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More bosses give four-day workweek a try (npr.org)
934 points by hhs on Feb 21, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 388 comments

I can't begin to explain how much less stress I encounter in day to day life having just one week day to stay home. Just having a day to be able to easily knock out chores between Jira issues; drop the car off at the dealer, sell something on craigslist, complete a house project, go to the dentist, meet the handyman, go to the bank, etc is so nice.

All of these things wind up on the back burner when I'm in the middle of high stress projects and forced to sit at a desk for 8-10 hours a day.

All that does is lead to more stress because now I'm falling behind on my life tasks and have to burn a weekend catching up when I should be able to spend that weekend de-stressing.

I know not everyone is as sapped for energy as I am after work, I hate that I'm this way. But after leaving work and siting in an hour of traffic my energy is just sapped from me by the time I make it home. I have enough energy to feed myself and sometimes work out to maintain my health..

> I know not everyone is as sapped for energy as I am after work, but I leave work and sit in an hour of traffic. My energy is just sapped from me by the time I make it home. I have enough energy to feed myself and sometimes work out to maintain my health..

I know that some people just dont have the privilege of living close to their jobs, but after spending one internship getting up at 5;45am to drive with my dad to work to beat the traffic for 1hr, and then spending 1.5-2 hours driving back in heavy traffic in NYC, I vowed to never ever live in a place where I have to drive that far to get to work. 2 months of that and I was already losing my will to live. My dad did it for 15 years and I can see why towards the last leg of that job, he was bitter and angry on a daily basis. That is not a way to live.

I live in NYC, and I have a roughly 1 hour commute each way, but I just take the train everywhere.

Of course I can't speak for anyone else, but I find that taking a train to work is a lot less stressful than driving every day. At least on the train, I can read, or pull out my laptop, or just play a video game.

I had the same experience when I lived in NYC. A 45 minute commute on the subway was a lot less stressful than the 45 minute bumper-to-bumper driving commute I do now (in Seattle). I would usually play mindless puzzle games and listen to music on my commute. Other people mention the train delays being stressful, but my company had a standing "subway delays ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" attitude about showing up late. People would show up between 9:30 and 10:30

I don't ever recall feeling comfortable pulling out a laptop on the train though. Not even for fear of someone stealing it. I'd be worried about a subway monkey doing some spinning dance move and destroying the screen, or some hipster spilling coffee on it when the train slows down. Fond memories...

An interesting lifehack I hypothesized earlier this week and confirmed today is to work from home for the first hour or so of the day and then head into work after the morning rush has substantially subsided.

Until today, I've typically gotten on the subway between 9:45am and 10am for my 30 minute commute to work (that's bed to desk travel time). The train usually wasn't packed, but I was certainly squeezed up against people. Perfectly tolerable, but certainly not comfortable.

Today I did an hour's worth of work from 9:30am to 10:30am and then I commuted to my office arriving just before my 11am standup. The 10:30am train was wonderfully empty in comparison to the 9:45am train. I got a seat for the first time in months! Furthermore, that hour of work was wonderfully productive since my apt is dead silent and no one was around to disturb me. I got most of my "heads-down, high-concentration" work done for the day in that hour.

I live in Japan and have done this last year to great effect.

My work place is about an hour and a half commute and the trains are incredibly packed starting from around 7am all the way till 9.15am.

What I've done was wake up and started working from home sometime between 7-8am till around 9.15am, then leave for the 9.30am train and I'll be in the office by 11.

Work gets done and I don't get stressed from silly crowds. I also do the reverse and leave work around 4pm to avoid the return rush.

It's a small change but it's an incredible quality of live improvement. This is literal pareto, 20% effort with 80% effect. Do it.

Doing the same in Paris. 1-2 hours at home and then go in. Leave work later though 7-7:30 pm to available for US west coast people

I've done this in London where the tube can get impossible in peak hours, and it worked pretty well, although I ended up moving 30 minutes walk from the office to get 1 hour walk every day. The downside was a bit of back pain for carring the laptop on my backpack for one hour every day.

I had a similar problem with back pain. Invest in a good backpack that fits properly and try to minimize any other weight, including the backpack itself. I found a timbuk2 bag that worked for me, but go into a store and try one one with your laptop in it. You’ll feel the difference right away if it’s right.

I used to live in Renton (by Boeing) and commute into downtown Seattle (5th and Union) and found the light rail in was a good way to deal with it. Over time I found myself using my motorcycle more because I could use the HOV lanes and adjusting my work schedule to get in around 6 and leave by 3:30 (in theory) which went from a guaranteed hour each way to as little as 25min in the morning and about 40 in the afternoon.

Spent a lot of money on REALLY good rain gear and averaged almost 8K mi a year for the four of the five years we were up there. As long as I wasn’t stopped in traffic I felt even more relaxed getting a good motorcycle ride in every morning and being actively zoned out (focused on now instead of life) vs taking the train and being passively zones out with media.

Now that I’m 4mi from my office, come home a few times a week and say hi to the wife at lunch, etc. I will also never go back to anything resembling a commute.

I always think about the distance from my house to my work place in terms of kilometres. It only now occurs to me it’s pretty much exactly 1 mile, and only one set of traffic lights.

Living in a city with approximately 100,000 people has its advantages!

Well, as someone who pulls out their laptop pretty frequently on the train, I can say I've never had anyone spill coffee or kick it, though granted I don't pull it out if the train is at-all crowded.

I recently got a GPD Win 2 as well though, so I've been able to do more computerey stuff lately, even when it is crowded.

The GPD Win 2 looks interesting. Can you tell us more about it.

I had the original GPD Win (second revision) and its a quite capable travel computer. I loved the using the two thumb typing grip (which I had perfected from the iPad mini and iPhone 3S ~ 5s landscape) even though the keyboard wasn't so great. My main other gripe was the low screen resolution. The keyboard has been improved in the GPD Win 2 but the resolution stayed the same (I understand why given the target audience but 720p limits it to gamers). I stopped using my GPD Win after the battery swelled up (and Chinese 'warranty' as my third complaint) but despite its flaws I miss it dearly and I'm considering getting a GPD MicroPC soon

I can’t speak for the Win 2, but the Micro PC’s keyboard is miles ahead of the Win’s. I would never use the original Win for terminal work if I had a choice; I have used the Micro PC for it.

DisplayPort output via USB-C is another plus (monitor/mouse/keyboard/charging with one cable!) though the Win 2 may have had that as well, I’m not sure. The original Win did not.

The GPD Win 2 is pretty sweet; I have Ubuntu installed on mine, and it makes a more-than-capable coding machine, even while standing up.

Same, Crown Heights to Midtown. Would time my commute so I could get a seat and pull out my laptop to just code with no emails or other stuff coming in. Probably some of the most productive time. You just have to be good with heading in early and living far enough away to get on subways when they are relatively empty further out from Manhattan.

I commute about 45 mins on the subway in NYC and I don’t really feel comfortable taking my laptop out. Which sucks because it’s a lot of time and I’ve got stuff I could work on.

What I’m experimenting with now is taking Uber Pool most mornings. It’s usually about $20 but you can pay for it with tax free commuter benefits, and I’m saving $2.75 in subway fare, so it’s like ~$10 for almost an hour of time to catch up on administrative junk for my side biz. Seems worth it so far, although still a little frustrating.

I’ve never pulled a laptop out on the subway but the LIRR or MNR is a different story.

I have occasionally used a laptop on an NJT train. Usually I don't have space (when I even get a seat).

Now I take the bus, and I never have space at least not for my work laptop. I should have gotten the 13" instead of the 15".

I sometimes hardly ever have room to pull out my phone during rush hour on the train. Packed like sardines. And they say everyone drives in LA...

I’m born and raised in NYC and took subways and trains to work everyday for over a decade in NYC.

I mostly agree with you...but...I found the past several years of subway outages worse and started driving/ridesharing more and more. I’ve had times where subways constantly get rerouted, suddenly go express, skip stops, run on different lines, etc. it became so maddening.

All it takes is one time being stuck in the tunnel for 1.5 hrs in crowded train car and you have pretty much permanent PTSD. I have a panic attack every time the train comes to a premature stop even for a minute.

