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Ask HN: Saturday dilemma
18 points by abhishekdesai 1572 days ago | 25 comments
Hello HN, Recently we are going through a dilemma which I am sure you all can help us with.

I run a small IT service company in India along with 3 of my friends. We are 7 years old now and have team of around 50 developers.

We have 1st and 3rd Saturdays off and we work on rest of them in a month.

Inspired from following article about 40 hour work week culture in Microsoft.

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jmeier/archive/2010/10/21/40-hour-work-week-at-microsoft.aspx

We were thinking of having 40 hour work week schedule at our company too.

If we implement 40 hour work week, what should we do about the 2 Saturdays we are working on, assuming everyone will finish their 40 hours from Monday to Friday.

Should we keep those Saturdays completely off?

OR

Should we have some interesting activities, fun games, coding war games, lunch, movies etc on those 2 Saturdays?

What will make developers more happy?

1) A Saturday completely off

OR

2) A Saturday completely for their own selves for doing anything they want, for e.g. a pet project, a blog post, improving writing skills etc.

We want happy developers and great teams in our company so we are seeing this dilemma as an opportunity to do that.

Since HN community comprises mainly of programmers and think tanks of our world, I think I will get the right answer here.

Thank you in advance.




I'm not sure this is a question someone outside the Indian culture can really answer.

In the UK, we're used to Saturdays off; you'd get the most bonus here from doing just that and giving people the day free every week.

But, cultural expectations are weird to outsiders. Maybe the staff would be seen as lazy or less useful by their peers / families if they were at work less; in which case I'd suggest keeping the work hours but providing a different day pattern for them, such as more social time or personal projects.

What makes people happy in working conditions is individual and very different in different contexts. You know your staff and your better than we do; you are better equipped to make this call.

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Ask your people? Most likely, everyone will want the day off. Also, 37signals does 4 day weeks and still produces enormous revenues...

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There is a huge difference between 37Signals and us form business point of view.

37Signals is a product company having successful products in the market already.

We are an IT service company whose revenue literally and linearly dependent on the number of hours we work.

So need optimized solution for company and for developers.

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In the short term your revenue is linearly dependent on the number of hours worked, but in the long term it's a function of productivity. The focus should be on creating value not putting in hours because you can always increase your hourly rate, but you can not work 25 hours in a day. And revenue is meaningless, the only important number for a company is profit.

PS: You can add employees but foxconn's 920,000 employees generate around ~100 million in profit per year. Google's 26,316 employees generate around 80 times that much profit meaning they are generating ~ 2,800 times the profit per person.

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Yes so for that only, we were thinking of investing 2 Saturdays in growth of individuals. This will require dedicated time and efforts from our side. We are willing to do that.

Everyone has chance of improvement and we believe by investing our own time may help individuals to improve themselves.

For e.g. Not every programmer has good writing skills or spoken english skills which is required for communicating with overseas client. We can spend time in improving that.

I am just arguing here to have fruitful discussion. I am just taking the opposite side right now so that we can uncover more points.

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you will eventually need to go fixed fee and use intellectual property to do things faster. This will let you get bill rates in the 300-500/hour or higher range.

The downside is that you are solving the same problems over and over again.

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My guess is that in 100 years, working 40 hours a week will be seen as barbaric.

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I find around a 32 hour work week is the sweet spot for me. I have been in the position of working less than that and I don't really find it rewarding. However, the few times where I have tried working 40 hours a week it has been ok for a few weeks and then I started to become unhappy and get pain in my body from sitting too much.

To the OP, if the Microsoft article inspired you, you may also want to read this article about Henry Ford moving to a 40-hour work week - http://www.worklessparty.org/timework/ford.htm

Unfortunately, as you mentioned, you run a services company so you are rewarded based on the numbers of hours worked and not directly on productivity.

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I don't know. One does have to spend one's time doing something. There is a natural limit to how LITTLE I'd like to work, technology improvements notwithstanding. If I only "had to" work 1 day a month, I can't imagine being competent at anything or feeling like I was contributing to the world.

Right now, a 4-day work week sounds nice, but a 2-day work week sounds boring. So there's a balance somewhere, varying for each person and job. But 40 hours is certainly less than people used to spend farming. It used to be "6 days a week, work from sunup to sundown."

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I peraonally would be happy with a day off. The other option is hard to make fun for everyone imho.

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Give them the day off on Saturday, but keep the office open so that if they want to come in and work on personal projects in a familiar setting, they can.

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Is it common in India to work on Saturdays?

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Yes it is common. Things are changing recently but still you will find only 2 out of 4 Saturdays off in most companies.

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Give your employees the day off. This will be a competitive advantage when recruiting and retaining employees.

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No . It's not . Only a handful of IT companies work on Saturdays

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As someone who've worked saturday mornings for nearly 3 years (in Vietnam) I will say this: saturday is OFF.

A 1 day or a 1½ day week-end is not a week-end and I was a nervous mess after 3 years of that. To top that the saturday mornings were 95% useless because seriously what can you possibly accomplish in such a short time in a noisy open-space when your mind is thinking about how you'll try to relax during the short time allowed?

As for organizing something, I think programmers are grown-up enough to take care of themselves and decide what they want to do with their day off. You don't have to babysit them.

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Great. Though there is slight difference in your situation and ours. We at least have couple of full weekends in a month.

I like your answer but.

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Ask your people what they want. Honestly, I think having to work weekends, whether or not it's on pet projects or workshops or whatever, is too much. People need time away from work to decompress if they're going to be effective developers over a long period of time. Even here in the United States it feels like two days off is too little.

You say you have 50 developers. What's your turn-over rate?

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Well let's say we have attrition rate of 20% to 40%

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"[...] whose revenue literally and linearly dependent on the number of hours we work."

I know nothing about your company of course; but you can take a 'step back' and see if there is a way to get paid without having to be available so often?

Are you spending too much money, not charging enough, or need to think up some more revenue streams / ways of making money?

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Try the "fun" saturday first, if you don't see any interest then offer to give the day off. If you give the day off first and then ask people to come in, you might not get a positive response.

Also, why does it have to Saturdays? Employees with children might like a day off during the week, to do things which are harder to accomplish in the weekend.

I went to primary school in Mumbai where we had Thursdays and Saturdays off. I liked the break in the middle of the week, but I'm not sure if my sentiments were universally shared.

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1. Ask them. 2. Organize an optional "do your own stuff"-saturday (or perhaps "lets do a cool project together in one day"-saturday) and see who participates.

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Just keep the day off. 5 days/40 hrs. a week is the norm.

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Days off on all Saturdays would be ideal. Fun and games I think should be random and during the 40 hours of the work week.

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Well its not just about fun and games. We can also have technical exercises, communication skills improvement during this time.

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