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Future of work will be 5-hour days, 4-day workweek, flexible staggered schedules (forbes.com/sites/jackkelly)
96 points by rustoo 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 124 comments



Just do this at your current job, especially if they have an “unlimited time off” policy, start putting in those fridays. Don’t make a big deal about it, don’t abruptly leave at 2 (every day)… spend the latter couple hours reading, working out, etc.

The catch? You gotta be good at defending the work hours you do put in.

Don’t lie, don’t make up excuses, but be prepared to say I did xyz as planned.

This will obviously not work for everybody in every profession, but it’s your life and you can try to take some of it back on your own terms. It’s easier to fly under the radar than to ask permission.


I've worked at several tech companies with distributed or remote teams and flexible hours. Every one of them had a few employees who were considered so good that they could get away with working visibly fewer hours than everyone else and only being available when they wanted to work.

Great for them, terrible for everyone who had to work with them. When one person has significantly less availability than everyone else, the rest of the team is forced to structure their activity around catering to that person's schedule.

Superstar engineer only works a couple hours per day? Prepare to block that time off in your calendar so you can try to catch them to coordinate that work you need to do together. Rockstar coder unavailable every Friday? Better hope they're not blocking your work, otherwise you're waiting until Monday to make progress. Or more realistically, you're going to waste all Friday trying to solve something on your own that could be finished 10x faster if you could get 15 minutes of that person's time.

> Don’t lie, don’t make up excuses, but be prepared to say I did xyz as planned.

The fallacy is that for most tech jobs, that "xyz" is rarely the end of the story. Planning isn't perfect and we almost never know the complete scope of a task or project at the planning phase.

The end result is a lot of work shifted to other team members who are forced to pick up the slack simply because they're available and reliable, unlike the person who disappears every Friday or spends every afternoon at the gym.

This may work in a hypothetical workplace with perfect planning and perfectly isolated work units, but in practice it just moves the excess work burden to other teammates. You're not sticking it to the company, you're sticking it to your team.

When I transitioned to management I made a point to try to balance workload and availability across teams. It often makes more sense to let go of superstar engineers who are only available 4 out of 5 days per week and only working a few hours per day, even if their work is good in isolation.

A healthy team requires everyone to play by similar rules.


I've worked remotely for a long time. Availability is basically the only thing I've found can't be compromised on. In fact, I've found being more available is the easiest way to be recognized. It's particularly important with a distributed team across timezones.

I think it's a fair trade-off. I get my work done on my schedule, then help people get there's done when they need me - even if that's not "core hours". The benefit is no one cares if I spend sometime during the day running errands, getting lunch, or exercising - as long as I can respond to them in a reasonable amount of time.


Well said. Internet discussion tend to glorify an idea of isolated, asynchronous work where each developer is an island. Pull ticket from Jira, work on it in isolation, then toss it to your manager and log off for the day.

Maybe this is true in some feature factory somewhere, but every tech company I've worked with has required synchronous collaboration to get things done.

> The benefit is no one cares if I spend sometime during the day running errands, getting lunch, or exercising - as long as I can respond to them in a reasonable amount of time.

Exactly. I don't care if someone steps out to run an errand or pick the kids up from school or to hit the gym, but they need to be available with some regularity during core working hours for any collaborative work to proceed.

When one person starts taking excessive liberties with schedule flexibility, everyone else is forced to adapt their schedules to that one person. It's not good for everyone else on the team.


> Exactly. I don't care if someone steps out to run an errand or pick the kids up from school or to hit the gym, but they need to be available with some regularity during core working hours for any collaborative work to proceed.

But the starting premise was that some people would work 5 hour days, there's plenty of overlap there. It's not much different than separate time zones, as another commenter pointed out.


> It's not much different than separate time zones, as another commenter pointed out.

Separate timezones are fine as long as there is some overlapping core hours.

If that's not possible, the work needs to be more cleanly divided across timezones.

I've had to collaborate across different timezones (as an IC). It's rough. We tried to take turns staying up late so everyone suffered equally, but it's still brutal.


> A healthy team requires everyone to play by similar rules

The nature of engineering does not align to this. Let's imagine the future with said "rockstar":

If you give them busy work to fill the rest of the sprint they get frustrated and leave because they're doing more work than everyone else, and they probably get paid the same (most companies do not have high compensation plans that align to single team performance).

If you assign them no work and just let them coast, now they're bored and required to be somewhere, so they leave.

If you give them more work that's large projects to fill their time but don't have opportunities for promotion or leadership, they leave. The opposite can be true too, where they repeatedly get accolades and promotions, then the rest of the team gets annoyed.