> All it takes is one time being stuck in the tunnel for 1.5 hrs in crowded train car and you have pretty much permanent PTSD. I have a panic attack every time the train comes to a premature stop even for a minute.

I used to take the Path trail from Jersey City and then transfer to the F trail to Queens. I let my boss think I love my job so much that I arrive at work pretty early on most days when in fact, I was just trying to account for the inevitable delays on some days.

I understand worker safety is important. Even if we didn't care about the workers, accidents can get very expensive and budget is tight. However, there has to be a better way than slowing ALL tracks to a crawl every time there is track work on ANY of the tracks.

That really sucks, but I don't think this applies to a lot of people.

Not sure what GP meant but in NYC I find NJ Transit, Metro North, LIRR style to be much more relaxing and reliable. Subway is just a different beast

I take the Subway virtually every day. On weekdays it's not perfect, but generally good-enough.

It depends a lot on your origin and destination. In my 6 years, I’ve found the optimal corridor to be Downtown Brooklyn to Midtown, with a slight bias for west manhattan over east. Anything outside that corridor has a high potential to be the Wild West (the G, L, JZM, etc) with kafkaesque reroutes and delays and express running local and no trains after 9pm on random 5 days every 9 weeks.

To some extent it likely depends on which subway you're on. Some lines are rough, especially at the outskirts.

But I agree. For all that New Yorkers complain about the subway, it's my favorite thing about New York.

Bad Subway is better than no subway; I wish we had that or any public transport in Northern California.

I lived in NYC from 2001-2012 and much prefer my 20-minute car commute now to any amount of time in a jam-packed rush-hour subway. Nothing like being 5mm from a stranger's face while both of you pretend you're not 5mm from a stranger's face. The LIRR is more comfy obv but at $250/month still not worth the aggravation, and unless you happen to work at Penn Station, you still have to walk through rain/snow/95-degree humidity or buy _another_ pass for a subway/bus.

I agree the average American 20 min house to office drive is much less stressful than rush hour subway (and god help us if we get coronavirus going around). Driving to work in NYC or SF doesn’t even make sense unless there was parking.

Yup. Being on a train is only a location not an activity. Like any other location it can be made more or less comfortable, I've been on a train where the heating failed; and one that was so crowded you could hardly breathe (last train home for the night so nobody was willing to miss out) but I've also been comfortably asleep in bed; eaten a decent (not award winning, but certainly reasonable even for a restaurant that wasn't hurtling though the countryside at a hundred miles per hour) meal; and watched some good movies on Netflix.

My previous job was a 1:20 commute by bike and train up to SF. I got really excited about a new job opportunity only a 20-30 minute drive from my house, but now that I've been at this job for almost a year I often miss the train commute. Commuting by car really is much more stressful.

Caltrain is great as long as it shows up. But it is a single point of failure for many commutes and it does fail a lot.

I quit my last job because of the commute, gave up driving completely this year, and got a job in walking distance of my home. That part alone has made me a significantly happier person, I was able to stop taking anti anxiety medication, I have time for social activities, I have time for my friends and family again. I could never go back to driving to the office

I changed my life so my work is 6 blocks from home. I will never go back. No realistic amount of money will ever be worth a commute. I consider commuting a form of incarceration.

I have to disagree. Realistically my only job opportunities for good pay are in cities, you couldn't pay me to live in one of those.

I'll take the commute for the luxury of living in the countryside away from the noise, overpopulation and dirt.

For every person I've met from a small town, half say they'd never want to live there again, half are like you. There has been a 10,000 year trend toward urbanization so far. I'm glad for you, even though I suspect your future is going to get harder as the hinterland continues to empty out.

I'm lucky to have a drive that takes me down the ocean for the bulk of it and I use my commute time for phone calls after the best part so even though it's nearly 40 minutes it doesn't bother me at all. But yeah if your commute is just boring traffic it can get to you day in day out.

What's crazy is that you see regulation on minimum number of parking spaces for nearly any kind of building type and yet for working buildings, there's absolutely 0 regulations on minimum number of places to live. So, what happens is there's a huge imbalance between number of jobs offered vs places to live, thus driving up the cost of housing unnecessarily.

It's almost as if they designed cities to only be driven too without any thought given on how to place living spaces closer to working spaces.

Yeah that definitely helps!

Unfortunately I think I'd still need a few hours to unwind and get out of "work mode." I've worked jobs where I could actually walk to work and I still went home just drained. TBH, I'm an introvert and I'm not sure going in to the office will ever be really conducive to my personality.

I've worked jobs where I had an office to go to when I needed/wanted to be there but could work from home or at a clients office. That was wonderful. I actually showed up to it much, much more often than I expected - by pure choice. If I was having an off day or felt especially introverted and just needed a break from people I could just knock things out at home!

I'm still pretty sapped after 8-9 hours, even if I work from home. And yes, it does build up stress from all the errands that would be easiest to schedule during office hours on a weekday with no work.

Remote work is increasingly available. Good luck!

Agreed, the one thing I have promised myself is to never have a commute over 35 minutes. I even found a 35 minute commute to an internship in the suburbs disheartening when it was mostly spent sitting in traffic.

It's insane to waste that much of your daily life shuttling to your job (if you have an option, which I hope to remain lucky enough to have).

The commute is not the problem, the car is. In Amsterdam I commuted 45 minutes by bike and it was great. I really miss it now that I work from home.

Or.. maybe people just have different outlooks?

I used to ebike for an hour each way, and it was torture. Now it's a ~20min drive and 30mins of the commuter train. Still pretty miserable, but at least it's not raining directly into my eyes anymore.

Truthfully, though, the weather in Amsterdam isn't so bad. And wow, there is some infrastructure for biking! These two things combined would make biking so much better, but then you add in the average style of bicycle you see there: Comfortable seats with some space for traveling with stuff.

I have some of the infrastructure where I live in Norway, but I'm not brave enough to bike on the snow and ice in the winter. Walking is perilous enough.

When I lived in the states, biking was often dangerous and the fastest routes weren't always available to me. I lived in the countryside for years, close enough to bike by main roads, but it not only wasn't allowed on the best path, but it would have been dangerous. No shoulder, curvy road, and cars going over 55mph (over 80kph). It was illegal to ride on sidewalks, where there were sidewalks, and few cities had bike lanes outside of downtown areas (if that).

One job literally had no entrance other than off of a 4-lane divided highway: No biking or walking to that job.

Even if I got over those hurdles, there was often no where to safely put my bike while I was at work. Heck, some of these places didn't have anywhere to store cold things for lunch.

This. I used to have a longish commute (about 1h door to door) but I took Caltrain, and that time was never wasted. I could work, connect with friends, or just unwind. The few times when I did that by car I ended exhausted. Throw in a weekly 3h bike ride to work to stay fit and it was quite excellent.

If I happened to have a job in Amsterdam, Copenhagen or similarly cyclable city, I'd totally find a place with 1 hour bike commute from the office, to both save money on rent and get free cardio exercise.

That's better but some days are bad for biking and more than seven hours per week spent on a bike is still a bit much.

Even if your commute is only 30 minutes, that is 5 hours lost a week roundtrip. An hour commute? Say goodbye to 10 hours a week. Yuck. Thankfully I have never had a long commute, my current commute is a 10-minute bike ride.

Additionally, every company should provide at least one work from home day. Having a day at home where you can do laundry while working and other minor chores are such a huge win. Not to mention sleep-in to 830 if I want. Even while doing these mini chores I am WAY more productive at home. It also breaks up your week. My WFH day is Tuesday. So I deal with Monday, then have that cushy WFH day, then when I come back on Wednesday it feels like just a 3 day work week. Friday is casual and most employees take Friday to WFH. Its a ghost town and I love it.

I need to begin looking for one of these dank jobs that are truly a four-day work week though.

I think it also highly depends on how you commute.

I had a ~1h commute for years, which meant 10 hours gone a week, but I commuted via public transport (train+metro/subway/underground) which meant I had 10 hours a week for reading or conversation with friends on the same route. I worked from home for 10 years after, and I swear I read less!

If I had been driving those would have felt like completely wasted time.

