to continue paying you for contract work, but only if you can start responding faster during the day and turning requests around more quickly.

All of these pressures start adding up, tempting you to sandbag your salaried dayjob so you can have more hours to rake in that incremental hourly contracting money. In my case, I chose to give up contracting to avoid any moral, ethical, or legal breaches with my day job. However, I've seen many junior employees sabotage their own career progress by spreading themselves too thin with salaried work and freelancing work. Something has to give.

Worse yet, I've seen at least one case where someone used their company laptop and company phone for the contracting work for clients. Per your employment agreement, that puts the ownership of the code into a gray area. You don't want to go there, but when the clients are hammering your e-mail and phone for an answer it's tempting to just give in and interleave that work with your dayjob. Bad idea.

Finally, there's a myth that employees have a finite amount of work each week. When we do sprint planning, we calibrate to velocity, based on how much work the employee got done last week. I rely on my employees to help inform me about reasonable estimates and to help judge task complexity. Side hustlers have a misaligned incentive to exaggerate complexity, sandbag on tasks, and otherwise manipulate the system to minimize their dayjob workload. Less dayjob work equals more time for freelance income.

Bottom line: Some people can pull it off in rare circumstances, but more often than not a side hustler on your team will drag everyone down.


I know, same with a relationship, especially serious ones, like a wife or husband. Even families, my god, the commitment and drain is so immense that they must drag everyone down, each dependent like a separate side hustle. Employers should monitor employees and sniff out potential relationships and nip them in the bud before they begin. /s

> If I found out one of my salaried employees was moonlighting I'd immediately be looking for evidence that it had the slightest impact on their responsibilities & performance.

You don't own the lives of those you employ. While it's perfectly reasonable that if you see quality slippage you should react - actively searching for an excuse to fire someone for having a side gig is like a weird possessive and jealous relationship. Additionally, if folks at your company are picking up side gigs then maybe you should review your compensation because there's probably a reason people aren't content with their current working situation.


> Additionally, if folks at your company are picking up side gigs then maybe you should review your compensation because there's probably a reason people aren't content with their current working situation.

Not just compensation but other stuff like the ability to take on different types of projects and learn new stuff on the job.

If I have a job that has me do the same thing with the same tech stack for whoever knows how long, I'm going to grow stale. I don't want to grow stale, that's both boring and also denying myself future opportunities and generally just putting myself at a disadvantage. Possibly very screwed if/when the company decides I'm no longer needed.


This is a shortcut to major employee churn. Don't over-manage people, acknowledge and accept that the instant they clock out you no longer have any right to their time.

If they're moonlighting, it means either you or they are missing something in your work contract, that should concern you.


Would you knock them for going out for dinner? Or going to night school?

You realize that moonlighting gives them skills they can use to help you.


I notice many C-suite and founder folks have like 10 things with a “-present” date on them on LinkedIn. Seems fine for them. So fine for me too. Or am I actually more important and doing more work for this company than the CEO? Surely not. That would be silly.

Is this reasonable for many other jobs?

If you were working as a painter, a carpenter, a landscaper etc. Would people find it acceptable if you painted for an hour and charged for 15 hours? Just because they needed you for one?

To be clear, I am not attempting to demonize you or anything, but to me, this seems like a sort of entitlement that tech workers have that some other workers just cannot experience.

How can other professionals obtain that level of freedom?


If I hired a painter and I told them they couldn't go home, go out to lunch, or leave the premises for 16 hours, even if they only take 10 minutes to paint, I'm paying them for that time.

If a company puts a demand on your time, they need to pay for that time no matter what your profession. So when I'm on call on a weekend and I'm expected to answer my phone and be immediately available and connected to the client, I'm billing them for the fact that I cannot leave the confines of my internet.


Absolutely this.

I worked for one of the big tech vanity names held as a poster child in the AU. They started to introduce mandatory on-call, which was non-negotiable. For an extra $200 AUD (ex tax) a week, you had the privilege of sacrificing all your personal time. Carrying a laptop, having constant phone-signal, not drinking, and being completely available within 15-30 minutes of the first ping was mandatory; otherwise, you could be facing disciplinary action.