Or, a friend of mine in Sweden had an even longer commute by train, but his company counted the time as office time, since he'd just work on the train, which meant no loss of free time.

(I still agree all companies should encourage WFH as much as possible)

I've always prioritized living close to work and making my commute a 10mn walk. It's such a quality of life improvement, but I understand it can't be done by everyone.

Since I lived and NYC and London, living near work often meant living in busy and noisy city areas, but it's a compromise I've generally been happy with.

There are ways to work around the system around metro hubs that tries to push you towards the standard of commuting 2 hours or more each day to get to a higher paying job, but you have to search for them and be flexible yourself in your search for a job that's flexible.

These days, it's likely semi-remote work, where you commute 1-3 days a week or in off hours (part of day at home, part at work). For me, I've been lucky enough to always find something that I found interesting and that pays well enough while not having to commute more than 10-20 minutes in the local area, and that's having been born, raised, and lived my entire life 45 minutes North of SF.

There's not guaranteed to be something good in the borderlands, but I think people might be surprised what they could find if they can resist the call of the behemoths (and those that congregate in the same area) while being within throwing range of them.

> push you towards the standard of commuting 2 hours or more each day to get to a higher paying job

Crazy question but why not invest some of that higher salary into quality of life improvements like moving closer to work?

I think you misread some of my comment.

But as for why people don't do that, I think it's often because "quality of life" means different things to different people at different times in their lives.

For a single 20-something, moving closer to work, and the much higher cost of living that usually entails can be worthwhile.

For a 30-something or 40-something with a family, what kind of worth the spouse does (and whether it benefits from that move monetarily or in quality of live) and what it entails for the children can be much more important.

For a single (or mostly single) income household, shaving 2 hours off your commute in exchange for double the cost of living is very hard to justify. There's often a reason they live far enough away to need to commute.

For me, as I said, I've never had that commute. I've been very happy working in the tech industry an hour or so away from SF and its surrounding area. What I advocated is not moving closer to work, but working closer to where you moved. If you move to a suburb of SF, if you start looking for work in that area instead of focusing on SF, you might be surprised what's there. It won't pay as much, but theoretically cost of living is already drastically reduced by moving to the suburb, so maybe re-examining what's a good job to look is called for if that commute isn't to your liking.

School zones often play a part in the decision. With massive disparities in funding between even relatively close school zones where you live can have a large impact on your children. So often parents are forced to commute so that their kids can attend a good school. This is very unfortunate and likely a direct result of the way we fund schools in the US, but its reality for many.

One could of course argue that more time with their parents is crucial for the child as well and that is absolutely correct. My main concern though is that my kids are safe and well looked after during the time they are away from me though.

Now if I was a young single person, I would absolutely choose living in a studio a block from work over commuting an hour each way to a larger house in the suburbs. With kids other factors take precedence.

Now I am lucky enough to work remotely and it is indeed the 'bees knees'.

Because homes are often miserable in the city. You can't renovate your apartment building or clean up all the litter on your block or get rid of the cars driving by.

Driving is the price you pay for a nice home.

Long commutes are pretty terrible. Often times though parents are forced to choose between a long commute to their place of work but sending their kids to a good school zone vs the alternative. Unfortunately funding school zones based on property taxes leads to vast disparity in their quality and their ability to provide for students. The result for many is having to choose a long commute.

With that said I commuted for just over an hour+ each way in a sports car pre kids for 3 years and I never want a low car again. Give me a comfortable SUV / sedan any day now.

I think there is a happy medium too, and you don't need to live across the street from your job. I really like my job - which is located in the suburbs outside of DC but I wanted to live closer to the city so I have metro access and can easily bike around the city.

I could easily get a nice place walking distance from work but my 30 minute commute (pretty much against traffic so not stressful) allows me to enjoy my time after work and the weekends much more than I would from the extra time from a short commute. I also enjoy driving and listening to music in my car so maybe thats part of it too

Renting in a 5-minute walk distance from the office have been, by far, best investment I've made in my life.

Even though it's a small studio apartment, saving two hours of stress per day is heaven-sent for someone with low energy and chronic depression like me. It's like life switched to easy mode all of a sudden. The only downside is, I can't manage to schedule a time to read books – subways and trains were ideal for it.

Exactly. Work someplace else cheaper/less dense, remotely or get the tiniest, rathole, walkup closet where there's only a refrigerator and a tub, and you can't open the frig to open the door (but at least you can drink OJ from the carton while in the tub;). The people who commute by plane, 1-2 hours each way, or 100-200 miles daily are phreak'n outside of their skulls looking in.

Hey, I commute by train to work (about an hour each way once you factor in trotting to the station, waiting for commuter shuttles, etc.), and I'm happy as a clam because I can draw on my iPad or play on my Switch for much of that time.

Now, if you're DRIVING that same hour, then yeah, you're nuts.

What about all the time that takes? If you have kids you need/want to get home as soon as possible to provide help as well as actually see them. Doesn't matter how many games im playing during that time

I wish that I could find a tiny rathole. Unfortunately, regulations around here with the minimum square footage requirements make that almost impossible.

I work in NYC. My commute from Brooklyn in now about 30 minutes, 20 of them on a train, the rest is walking and waiting on a station. It's the shortest and least stressful commute I ever had among several cities I lived. Dense cities have upsides when you live inside them.

Around 5 years back, I went from 5 days a week to 4, taking a 20% paycut in the process.

It was one of the best decisions I've ever made - it feels like I have so much more time for family, side projects and hobbies than I ever did before. And for reference, I work around 90% from home.

TBH, the company I work for has got a pretty good deal out of this, as I'm sure my productivity hasn't dropped at all. (it's a mega corp, so there is zero chance of negotiating back to equivalent of a 5-day salary)

It's a 20% paycut, but a 50% increase in free time! I'm doing the same thing btw, taking every Wednesday off and I love it - it breaks up the week and having the whole extra day for fun projects is totally worth the money to me.

Well put – 50% increase in free time. That's a very positive take on it. Depending on who you are that'll matter more or less, but to me that phrase is heart warming. 50% more time for the family, self care, catching up around the house. That sounds peaceful.

And you pay less taxes, so the pay cut is not as high as the full sticker.

Actually, I remained in the same tax bracket.

Even in the same tax bracket, your effective tax rate will go down (because less of your income is in that bracket.)

A few years ago I seriously contemplated changing professions, so my boss allowed me to switch from full-time to 20 hours/week spread across 2-3 days. One immediate upside was that I only took a ~35% paycut due to being in a different tax bracket. As I dove deeper into my new career, I realized it wasn't for me, so I stayed at my old job... and now I can't imagine ever going back to full-time, as my quality of life has risen exponentially and I finally have enough time and energy for my never-ending list of hobbies and side-projects.

>One immediate upside was that I only took a ~35% paycut due to being in a different tax bracket.

Are you in the US? If so, you can't save money on taxes by making less; it's a progressive system.

He didn't say he saved money by working less. He said he worked 50% less but only got 35% less money.

I guess that's another quality of life perk of working outside the US :)

Well, I'd say the opposite... Here you'd be making more money.

I admit to being blissfully ignorant regarding financial matters but isn't 50% less work while earning 33% less (as opposed to 50%) a good thing?

Sorry, was only talking about the tax situation. In a progressive system each dollar is taxed at the rate of its bracket. For example (hypothetical), dollars 1-25,000 are taxed at 5%, 25,001-50,000 at 6%, 50,001-75,000 at 7%, etc. You can never gain by making less.

If you actually paid less in taxes on _every_ dollar by dropping a bracket, then you'd have been making more all along in a progressive system. Are you certain that was the case? Just curious.

You're misunderstanding what he's saying. He got a 50% cut in salary, but because all of that comes from the higher brackets, his take home is only 35% less.

I do the same thing (Australia). Worked 9 months last year and made about ~82-85% of what I would have working the full year, rather than 75%.

Incidentally this is why progressive tax is so important for a good startup culture (and thus overall tech scene). It's a negative tax on risk. The steeper your progressive ramp, the less of your geniuses are working in shit jobs creating UI form widgets with 40 managers telling them to redo it every other day.

Yes... I believe I did :)

How did you find a part time seng job? I’ve never seen one in my life. It’s all full time and contract work

I didn't, not exactly - it was a full time job for years, then I asked to reduce my hours.

In the UK, employers have to give consideration to reasonable requests for flexible working. But it also helped a lot that I work for a huge corporation, so they are better setup to deal with and permit such requests.

It is an especially big deal for working parents... having a day when kids are at school/daycare to do chores and errands is huge... so many things are impossible to do when you are chasing kids around. I get way more done on a weekday home than a weekend.

This. I literally cannot get anything done on the weekends unless the inlaws stay over to look after our 2 toddlers. As the kids get older I'm sure it'll get easier.

how about single working adults? I have to literally take off of work to go to the DMV.

Isn’t that the case for everyone working a standard 5 day week, single, kids, or not?

No. A good amount of reasonable/compassionate companies like mine don't care if you take 2 hours to go to the DMV during work hours. I'm very fortunate

But that still doesn’t have anything to do with having kids or not.

But doesn't this rely on everyone else working 5 days?

If everyone had a 4-week, it would be just like the current weekend. You can't go to the bank or dentist, because they would also be off.

Perhaps you could get the same effect and quality of life by taking Sunday and Monday as your days off and working Saturday.

Maybe different employees could have a different day off so that the business can still run unless there is only one individual that can do that particular job. I think that would work for at least 95%

That’s the approach you see in The Netherlands where a lot of people have 4-day workweeks.

Exactly right. The best alternative I've seen implemented at companies is 9/80 where employees get every other Friday or Monday off, and half the employees get one week while half get the next. That way you still get an extra 2 useful days a month to get stuff done at home, but companies themselves are able to continue working 5 days a week.

Maybe people could take different "3rd" days off?

How do we decide who gets Friday or Monday (ie, a three day weekend)?

I have a friend who once had M-W off, and worked the four remaining days. He hated it because his time off was completely misaligned with his peers, so he had no social life.

Edit - I don't have any fundamental problem with working fewer hours or fewer days. But, I think I'd prefer 5x7 hour days instead of 4x8.

I prefer mid week days off (Wednesday, but I'd settle for Tue/Thu). I love to have work weeks of two days.

I can imagine there are plenty of other people that prefer the same thing.

I'm with you completely, but from talking to others I think we're in a small minority. Most people want a long weekend.

You have some sort of rota - half the office gets Mondays off on January, then in February, they're off on Fridays.

Having tried both, 4x8 is far better. I don't do much during 5x7 evenings anyway because I'm drained after 7 hours at work, so I'd much rather just cram that into 4 days and have an extra day of rest.

> How do we decide who gets Friday or Monday

Rotate who gets which days off each week.

Another example:

My dad is a letter carrier. He's off Sunday and then has a floating day off that changes each week. (Scheduled far in advance.)

I did it a bit different. For 2020, working four days gives me 204 workable days per year. Working five days gives me 255 workable days per year.

What I do is that I work five days a week and around June-July I take ten weeks off. I have the same amount of working days per year with the same income but it feels like a godsend to have a yearly sabbatical of over 2 months during the best weather of the year. It reminds me of being in school again with the long summer holidays.

If I ever have children that means being with them for six weeks fully dedicated to them.

I do this too, but split between 5 weeks in the summer for PNW alpine climbing and 5 weeks in the winter for desert stuff in the SW, plus normal vacation for long weekend climbing trips and the obligatory holidays.

If I had children, taking the summer off with them seems great - it's a shame their vacation policy isn't flexible...

Do you actually like your job? I don't mean any disrespect, but I've had jobs I don't really like and I get where you are coming from. Right now, though and at other times, since I've had my own companies, 6 day work weeks and 10-12 hrs a day was not even an issue. I feel like if people go to 4 day work weeks, people that love their jobs and are willing to work 1.5times as much or more will have a huge advantage over the long haul.

At my team, we recently established a rule that during Friday you can work on anything work-related you want (e.g. it doesn't have to be something from the actual sprint etc). Similar to the old Google "20% for your projects" kind of a thing.

I expected that lots of useful or interesting things will be made during that time, which is true. But for me, the most beneficial effect is that my enjoyment of my work (which previously wasn't bad - I really liked my work) increased a lot.

So this can be another way how to boost your job enjoyment.

> Just having a day to be able to easily knock out chores between Jira issues

This seems to conflate working from home with having time off. Is your employer paying you to work on that day or not?

I work four days a week (30 hours). On my days off, I do not work at all. On my days on, I do not do random house chores during office hours. That's what my employer and I agreed to, and I think it describes what most people understand as a four day workweek.

You can do chores during your workday if your workday extends by a similar amount of time. That’s basically the definition of flextime, and I’ve never heard of work from home without flex (how would you check).

I feel exactly the same when it comes to energy, even though I live ~10 mins from work...

As far as work schedule goes, my company/team is fairly flexible when it comes to WFH. However, I still operate in "work mode" while at home, which makes it difficult to take of chores, etc.

Honestly, it just sounds like your job is too stressful. I work 5 days a week, sometimes more, but nobody bats an eye if I need to go somewhere 2 or 3 hours in the middle of the day. I much prefer this to 4 full time days. 5 days of less stress gives you more availability and more flexibility at the same time. I feel it's what we should really be striving for.

Seconding this, but particularly and especially for tasks that have to be done during normal business hours. If there's some issue I have that requires calling some customer service number, it often gets put off for days or even weeks before I manage to fit it in.

This is why I recently started doing remote work. I just can't justify commuting/time it takes to go somewhere 30+ minutes away.

It's interesting how many of those things rely on certain businesses being open 5 days a week at least.

Obligatory link to solution that would let working less be something that would not deserve a news story: https://i.imgur.com/ia2s7AM.png

It seems a lot of these experiments are a success. But after a while somebody gets greedy and thinks “we get good productivity at 32 hours. I wonder how much more we could get at 40 hours?” And soon you are back at the old schedule.

Something similar happened at my company. For once a project was ahead of schedule. So instead of thinking that the system worked well and keep working in relaxed manner management decided to “pull in” the deadline and suddenly the project was a death march again.

For some people it’s hard to accept that relaxed people are productive. They want to see stress and overtime or they will think that people are underperforming.

I was a development manager for years, for a Japanese company.

The Japanese are type A++ (at least, in Tokyo). They are masters at applying stress across the Pacific.

As a manager, it was my job to insulate my team from the stress, and I often took the hit for telling my bosses that I wasn't going to push my people harder than they already were working.

It seemed to work out in the end. When they finally rolled up my team, I had been managing it for 25 years, and the person with the least seniority in my team had a decade with the company.

It's a whole different world, out there, now. I had a manager at a startup tell me that conventional management assumes that engineers will only stay at a company for 18 months, so they really pile on the stress.

I can't even imagine that. There were a lot of downsides to working with the corporation that I worked for, but they treated us all with a great deal of respect, and made it possible for me to keep valuable, senior-level C++ developers for decades; despite rather sub-optimal pay, and a not-so-thrilling work environment.

Game development has a degree of notoriety for its working conditions and I’ve noticed a similar management style to yours appear subtly in certain teams here and there. The turnover is much lower, although the work tends to be less glamorized. I think it works well for the older programmers that have started families.

How does the pay compare in game development? I have heard such mixed things

I'm sadly not particularly knowledgeable on US game development salaries. I can imagine it varies a lot by company and region.

I work in Vancouver, Canada, and a large portion of its industry is due to Canadians commanding lower wages. Combined with a weaker dollar, higher education availability, and single-payer healthcare, outsourcing to a Canadian studio can save a lot of money. FIFA, for example, is made in Vancouver and the franchise commands a large revenue stream. Provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec also provide tax incentives too, since it's high-skill work.

> I had a manager at a startup tell me that conventional management assumes that engineers will only stay at a company for 18 months, so they really pile on the stress

which is ironic, because isn’t that why people stay less and less longer at a company (can’t stand the slog)?

I think economically it may make sense to hire fresh people for less money, burn them out and then have them leave soon. This may be one reason for ageism .

That may be why there is so much emphasis placed on dev frameworks like React, because you can get JS programmers right out of BootCamp onboarded fairly quickly (and cheaply).