Effectively it's a huge pay cut at less than minimum wage. For the loss of personal hours, you'd get significantly more money taking any minimum wage job. I don't go to work for free, I go to pay the bills.

Then the management blackmail starts, you get free food...a deli counter and fridge of soft drinks which I never used anyway. Then you get the be a team player, take it for the team emotional blackmail.

I'd happily do on-call on a best attempt if I'm available I'll answer the call for free. Restrict my personal time/activities outside work, I want paying at least minimum wage per hour after your company just IPO'd and worth several billion.


That narrowed it down quite nicely.. what a harrowing policy!

I find it a bit despicable in the AU when owners who are the only ones to really benefit in case of success (never seen a stock option here) say we are a startup and have to make sacrifices to make it (big) etc.

First sight of trouble and your job is gone; I struggle to see the upside for anyone other than the owners.


It's not about reasonable, it's about putting a disincentive price to an action. Many abuses of power come from the abusers not having to pay the price. They might not want you to work on the weekends if it costs them a lot. You often need to put an explicit price to these things, or people who do not respect informal boundaries will push them.

The entire point is to not work during that time.


When my dad worked as a mechanic in a power plant, if they went down and had to call him in on a day off, it was a guaranteed minimum of four hours that they had to pay him, even if it only took an hour to fix whatever it was. Almost always at time and a half, as he'd already put in his 40. Double time on scheduled holidays.

You should have to pay for on-call service.


I don't know about painter/carpenter/landscaper, but if you want to talk about plumber, they will be paid for every minute on site, their commute and usually their advertised "minimum visit time" if the job is particularly short.

When you are informally on-call you are unable to enjoy your time to the fullest, your employer is demanding a price from you without compensating you for your time, it is an obligation of yours for yourself, your friends and family and your co-workers to demand fair compensation for this time - that's a key component of labour exchange in the free market and good unions exist to help protect those rights for junior employees who tend to have less leverage when negotiating their rights than more senior folks.


> Would people find it acceptable if you painted for an hour and charged for 15 hours?

It is perfectly common (and reasonable) to be expected to be compensated something for being available outside your normal hours.

E.g. many plumbers will charge you extra (or build into their fees) for a sunday emergency call, why shouldn't a developer ?

If I were in that consultants shoes I probably wouldn't propose 16 hours, but for sure I would bump my hourly rate (say 1.5x) or a min charge of 4 hours or something, if you wanted me available on say an hours notice over the weekend. If you wanted me available at the drop of a hat it would be more.

Scheduling normal work over weekends, etc. is a different issue, but being "on call" should always involve some compensation for the impact on your life.


> How can other professionals obtain that level of freedom?

By being in such demand that the people who want to hire you will agree to those contract terms. If you’re extremely good at what you do and what you do makes our saves people lots of money they’ll deal with your problems. At the other end if your client is willing to keep on paying ever escalating rates they can be massive unreasonable assholes and you’ll still keep on working with them because the money’s just that good.


Pretty sure if you are on call as a doctor or medical professional you get compensated for that time, yeah.

Market power, market power, market power.

In other words, no, it's not "reasonable" (reasonable being whatever people can agree on) for a painter or carpenter, but this is not intrinsic to the job itself. It's incidental to the accident that those jobs generally have less market power. If a carpenter did manage that, they could do it too.


Having done similar to your last point: I just used GVoice and turned it off for vacations. Little bit easier. ;)

Id disagree here. Rarely will a $300K employee be the one on call.

When I worked for a department that had a rotating on-call person, if they didn't answer the call, then it was escalated up the chain, and sometimes that in fact happened. Nobody was actually making $300K, I don't think, but still, management was effectively always on call, just with less odds.

Not sure if that's still the case, but a while ago as an AWS customer with premium support you got a very extensive list of phone numbers of AWS representatives to escalate issues to in case your technical account manager or his supervisor were not available in emergencies. While I believe the list didn't include somebody from AWS' C-level, it went pretty high up. As I customer that felt very good, because it gave us the confidence that there is always somebody available in case of emergencies.