Also, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on process. If you will have new people taking over the code all the time, you should have a fairly strict requirement for patterns like MVVM and VIPER, and require new hires to be able to adapt to these quickly.

The Japanese had a similar structure, because they rotate engineers around every couple of years. The engineers stay with the company forever, but they change jobs frequently.

That means that it's very important to have a strict policy of heavily-documented, inflexible process, and you can have vast legacy codebases that people are afraid to change. If you can farm a lot of that out to a dependency framework, then it becomes S.E.P. (Somebody Else's Problem).

I'm not a huge fan of this approach, but many companies seem to feel it works.

There was a company called Taligent that took this to extremes. I read their style guide (I spent a great deal of time researching how other people did development -it made me quite the cynic). They had the strictest, most convoluted structure I've ever encountered.

Taligent eventually collapsed under its own weight. The idea was to only have Architects be creative, making line programmers little more than data entry. Programmers couldn't do stuff like create new classes without getting permission from an Architect.

Don’t forget that large companies internally are very similar to a communist planned economy. They have five year plans and central planning. Everything flows from the top. They value predictability over everything else. So it makes sense to run everything like an assembly line where every position knows what they are supposed to do and can easily be trained. Only a few elite people get to work on the big picture and be creative. Personally I don’t like this but I’ll admit that it works.

It does work, but is not a particularly good approach for consumer (or even pro) software. You keep delivering yesterday's technology, tomorrow.

It's the kind of approach that you might use for space launch software, but even that can be iterated (as SpaceX is showing).

As long as the money keeps coming in, I don't think the business guys will see any reason for change.

It's funny that if you invert the sentences, they even kinda slightly make some sense.

Small companies are similar to capitalistic free market. They have no plan, but everything flows from the engineering. They value innovation over anything else. So it makes sense to run everything like a lab where nobody knows what they are supposed to do but cannot be easily replaced. Only a few elite people get to work on their own pace without turning on their brain. Personally I like it but I'll admit that it never works. As a result, they always strive to deliver tomorrow's technology yesterday.

The people I've seen add the most value and be the most productive are always the ones with the longest tenure. Because they know the software backwards and they know the domain too.

18 months is barely a blip on the radar.

Absolutely agree. At my job, 2 years is still a baby, many people are at 5, 10, or even 15 years; and the company is only about 25 years old!

Absolute bullshit, but the metrics being gathered are all askew. When you've already fucked your productivity with bad management, what difference does a high turnover rate have?

> I think economically it may make sense to hire fresh people for less money, burn them out and then have them leave soon.

If the job is focused on smashing rocks with a hammer to make smaller rocks, that's probably true.

Provided it's easy to get new people up to speed and experience isn't overly important

Long term, no. Short term maybe, or it's not "economically" but "politically" desirable.

I agree that it's hard for some people (managers) to see a relaxed, happy person and believe that they're also totally productive.

I don't blame them either; I feel like the image of overly-caffeinated, stressed-out people is embedded in our collective consciousness as representative of High Productivity and our lizard brains can't seem to be able to reconcile that with the data that is saying "relaxed people who make enough money, are treated well, and have the freedom to live satisfactory lives outside the office will most probably be more productive, focused, and effective at work."

If it works for chickens I don't see why it can't work for people. Companies could brand themselves as "Free Range"

Happy workers lay nicer eggs!

A lot of companies brand themselves as “free range”. Just read some job ads and see how happy people are and how much fun they have at work. And like with “ free range eggs” you have to a very close look to see how true the claims are.

>I feel like the image of overly-caffeinated, stressed-out people is embedded in our collective consciousness as representative of High Productivity

Don't forget about the over prescription of amphetamines. I knew I was in a bad place when all the "high performers" (according to management) all had darting eye, chewed gum all day, and were underweight/never ate during the work day.

Anecdotal, but I’ve experienced the opposite where the greed seemed to come more from fellow employees rather than managers. Five day weeks meant breakfast breaks as soon as the group came in on Friday, long lunches, and people mentally checking out early. When we switched to shorter weeks this just shifted to Thursday. After productivity was hurting management was met with a near mutiny attitude at the thought of going back to 5 day weeks.

Point being, I think there’s something to be said for company culture in making this work

There are two types of companies: those that value presenteeism and those that actually value things getting done.

Yes, I imagine in the first type of company people would continue to slack, but just do it fewer days a week.

It's as if killing the golden goose is a tale as old as time...

Is it not also the responsibility of employees to ask for that benefit? Specially developers have that leverage. We have the ability of changing the whole job landscape.

>Is it not also the responsibility of employees to ask for that benefit?

I've been on both sides of this equation and yes employees have a responsibility to speak up, but given the dynamic of the relationship it's easy to see why they wouldn't. If managers aren't interested in listening then speaking up can just get you on their bad side.

Organizing activities to form a union is protected by US federal law.

If you’re afraid of management, why are you working there if you’re not attempting to level the playing field?

Sounds like labor organizing, and yes, its the best way to ensure you say some say in what your work-life looks like.

The usual path for this are unions.

I agree. This is our duty to push for normalizing reduced work hours and remote work

> For some people it’s hard to accept that relaxed people are productive.

Just look at how U.S. culture treats service workers. We best be seated on time for our dinner reservation. No one should wait 15 minutes for their hotel check-in because housekeeping isn't done yet. Oh, and that coffee was ordered nearly 5 minutes ago. And the plumber was supposed to be here at 8.

Your concerns about greed extend well beyond worker productivity. It appears to be the logical extension of believing the individual is sacrosanct.

All of those examples you offer sound like management issues rather than issues with the service people themselves.

If I make a dinner reservation, my expectation is that the restaurant knows what the crowd will be like at that time and has scheduled enough staff to handle it.

Similarly, if the plumbing company says the plumber will be here at 8, it is totally reasonable to expect him to be here by 8, or they shouldn't say he'll be here at 8. If there's too much uncertainty in his schedule to give a specific time, the company's scheduler should instead be giving blocks of time.

One example of treatment of service workers that actually does reflect their own performance rather than resource allocation / scheduling issues is expecting them to always be doing _something_. I used to work in retail, and if there were no customers in our department, heaven help us if our managers caught us just standing around chit-chatting. We needed to be wiping windows, no matter if we'd just wiped them an hour ago, or tidying stock, no matter if it was already in pristine condition. I see the same thing with restaurant waitstaff. Both management and customers expect to see them always on the move, even if their tables don't necessarily need anything at the moment.

It didn’t happen when we had weekends. But they workaholics or pressure will have them work weekends. The 4 day week seem moot point in that regard. The other issue come up later on when people get used to 4 day work week is that they eventually have chores that can’t be done in 3 day weekends. Sort of like the rule where if you give x amount of time fir a task, you will likely use all of it.

>we get good productivity at 32 hours. I wonder how much more we could get at 40 hours?

Usually 4 days a week means 4 ten hour days, not 4 eight hour days. Hence the phrase "four tens".

In my mind "4 day work week" means "4x8 hours", and "4 tens" means "4x10 hours". I have family that works 4x10 hours, and they usually refer to it as "4 tens".

It looks like some people go either way, though. Quote from the article:

> Many employers aren't just moving to 10-hour shifts, four days a week, as companies like Shake Shack are doing; they're going to a 32-hour week — without cutting pay.

In the article they are discussing the 32h week though

When the 40 hour workweek was first proposed, doomsayers said it would be the end of the American economy. The opposite happened, and as injuries and illness decreased, productivity increased. [1]

Something to keep in mind, as it’s counterintuitive and the instinct is to say, “that can never happen here”, or, “it’ll never work.”

1: Robert Gordon, “The Rise and Fall is American Growth”

I'm genuinely impressed that the Overton window on hours seems to have changed since the last time the 4-day work week was in the headlines.

Not that long ago, it was unquestioned that four days meant 4x10. It was simply unthinkable that we would consider less than forty hours "full time." I even skipped this article initially, expecting it to have the same assumptions! And yet, they specifically report that Shake Shack cut back to 32 hours without cutting pay.

I would have expected service-sector jobs to be the last to see something like this. And if a burger chain can do it, an office where we spend 40 hours in a combination of productivity and reading HN can absolutely do it.