Not technically on call, yet it takes about 20 minutes to get through the corporate officer titles on an enterprise bridge, making it hard to complete the reboot sequence within the Platinum response time.

We've reached a strange point where I can no longer tell if the above comment is genuine, satire, or schizophrenia.

It's like some crappy AI bot learning to interact with humans.

I think you'll find people on the lower end of the pay scale get the most abuse.

FAANG disagrees. Money and proper oncall rotations and comp, because you don't run a world class site with a bus factor of 1.

My experience as both a swe and a pe at Facebook was that all the overtime I put in was caused by my peers, not by management. I even had up the ladder managers helping me during their holidays.

Nice, I've had the luxury of 50 hour work weeks for ~65k CAD.

Maybe we could compromise on everyone could working 38 or 36 hours a week for somewhere between 80k and 140k.


Nobody mentioned salary amounts until you did.

Astute observation. I thought it was worth mentioning in the context of what I was talking about.

> I was threatened with demotion for taking a 2-day weekend backpacking vacation out of cell phone range once (not an on call job).

No amount of money would ever make me put up with this. I would rather work retail, because at least there I know I am not valued as an employee.


They have no right to do that, at ALL. Legally, an employer can give you zero paid vacation, but if they require you to be reachable during YOUR weekend, it's their f---ing problem that they can't structure the team to have no fallbacks. In the least, have a rotation plan.

Legally they can do whatever they want - you're salaried, so it's not "your" weekend. It's a red flag and you should definitely start job hunting, but I'm not aware of anything that stops them from imposing this requirement.

Is this like an American thing? You don't own people just because you pay them a salary.

In UK you cannot force someone to work overtime more than 48 hours, averaged over 17 weeks. If they require you to be available over weekend, they would probably have to count it towards overtime.

I would find it unconscionable to be available 24/7, how are you meant to go along your daily life?

What's the purpose of that anyway, you are not working as a paramedic??


Your bosses are acting like feudal lords. I dunno about you but I still live in a democracy.

Speak truth to power when you can get away with it. And get away when you can’t.


Quit. You’re worth better than this.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Plus, you're now the guy who quit rather than being a "team player".

This philosophy and spreading it around is really terrible. It's not far off saying "Oh sure, you may be in an abusive relationship but if you leave it then you'll be in an abusive relationship but also now be sullied."

There are good employers out there, reject the trash and advocate for your self-worth.


It's not really like that. And if it is, try a different city or even country.

My theory is, if you are not desperate for money and the job market is reasonably good - go into the later interview with specific probing questions about their processes and policies. They might reject you as being "not a team player" or whatever - but if they do then its probably not where you want to work anyway.


Are we hearing "Quit" from people in the Bay Area and other hot tech spots where employees are in very high demand and everyone else with a more pessimistic view is in regions where there is a surplus of devs??

If you experience that type of treatment in Seattle, NYC, SF, etc you should quit immediately. That is not the norm and you don't have to put up with it. For everyone else, maybe remote gigs? People are killing each other for great devs in the biggest tech markets and most companies know they have to take care of employee happiness and culture to be competitive in hiring.


> People are killing each other for great devs

Well, if that’s true, there’s only one conclusion that the abused/unappreciated can draw: they (we) must not be that great.


It's a hard thing to admit on an anonymous forum but I have never been a great dev. Just good enough to never get fired. Over half the developers I have worked with are more capable than me. The trick is to get them to think I'm a great dev during the interview stage.

> I have never been a great dev

Well, here’s the thing about that: if I measure myself against the expectations that are being put on me, I’m orders of magnitude short. Compared to the expectations put on everybody who carries the title “programmer”, I’m not even qualified to be in the same room as one. But who’s setting those expectations? Not other programmers. Certainly not anybody who could walk over, roll up their sleeves and say, “See? Here’s how easy it is. Just do it like that next time.” No, these expectations come from “project management professionals” who cringe at the thought of typing a formula in to Excel. These expectations come from people who attended a two-week seminar on managing programmer “resources” and whose sole contribution to the practice of developing software is asking “are you done yet? Why not? Are you the one who’s stupid, or is it somebody else who’s stupid?”

> half the developers I have worked with are more capable than me

Really, though, how do you measure that? If you have the self-awareness and humility to consider that it’s possible that somebody might be better than you, you also have the introspective capability to improve - which makes you better than a lot of the people out there.


How did you pull that off?

I don't think that's true. That level of abuse is substantially outside the norm.

The experience described is well out of the ordinary. So I'd disagree here.

Look I'm not trying to defend what your manager did, but holy lack of backbone, batman. Why on Earth would you degrade yourself so much as to go along with this?!

If you provide value and they really need you, they won't treat you this way. Find a way to become more valuable and competitive in the marketplace demanding your skill. Save your money so you can say goodbye to micromanagers.

Nobody with valuable skills should put up with crap like that


I don't even have slack open during the day at work. I open it 2-3 times like email to see what's going on.

Employers and managers seem incapable of understanding the cost these conditions impart. I understand it: morale is hard to put a dollar amount next to.

But most tech companies don't need everyone 24/7. They just don't. They should condition employees to value their free time, it will pay off in a lot of ways.

Unless it's an absolute emergency I don't send emails past five. People are conditioned to respond to them. Same with slack messages. There's this belief that being available 24/7 is a positive attribute in employees and we really need to squash that. It's unhealthy for everyone.


It's the fact that there are so many workers willing to work 24/7 whether out of choice or necessity and companies will almost always hire the guy that is willing to work nights and weekends over another guy with the same skill level who is only willing to work 8 hours per day.

Is that a smart business decision though? Will that grinder actually put out more productivity?

It is when your site goes down on a Friday night and the 40hr a week guy doesn't care.

Ops generally have someone in those sorts of on call scenarios. You don't ask everyone to have that availability, that's insane.

Exactly. Unless you're a startup, just have a rotation for people on call. Also, resolving these issues tends to go far more quickly when you have as few people as possible looking at the issue. Those calls where you have multiple engineers debugging are generally a waste of time for most people on the call. It gets even worse when management and product ownership are also on the call asking questions. Like please, for the love of god let me work and I'll get an RCA to you when we find and resolve the issue.

Honestly, it's really about money.

No amount of preaching will change their minds because they simply think: I'm paying you therefore you should work for all those hours. If you work less , they feel like they are losing money, even though they get the same throughput from you.

I also think part of it about control, they want to keep a close on you, ensure you're don't have time to work on a side project or interview at a competing company .


I think it's absolutely fine for people to send slacks, emails, etc after 5pm.

Being _expected_ to, however, is a different story.


The reason I don't is because it tacitly sets an expectation for the recipient(s) that they do the same.

I agree, though sometimes you are working at a particular time and need to get things out of your queue. The onus is on each person to switch off non-emergency notifications out of hours and preserve their personal time.

I also think it's crucial to never reply quickly to non-emergencies. Just creates the expectation you're available and encourage more of the same.

That is, unless it's a situation/relationship you want to foster to establish yourself in a team, outpace someone for promotion, etc.


I'm not saying you shouldn't work when you want to / have to. Just do your best not to broadcast that you are, because that's how expectations get set unrealistically across a company.

I sometimes send emails out of hours but I have absolutely no expectation that they will be replied to soon and I do not check or reply to emails after hours. Sometimes I just have something I need to send before I forget or remember that I forgot to reply to something.

Sure, but the more people do this the more managers expect it.

We’ve reached total work[0] globally. The world is a heterotopia, particularly for those who are in low skilled service sector jobs. This will not change, it will only get worse.

[0] https://medium.com/the-ascent/is-total-work-taking-over-our-...


Until war reboots to a level playfield.

> There's this belief that being available 24/7 is a positive attribute in employees and we really need to squash that. It's unhealthy for everyone.

For whatever reason, employers seem to value this for certain roles, and they often pay a premium for it. This is a Good Thing for people who value money over flexibility; why lock them out of a natural fit? Perhaps you would argue that this isn't good for them, but surely they should be free to make the choice? For those who value flexibility over money, they shouldn't take those jobs. As long as expectations are communicated, there shouldn't be a problem.