Service sector does not want you working 40 hours a week for benefits purposes.

But 32 hours is enough to qualify for benefits.

You can never afford those benefits on a service sector job anyways.

At a time of coronavirus outbreaks in the news, I have to think that models of propagation should account for national differences like which areas have required vacation & sicktime benefits as well as universal healthcare.

I worked 4x10s when I worked for the Army and it was awesome. 3 day weekends take off so much pressure, and come Sunday night I was starting to feel the itch to get back into work rather than the dreadful feeling that I 'wasted' my weekend. The only work experience that was better than this was 100% flexibility to work remotely and/or flex hours.

So there's my anecdata for you :)

10 hours really seems extreme. I am certain that the vast majority of office workers could produce the same level of output at a 4x9 schedule as they do in a 5x8 or would in a 4x10.

And most would be profoundly happier people.

The vast majority of people I know who can do four 10s love it, and find the 10 hour days aren't really much different then the 8s. I'd love it if I could do four 10s, but in a company that does 24/7 healthcare, that's not an option for support staff like IT, not even at my level.

The issue with 4x10s is those days are exhausting - they leave me with no energy to do anything else that day. At least with 5x8, most days I can get out for a bike ride after work, or take my dog for a long walk. 10 hours? It doesn't happen, I go home and flop on the sofa.

Right, but that's you, lots of other folks like them, so we should have the choice.

There's nothing magical about other folks. They either have lots of slack time during the 10 hour days or their jobs aren't really that challenging.

Why would there be no folks that simply have higher mental endurance?

There are large differences between people regarding their strength, physical endurance and intelligence. Why not mental endurance?

Yeah, in my experience the difference between 8 and 10 hour workdays were negligible (except certain times of year where I'd get to my desk before sunrise and leave well after sunset). Anything I'd do with my "extra" 2 hours per day I'd happily batch into my free Friday.

I completely see where you're coming from, but having kids changes the calculus completely.

Not necessarily. Most folks have kids, most folks I know that prefer four 10s have kids, and like having that fifth day off.

I barely see/interact with my kids on an 8 hour day. On a 10 hour day, I'd probably miss them completely.

I would like one day a week when I'm not working OR looking after the kids, however. That would be amazing. It would be great to give it a try and see how it worked out. Unfortunately my employer is a hardass and doesn't even allow work from home, let alone fewer days a week.

Young kids need 10-12 hours of sleep. 10 hours working, plus 1 hour lunch, and a 30 minute each way commute means your kids likely should literally be sleeping the whole time you're at home during a work day.

I don't know any parents that do that - literally never interact with their kids 4 days out of the week. What actually happens is parents sacrifice their kids' sleep schedule.

Great point. I hadn’t considered that at all.

I do find there's a lot of benefit to flexibility though. If I'm in the zone at the end of day, and don't have anything else to do that night, I'll often work an extra ~2 hours (or until I feel like I've lost it.) But on the flip side, I will also leave early on a night where I have a lot to do outside work.

Oh for sure. I'd bet that people working 4x9s or even 4x8s are equally/more productive as 4x10s and 5x8s and are happier. But if I'm choosing between 4x10 and 5x8 I'd take 4x10 any day.

really? HN crowd is talking about 10 hr days as “exhausting” ? i can’t remember the last time i worked less than 5x10.

To me, the idea of consistently working more than 50 hours/week is only something I would do if I desperately needed the money and couldn't find a better way to support myself. I hope to never be in that situation.

I understand working like crazy for things like starting a company/grad school/career change, but those things all last a limited time and come to an end.

I wonder if there is a disconnect for people who were brought up in butts-in-seats culture who then count presence at work for 10 hours as work despite possibly turning in 50-60% of that time producing something of value.

Then you have others who are more used to billable time or flex work or similar where they view that 5-6 hours (+ breaks and food) as an '8 hour' day and the two can't understand how the other manages.

Lucky is the person who can throw themselves at problems 10+ hours a day and look forward to going back to it the next day, I guess. I can easily and happily do that in the 6-8 range and feel proud of the previous day's work and be ready to do it again the next day.

By choice?

My best schedule ever was also military, but it was 7-3-7-4: 7 8-hour "afternoon shift" days, then 3 days off, then 7 8-hour "day shift" days followed by 4 days off. The 3-day time off was Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, and the 4-day was Friday through Monday - and because you were getting off the early shift and going onto the late shift, it seemed like a longer break. Of course, that implies shift work and three crews for 16-hour/7 day coverage. (The "graveyard shift" was a skeleton crew, and your turn would pop up every four months or so. Air force. It was basically for emergency landings for civil and allied aircraft and such, with some swabbing of the decks for busy work.) The work week was long, but there was plenty of time to get stuff done and to wind down. Hell, you could even cram in a weekend getaway without a lot of stress.

4x10s are tough for me, but the 5-4-9 plan (5 9 hour days one week, 3 nine hour days the next week followed by one 8 hour day - basically alternating 3 day weekends) are pretty nice in my book

I worked 9 hour days with every other Friday off and hated it.

Yeah that sounds way too inconsistent on a weekly basis for me

and still on average > 80 hours every 2 weeks.

The way these typically work (and how I am doing it) is that the first Friday is 8 hours, the second Friday is 0 hours, and all other days are 9 hours. I’ve found it to be extremely useful for the reasons mentioned in the article. It gives everyone a weekday off regularly to get weekday-requiring things done like personal appointments. It also makes it easy to take long weekend trips more often. Both of these are aligned in a way that lets the remaining weekdays more productive, since people have their time off aligned.

This type of schedule is called a 9/80 and you work 80 hours every 2 work weeks.

Your Fridays "on" you work 8 hours instead of 9. And you get every other Friday off.

At my company, we have the option between the standard 5x8, the 9/80, and the 4x10 schedules. Surprisingly (at least to me), the 9/80 is by far the most popular (the 4x10 being the 2nd most popular and the standard schedule being the rarest option).

Something felt fishy about their claim that number of hours worked has been climbing in the United States so I checked their source. It turns out that "average annual hours worked" has changed from 1,780 in 2011 to 1,786 last year. This seems like barely a rounding error...

On the other hand, if you look at the FRED website it shows that average annual hours worked has massively decreased in the last 50 years: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/AVHWPEUSA065NRUG

1951, for example, shows 2,030 hours worked on average. That's the equivalent of more than six additional weeks of full time work.

I would say that Keynes's prediction that economic growth could get to the point where we would only need to work 15 hours a week (750 hours per year, assuming 2 weeks vacation) is ... trending towards becoming true? At current trends, it will take another ~280 years.

(Obviously this is a silly prediction but, an interesting thought experiment.)

The overall average per person has declined (though not really since the 80s). However, in the same time frame, the proportion of women in formal work went from 35% to 60% [1]. So the story for men and women looks very different. Note also that for women this is a shift from domestic labor to formal labor, so it's probably not much of an increase in hours worked even though it looks like that on paper. However, in the same time frame, I believe men spend a bit more time on housework than they used to, which is not included in formal hours worked.

The point of all this is simply that it is difficult to make conclusions about labor market trends from average annual hours worked.

[1] https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LNS11300002

There's more too - an apparent rise in unpaid 'off the books' overtime [0], the rise of mobile and email creating expectations of evening/weekend work, and increasing travel times to work.

[0] An average of 4.6 hours per week in Australia across all industries according to this https://www.tai.org.au/sites/default/files/GHOTD%202019%20Fi...

Certainly, the data is inconclusive enough that you can make strong arguments either way. My issue is with NPR making a generalization and citing a source that doesn’t really back that up.

I was curious for context on this, and honestly didn't find much in my brief search, but apparently it's thought that for professionals, the hours worked has gone up, while for the working class, it has gone down. I didn't research it, but I wonder if part of the explanation is that working class people tend to be under-employed, and/or government policies that kick in at say, 30 hours / week (like the ACA, for example) push the numbers down. Professionals of course tend to be salaried, so you really want to squeeze out as much as you can.

I don't think it is possible to compare hours worked 100 years ago and now.

Now, especially for developers and office workers, work is almost indistinguishable from life.