Maybe this isn't a real problem, but I want to address it just in case: I'm concerned that some people may feel entitled to a high low-flexibility salary _and_ high flexibility. This sort of entitlement comes up often, and as far as I can tell, it fundamentally ignores economic realities. In other words, if these things are compatible, then proponents need to explain themselves (and provide a lot of support for their arguments) because it's far from obvious.


What is a high low-flexibility salary?

I'd guess there should have been a comma there, i.e., "high, low-flexibility salary." I'm young and don't have a family to worry about; I can work really hard, advance faster, earn more, and still have a little free time for teaching myself more interesting stuff. I have a salary which is higher than others who fill the same role, because my flexibility is less. I put more time into my job and available more, so I am compensated accordingly. I think that's fine.

Work 60 hours a week if you must, but I don't see the point of high availability.

Developers are not paramedics, our jobs should not require instant availability and the systems should be stable. There is a difference between being productive and being available for random unplanned bullshit.


Maybe not, but if someone is willing to pay you for it and the deal is agreeable to you, then good deal. If the deal isn’t agreeable, then negotiate a better deal. If you can’t negotiate a better deal, find a new job, if you can’t find a new job, then your current deal is optimal. This applies where we’re talking about working more hours or less flexibility. It’s economics all the way down.

The problem with this mentality is that it leads to ageism and encourages companies to hire 20 something's who they expect can bend to their schedule. They are going to assume anyone in their late 30s or older has kids or wants kids, so won't be able to be flexible enough for the role.

Even though CVs don't (at least in my country) have DoB you can infer it from years in education. You might not even get a chance for an interview to say "I never want kids, I just want to work hard".

Let's pretend all jobs are like this, where flexibility pays more, if you do ever plan on having kids, could you afford and would you be willing to take a big pay cut so you can spend time with them?


This isn’t a new concept; it’s been around for 60 years or more. And ageism hasn’t been the problem, because age correlates with valuable experience (tech may or may not be an outlier here); sexism is traditionally cited as the problem (the argument goes, “employers think a female candidate may have or want children and therefore be less flexible”) although to my knowledge there isn’t much evidence to support this (obviously 60 years ago sexism was a problem, but afaik there’s no evidence that links it to rigid work hours). That said, there is abundant evidence that women really do want to spend more time with their children (compared with men) and therefore prefer jobs with smaller salaries and greater flexibility.

In any case, we can’t function as a society by limiting everyone’s opportunities because someone might be discriminatory. We need to address the discrimination, and we’ve made great strides as a society.


Is paying more for more hours worked on-demand ageism? If a company meeds that type of worker, it is hiring that type of worker rather than that age. Age just happens to be a rather strong proxy for reasons listed above.

I know a number of people who have done just that - taken a big pay cut - to spend more time with kids. And why shouldn't that be the case? Less work => less pay.


Thats not really what I'm saying. As a late 30 something you may be willing to work long hours, but the company may not even consider you due to your age. That is ageism.

That’s unclear on my part. Prior to that sentence, I noted that some salaries are high because employers are effectively paying for the employer to be available at specific times, even around the clock. So these low-flexibility jobs have high salaries.

We'd need to identify these positions somehow - at the moment the weird hours and overtime seem to creep in insidiously. Few are going to label themselves low-flexibility.

I don't have any of these concerns. I just don't answer emails or Slack messages right way.

Nobody has fired me for it yet because I am there when it matters, I consistently provide value, and I show up to all meetings scheduled in advance.

Just get a big ball o' FU money and let the good times roll. You're the one who decides if you need to be "always on," and guess what, you don't. The world can learn learn to wait like 30 minutes or a few hours if you're really far away from tech.

I routinely leave my place in the middle of the day to ride my bike, climb, or whatever and I have suffered minimal repercussions.

It's all in your mind


> Just get a big ball o' FU money and let the good times roll.

I wish someone had told me it was that easy sooner!


If you're in software, it's easy. You just have to learn how to control your spending and save the rest. Get comfortable living at about $30K per year

I pay $30k per year in rent for a modest 1 bedroom apartment. :(

I do work in software, and I do save my money. However, unless I'm suddenly given a massive raise it's going to take 5 or more years until I have what I consider "FU money" saved up. I wouldn't really consider saving up money over years and years as "just getting it"

Wow. A whole 5 years to get "FU Money" saved up. That's a blessing, and can strongly be considered "just getting it". Short of an inheritance, or winning the lottery, normally salaried or hourly workers will never have "FU money"; let alone in 5 short years.

Where does your money go? Do you regularly audit your finances and account for it all?

I have a bigass spreadsheet I use to track every last dollar, and I ruthlessly optimize everything.

Cell phone plan, down to $30/month. Health insurance, just $300/month. No tv. No subscriptions. No commute. Even if I did, I own my car outright so no car payment. No B.S. pre-packaged food. I cook pretty much everything at home. Have done so for years. Minimal eating out, once a month or so at inexpensive restaurants. No debt. Of any kind. So therefore no interest payments.

A few small "luxury" expenses here like a ski pass because you only live once.

All of this is completely within the realm of someone who makes $70k per year or more, the bottom rung of software development.

You should be able to hit $100K in savings in five years if you are smart with your money. Likely more if you really hustle and audit every dollar. Maybe a little less if you're supporting kids, but you can optimize how you spend your money on them too.


There are a lot of people who are programmers but aren't "software developers", particularly not "full stack" buzzword enabled types. If you've been programming for a decade or two, and haven't had that title, you're likely not going to get that $70K that fresh grads will. Likely not even hired, for "cultural fit".

Hope you don't fall off the treadmill, because if you do, you'll find out there is no way back and no pity.


Oh I've had plenty of struggles myself. I've gone six months without work and had to spend several years just building my skills to the point where others would find them valuable.

On top of that, I was super stubborn about always working remotely, which I got but only after rejecting one place after another. I would have kept employment easily had I just been more willing to drive into an office every day.

I happen to be young, but I work with plenty of people who are much older than me and greyer too, so I don't really buy the ageism argument. The market is hot and if you can deliver the goods, chances are you can get a job.


"if you can deliver the goods"

Demonstrating what you can do at a temporary job is a viable tactic, but it takes luck to find the right one and sacrifices if it's paying half what you're used to.

When you're just out of college, you can tell people in an interview that you've been learning a language on your own, and you've done this and that, and you're confident you can be useful. And they will hire you. That's how I got my first post bachelor's job.

But ten or twenty years down the line, you can't do that. Any job with 5-10 requirements, they aren't interested in hearing how you have been studying it at home, how you were working with something similar 6 months or 10 years ago. You have to be using all of the things on a daily basis now. And confidence you can learn any language equates to arrogance and "not a cultural fit".

You don't appreciate the difference between a college grad and someone a bit older. The issue isn't that everyone who's older insists on a senior level salary, when they don't know, say, Java or Python. The issue is that it's assumed they can't even learn anything new, regardless of experience, if they aren't doing it right now.

What I did personally was to find a job with zero technical requirements that happened to be ripe for automation, so I could do whatever I wanted in any spare moment and learn whatever I thought might be useful. But in retrospect, I think it was extreme luck that I found it, and that I was at my best for the interview. Because 99% of similar jobs are just, file stuff, answer phones, move boxes.


Congrats on having no debt of any kind. I have debt. I also strictly budget my income and expenses (also with a big ass spreadsheet). Healthcare costs me more than $300/mo. Daycare (1.8k/mo), housing (1.2k/mo), car ($600/mo all inclusive) and food ($550/mo for a family of 4), are my largest expenses. Don't tell me to get rid of the car; I don't live in a city or area with ANY public transportation. The car is literally, it. No I'm not moving to CA. I don't have luxuries to cut. I don't go out to eat, I don't have Netflix, Spotify, Amazon prime, or the latest phone (my phone is a One Plus 3). I use a service provider that costs me $60/mo for two lines (TOTAL - $60/mo) for cell phone. TV is friends Plex or free Roku apps.