For example there is barely any time while I am awake that I am not thinking about work. (sometimes even my dreams are about work related tech topics)

Not to mention that modern management techniques are deeply psychological, and sophisticated propaganda.

TBH I dont think more work is being done, I just think the corporation organism consumes as much as it can.

> Something felt fishy about their claim that number of hours worked has been climbing in the United States so I checked their source. It turns out that "average annual hours worked" has changed from 1,780 in 2011 to 1,786 last year. This seems like barely a rounding error...

This is a classic case of statistics being used to prove a different point. Perhaps the average annual hours worked is pretty much the same, but the way work happens has changed and it may be harder to quantify. For example, what if there are more part time jobs and people have 2-3 part time jobs? Or how are the hours worked by the flexible hours folks at Starbucks (flexible to be picked by someone else I mean, usually only at peak times). Anecdotally, there's a guy I know who holds a full time job selling insurance, then works afternoons for UPS for the health benefits. How is that reported in 'average annual hours worked' thing?

It's the same as saying that unemployment went down and being happy about it. Because there are so many jobs, some people have 3 in order to pay rent.

I believe the FRED data I cited is per person, not per job.

Does this include part-time workers? If so, the slight increase since 2011 could just be a reflection of the lower unemployment and underemployment.

Actually even if it's only considering full-time employees, it could still be related to unemployment, since a tighter labor market would leave more positions unfilled, which would mean more overtime.

these numbers are across all industries, right? a 40 hour union job has certain parameters such that the work hours aren't going to shift much without larger political shifts within those orgs.

But I suspect the number of hours a non-union knowledge worker works per year has gone up in the same time frame.

> these numbers are across all industries, right?

I think so. The way these sources gather data is somewhat opaque to me but there's nothing to suggest that it's filtered out by industry.

> I suspect the number of hours a non-union knowledge worker works per year has gone up in the same time frame

Huh... I don't see that data anywhere on FRED but it would be interesting to know. You can search for yourself here: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/searchresults/?st=hours%20worked

Anecdotally, I have swapped stories with my father in law who started his career as a finance worker for a large corporation in the 1980s and he worked significantly more hours than I have at any of my current or previous jobs. 10+ hours 5 days a week was the expectation, plus an hour commute both ways... hard to say if that generalizes in any meaningful way though.

Are you forgetting overtime back in 51 I suspect there may well have been more OT worked and there would have been more factories back then

"Natalie Nagele, co-founder and CEO of Wildbit, has heard from other leaders who say it didn't work for them. She says it fails when employees aren't motivated and where managers don't trust employees."

I would muse that employees usually aren't motivated because they hate their working conditions, usually imposed by shitty managers / company cultures. Managers & companies may complain about "unproductive" or "motivated" employees as if its some personal failing of their employees, but news flash people aren't going to care unless they have a reason to care. If you want employees to enjoy their work and actually be motivated to some degree greater than the bare minimum, give them working conditions that they enjoy. Give them retirement benefits, less working hours, less micromanagement, more pay, remote working options, etc.

This is a problem that stems from crappy notions of how work cultures "ought to be" in America, and can only be solved by destroying those notions and getting rid of the idea "productivity above all else" in companies.

Unfortunately some people are just lazy. At my job they introduced 10% time to be used for personal development, but it's been abundantly clear that most employees are simply taking it as holiday.

Yeah it's almost as if when you have one hundred people, is everyone lazy? Or are you the one causing the problem?

My superficial understanding of capitalism is that the only thing that motivates employees is money. If you want people to be more motivated, give them more money.

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.

-- Bertrand Russell


This is a funny kind of bubble quote, by someone I think out of touch with most people.

I believe most people would watch TV, play cards, play video games. This is what they already do with their spare time, there's no reason to believe there wouldn't be more of it.

It's amazing what a 'schedule' and 'working with others' and 'requirements' and 'deadlines' can do - it brings people to life and is probably the only way hard things get done.

For a certain kind of person, some free time would lead to a lot of exploration but for most people it would not.

"This is what they already do with their spare time, there's no reason to believe there wouldn't be more of it."

I can see one reason: the benefit that you get from an activity is a nonlinear function of how much time you invest in it. This is why people tend to specialize in certain domains. If you barely have any time to practice painting for example, maybe it's not worth learning to paint in the first place. Conversely, if you have more free time, it could be worthwhile to find more creative things to do with it.

This is especially true if you consider frame-switching overhead. The amount you can get done in 6 hours of some demanding creative activity is probably more than 3 times the amount you could get done in 2 hours. And obviously people would have more long uninterrupted blocks of free time if they had to work less overall.

Also, with most schools being the way they are, I think children in general get very little opportunity to pursue their creative impulses; it's always about following the teacher's instructions. Maybe adults would have more curiosity and creativity if these traits weren't snuffed out in their formative years.

Finally, even in our current society, being just a lazy consumer in your free time is far from universal, for example: https://www.namm.org/news/press-releases/gallup-organization...

> This is what they already do with their spare time, there's no reason to believe there wouldn't be more of it.

From the same essay

"The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part."


Who cares? Sounds like a win/win to me. Some people get to relax more and the curious or creative get to explore or create more.

When nobody works it's definitely 'lose lose lose' for almost everyone.

Going down to a 32-hour workweek would be lovely, but I'm simply not interested in doing 4×10. I'd rather get home at a decent hour than have an extra day off.

To each their own. My work week is spent on work and I can't really enjoy the time before or after work. I'll never enjoy M-F.

I'd rather have a 4x10 than a 5x8.

If my side hustle ever graduates into a startup and I start hiring other people, we're doing 4x10 or 4x9.

I wonder whether the benefits decrease when the whole team does 4X10 - I found when I did 4X10 that I was much more productive for the two hours I was alone in the office. Of course, no saying everyone has to work the same 4X10.

Why not let your employees choose? From what I’ve seen single people love 4x10, people with kids don’t. 2 extra hours a day means my kid can’t possibly make it to practice in time 4 days a week.

No kid yet but 2 more hours working currently would guarantee that I did absolutely nothing but work and do random household bullshit for the entire time I am awake, with zero time to decompress from work.

9 hours maybe, but 10 hours? I'm a software engineer, I can't produce quality work for 10 straight hours. Most good, solid work gets done in a 4-5 hour period. 10 hours in front of a computer isn't good for anyone.

Why not try a 4x8?

Maybe so. And it might make it easier to offer as a perk when I can't offer a salary that competes with Google and Facebook.

What's the nature of the side hustle if you don't mind me asking?

As knowledge workers (I'm assuming), I feel strongly that the number of hours we spend at work has little correlation to the amount of value we deliver. I could easily get the same amount of value delivered in 4 7-hour days that I currently do in 5 8-ish hour ones. I'm only forced to hang out at work for a certain set of hours because of... tradition I guess?

I work for a start-up that is non-VC funded, I work 5 days a week, but I’m only in the office 5-6 hours a day (there are some weeks where things are very busy and it’s not the case) and I occasionally work a few hours on the weekend.

They’re only concerned with results and it’s a slow growing business, I am however extremely underpaid.

Getting ready to take the jump to a new job with a 70% pay increase, but the last few years my life has been sweet (besides living in a very shitty apartment).

4x10 would be fine by me if I'd live 10 minutes from work. But I don't think my dog would appreciate being left without a walk for 12 hours.

On 32 hours now and I can handle it financially. As long as that stays the way it is I'm not changing anything.

I work from 7-5 each day, so even when I go to the gym or run a quick errand after work I can be home by 6, which strikes me as a "decent hour", although I suppose that's subjective.

Waking up at 6am takes getting used to but isn't unreasonable in my opinion.

If during rush hour you can leave work at 5 then do a workout or an errand to get home by 6, then you either live in a village or you're a winged animal.

Not to mention your workout must be really short.

Not only that, but even after years of gym going and explicitly trying to find my most efficient workflow, the shower, changing to/from workout gear and driving to/from gym, makes each workout take 2 hours (1 hour training + 1 hour logistics overhead). 2.5 hours if I talk to my gym buddies or use the sauna/hot tub.