I won't say how much I have in savings, but your 100k in five years (20k saved a year?! SERIOUSLY?! that's more than min wage full time job, PRE TAX!) is not at ALL realistic. No I don't work a Min Wage job, but I'm not SF/Bay/SV area salary wither.


100k in savings is not FU money, especially with a mortgage and a family...

100k in accessible funds is "FU, I'm going to go get another job, even if it takes 6-12 months" money.

I have an emergency fund of roughly 3-6 months of necessary bills. It's not really enough to say "FU", but it's enough to give me an emotional buffer of, "I could leave if things got bad enough"


I've already been saving for 5. And by "FU" money I was considering an amount that would allow me to say "fuck you" to a boss and survive until I found a new job without worrying too much. Like, $100,000 or less. Probably closer to $70k, after ten years of saving.

What industry do you work in? I do software and can quit and find a new job within a month no problem, 10k is more than sufficient...

"quit and"

How many times have you quit without plans and gotten right back to work?


You my friend, need to go get a better paying job. Get out of Europe/Canada/Asia and get a software job in the USA.

I do have a software job in the USA. However, with the exploding prices of everything in Austin, it's getting harder and harder to hang onto any cash. I get consistent raises year over year but don't feel that I have any more money.

Even better! I would suggest studying for interviews with something like interview cake & leetcode and getting a job at a FANG.

Try moving to seattle or if rain doesn't work for you, the bay area. With an income of $300k+ you could probably save that $100k amount in a few years. Don't move until you have job, that way you get a relocation benefit and that $3000/month rent won't seem that crazy to you.

Even working at a startup will pay you better than what I'm estimating you make in austin.


Yeah, no thanks. I've been to Seattle and to the bay area and I wasn't a fan of either. I have an entire life built here and have zero desire to ever move, and even less to work for a FAANG.

There's much more to my life than being a programmer, that's just what I do for work. My life does not revolve around it.


Have you ever heard of Visas and family commitments?

Yeah, I had to get a visa & navigate family commitments too. It was a sacrifice, but now I can support my family overseas better.

Just trying to point out that your advise is not universal. I have moved to UK, but if my parents were ill and in need of care, that would have been impossible.

Semantics. It obviously takes time to build independence, but you can do it. It is in your power. Nobody really has to tolerate micromanagement unless they're just starting out

Yeah, I'm with you on that. My original comment was really tongue in cheek, and I agree with most of what you said in your original post. I'm the same way, I refuse to put work email or slack on my phone and once I clock out for the day I am done. I work from 7-4 M-F and do almost zero thinking about work outside those hours. I've been at my company for five years now and I keep getting promoted so my email habits are obviously irrelevant to my employment status.

If I were to get fired for "not responding fast enough" or something like that, then I wouldn't want to work at that place anyway. I'm a programmer and I get paid to program, so that's what I do. It's worked out pretty well so far :)


Yep. It's all about VALUE. If you are there when it matters and you help your customers achieve the OUTCOME they care about, they will happily forget those few moments when you were late to a meeting or didn't answer an email or Slack message right away.

Life is not grade school. You don't get points for just showing up. You actually have to do meaningful work that produces a valuable result for someone. People will happily tolerate the slightly disheveled dude who shows up with the critical component of their gold mine. They fire the smug well-spoken guy who keeps making excuses.


Ok, sure. You obviously don't have a family.

> I routinely leave my place in the middle of the day to ride my bike, climb, or whatever and I have suffered minimal repercussions.

Do you make up that time later in the day or do you just call it a wash?


It depends. Some days I work more, some days less. I honestly don't even count the hours because I think the entire premise of it is complete nonsense.

It's more like what thing can I work on such that if I were to complete it by tomorrow, people would think I was doing something amazing? If that thing takes one hour in the evening, and I have that hour free, I'll do it. If not, maybe I'll just call it a day and start on it first thing in the morning.

But it's really all about creating a perception and managing expectations, which I suspect anyone running a business does naturally


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