There is a gym very near my office. I do a short strength training circuit that takes me between 30-45 minutes. My commute is 15-20 minutes (medium size city and I live within 10 miles from work) and I shower at home.

Obviously very specific to my scenario, but it works for me.

It's pretty much impossible for me to go to sleep any earlier than 2am, so getting to work at 7 would require me to only get a couple of hours of sleep at night, which isn't nearly enough for me to function on.

I used to be like that until I started forcing myself to go the the gym in the morning. It was brutal in the beginning but within about 3 or 4 weeks I was asleep at midnight every night.

I'm from Germany and none of my friends works 40h anymore.

They're all down to 50-80%

This is even regulated by the law, your employer has to allow you to reduce your work time, only in some extreme cases they can deny it.

Works like a charm.

Indeed, my employer (Netherlands) is also quite flexible here. Problem is that it almost always comes at the cost of promotions. I've never seen someone who works parttime get promoted. Everyone who gets promoted works full-time.

In other words, going part-time is a commitment to the job-level you're in, in my experience. It signals to management you're good, reliable, ready to stay in that position perpetually and do a decent job, but not up for anything ambitious. Whether this is true is a different story, but it's how in my experience it gets interpreted.

That works fine if you're a 45 year old parent making 2x the median wage in a mid-level manager position working 36 hours (one week 5 days one week 4 days), 32 hours (4 days a week) etc, because your salary doesn't need to grow, plus even at parttime its sufficient. But at the start of your career making 70% of the median wage, going parttime both hurts career growth and isn't always financially feasible.

Is there an English-language description of this law anywhere online? I couldn't find it and would love to learn more. Thanks!

Thank you! Very interesting. I've been having conversations with friends about the societal desirability of - and potentially need for - this sort of working arrangement over the past couple of years. I personally would love to be able to take a 10-20% reduction in annual work time.

What about your pension or your company car? If you work an extra day in the week 100% of that money can go straight to your pension, giving you 10 years of early retirement.


Either you get free time when you're young or you have to work longer.

I am curious. Where do they work? What do they do?

My family is in Germany and a lot of them also work shorter hours. This works for all kind of jobs including upper management and specialist jobs . It’s a misconception that some jobs require 40+ hour work weeks. When the 40 hour workweek was introduced a lot of people also thought that the economy would crash and it worked out just fine.

Accountant, marketeer, developer, nurse, optometrist, barkeeper

Do you also get paid a 50-80%?

Salary is set at a 100% baseline, but your contract is fixed at a certain percentage (usually 80% or 60%) and your salary and working hours are adjusted accordingly.

Employees are generally not expected to work beyond that amount, and when they do, it's with the understanding that they can go around and reduce their working hours the following week (or whenever works for them & their manager) to cover the delta.

Yes, but since the taxes aren't linear (less pay equals less tax %) you usually end up with more money per hour.

Some of my friends even got an indirect raise out of it, because employers couldn't pay more, so they worked less for the same pay.

I like the idea of working less, but it's going to be hard to use Germany as a poster child. The German economy hasn't been doing to great recently. In my opinion it's largely due to carrying lagging EU economies, but it will be hard to use a struggling economy as a positive indicator

Germany: https://tradingeconomics.com/germany/gdp-growth US: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth

The German standard of living is exceptional. Abstract worries about "the economy not doing too well" don't really matter until the standard of living declines in some meaningful way for a lot of people.

Owners demand perpetual growth. People demand comfortable lives and occasional vacations. Most achieve that in Germany. There probably isn't a single better "poster child" of a prosperous society with anywhere near the same population.

I'd rather be an owner in America with perpetual growth. Difference of culture I guess.

That growth only really benefits a tiny minority of the country though. There are far more people in a precarious position in the US than in Germany

GDP growth is not indicative of a higher standard of living. It just means more things are part of the economy.

If I grow my own food and play board games with my family, it doesn't boost the GDP. However, if I go to MacDonald's and then send my kids to daycare while I go to the movies (3 economic transactions), it increases the GDP since those services are now commoditized.

Increasing the GDP might boost the standard of living in really poor countries, but there's a healthy ceiling until it becomes growth for the sake of growth.

"GDP growth is not indicative of a higher standard of living. "

Whoa there, GDP is absolutely correlated to the standard of living, this is not contentious. That it's not a direct measure, true, but it's definitely 'a' measure. Moreover, growth or contraction in per-capita GDP in a nation is definitely correlated with increasing/reduced economic prosperity even in 'rich' countries. Yes, many things are 'not measured' particularly leisure, but most things of material value are. The GDP is one of the 'least bad' measures we have.

Two macro economists are taking a walk in the park. They come across a pile of dog shit and one says to the other ”I’ll give you $500 if you eat that.” To his surprise, the other complies. The money is handed over. After a while more, they come across another turd. The dare is repeated, the other way around. One says to the other, ”you know I can’t help but feel like the only thing we got out of these transactions is that we’ve both eaten dog shit.” The other shakes his head and replies ”The GDP has gone up by $1000.”

Our comments aren’t conflicting. I was mostly saying that at some point the continued growth of the GDP means turning every aspect of human interaction into an economic interaction, where everything becomes commoditized. Home cooked meals or housing my aging mother aren’t impactful on the GDP like supporting the restaurant and retirement home industries, but I’d say it’s a healthier way of life. A sleepy town may not be booming but I’d prefer it to a high GDP output city.

Yes, I see what you are saying, but those 'high GDP output zones' are where a ton of the surpluses get created. A million 'happy little towns' won't create a lot of the very specific things we need and depend on for our standard of living to be high. We depend very heavily on 'exceptional organizations' and those things involve inherently greater dedication than many other jobs. For example, I don't think that Tesla would ever happen were it not for the fairly intense work of the leadership there, and they are 'forcing' the market on electric cars. A lot of things behind the scenes like this. Admittedly, on the other hand, a lot of jobs are pushing paper ...

I am using this as a company/boss/role filter and it is fantastic. Some are offended that I think I have any control (literally uncontrolled in their negative response, "how dare you ask that?"). Some seem confused ("but you're supposed to be lying to present an image of the perfect employee, aren't you?"). Others are glad for the request and appreciate my honest straightforwardness and willingness to discard convention to achieve better results. There's been sufficient discussion of this that it no longer counts as innovative but I've always been on the leading edge (sometimes, sadly so) and am obviously willing to take risks.

Always remember that interviews are mutual.

I've been working 32 hour weeks ever since my daughter was born 2 years ago. Mondays are my day off, we go to music classes, walk on the park and just spend time together.

On tuesdays I'm "hungry" when I go back to work. I think this is the perfect balance for me and I feel I'm more productive than ever.

It may not be for everyone, and it's definitely a privilege, but if you can, I really encourage you to try it out.

Counter-point, from the article:

> Natalie Nagele, co-founder and CEO of Wildbit, has heard from other leaders who say it didn't work for them. She says it fails when employees aren't motivated and where managers don't trust employees.

Also it would be good to keep in mind the Hawthorne Effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect#History

> it fails when employees aren't motivated and where managers don't trust employees

I'd counter that _anything_ (including the standard 5x8 schedule) will fail in those conditions.

Many of us work in spaces where servers are expected to be working and running 24/7. Yet our bosses still want every single employee to have butts in seats 9:00 am to 5 pm, 5 days a week and in the same time zone. Sometimes with a little guilt-tripping on the side for taking sick days and vacation.

Wouldn't we be better off with several shifts, 4 days a week, covering Monday through Saturday or even the entire week?

Mature places have this with a global workforce.

Not so mature places put 9-5ers on call with a tiny bump in pay.

My org has been around for over 150 years, and our IT department expects admins to take a rotating week of oncall. Not only are you expected on call with a 10 minutes response time, but you're expected to do your normal day to day operations/projects. And during normal business hours, a ton of extra stuff gets dumped into the lap of the oncall person, because why not?

My boss describes this as everyone's turn in the barrel, and part of working in IT. There's nothing more demoralizing for my coworkers than being on call. Well, maybe having our tickets be the metric we're evaluated by.

I would argue you’re in a toxic work environment and encourage a change of scenery via interviewing and finding a better employer.

And the least mature do it without a bump at all!

Guilt is a hell of a drug.

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