You're just displacing the issue rather than fixing it.

What I'd do with rockstars is stick them on complex things that are cogs in the larger machine. Have them fully document their work, detailing things like interfaces where others will plug into their work. Then they can do whatever with their extra time and I get the longevity I need out of them.

What I'm saying is, the processes and communication on your team need to align to having someone of greater talent in the same ways that having someone of lesser talent requires the team to change to support them.


hah. classic management thinking.

do you understand that the time spent working on something is only very weakly correlated with the quality of the deliverable?

do you understand that some people can save you months or years of work and operational pain?

do you understand that some people no matter how much they work end up creating negative value and someone has to clean up after them?

you also have a very distorted view on what a superstar is. you’re effectively substituted toxic person with high output with superstar.

“superstars” get where their input is needed and provide the input in a timely manner (most of the times even before it’s requested). superstars think about the product and the output of the team as a whole. superstars grow junior developers and instill the values that will turn them in then next gen of superstars. superstars don’t sacrifice the future because of the present. superstars despise managers with but-in-seat mentality such as yourself. you probably have never worked with a superstar or if you did you were oblivious to the value they actually created.


> classic management thinking.

I think you misread. I was speaking about my experience as an employee in this situation.

When a single team mate refuses to work with everyone, you have to put in extra work to work around them. It's as simple as that.


this is what triggered my response:

> When I transitioned to management I made a point to try to balance workload and availability across teams. It often makes more sense to let go of superstar engineers who are only available 4 out of 5 days per week and only working a few hours per day, even if their work is good in isolation.

Rarely does something needs an answer right now. Asynchronous work? Also, of course you don’t want to encourage people that are straight up hostile, but also your expectation that I’m gonna drop everything at any point in time to answer some thing that does not matter right now is pure bs. randomization is where productivity goes to die.


> Superstar engineer only works a couple hours per day?

Replace the superstar with someone working "normal" hours but in a time zone offset by >= 5 hours to your own. You seem to be saying that cooperation with such people cannot work. But that is simply not true, many companies do make it work.

Is it always easy? No. But it can work very well.


We had distributed teams with people in different time zones.

The key is to require some defined overlap of working hours. If that's not possible, you divide the tasks as cleanly as possible across timezones so that people in the same timezone can work together.

Trying to force teammates to work together on something in opposite timezones doesn't work unless you have very relaxed deadlines. When someone has to wait until the next day to get a response to any blocking questions, work slows to a crawl.


> The key is to require some defined overlap of working hours.

Sure, that's not what I'm disputing.

> When someone has to wait until the next day to get a response to any blocking questions, work slows to a crawl.

Blocking questions should be an absolute exception in any case, even if the person who can answer them is just down the hall. It's on engineering management to organize work and documentation practices so that people can find answers on their own.


“Of course not. There is only room for one Dennis Rodman on this team. In fact, you really can only have a very few Dennis Rodmans in society as a whole; otherwise, we would degenerate into anarchy.”

-Phil Jackson

https://a16z.com/2011/01/04/when-smart-people-are-bad-employ...


"When I transitioned to management I made a point to try to balance workload and availability across teams. It often makes more sense to let go of superstar engineers who are only available 4 out of 5 days per week and only working a few hours per day, even if their work is good in isolation."

This makes it so there's no incentive to finish your work quickly, because you'll just be assigned more work.

Doesn't it make more sense to give people the rest of the day off if they finish their work ahead of schedule?

You'll have more satisfied employees and less burnout.


It I’m paying someone by the hour, then I’m fine with them leaving when they are done with their work. However, if someone is salaried I expect them to put in a solid 35-40 hours/week. At this point I’m worried about the morale of the other devs on my team. The last thing I need is everyone getting pissed off because they think I’m coddling a Prima Donna.

One more note: the best developers on my team look for more work when they have finished their tasks. They are focused on the success of the overall team.


I've come across places that have a concept of "core hours." Basically, everyone must be physically present in the office between 10am and 3pm Monday through Friday, and all meetings must be scheduled between 10am and 3pm. People are expected to work roughly 40hrs per week, and you could work some of them from home, or over the weekend, but if your output was better than your peers, you could put in less hours and nobody would call you out.

Seemed to work great. The early birds would come in early, people with kids could take off early, the night owls could come in a little later, and everyone had some blocked off time to get some focused, individual work done without meetings.


How do you measure output?

I can spend a day fixing other people's problems and my output looks poor. But if I weren't there things would get stuck.


If you're good enough you can pretty much dictate your working conditions. But it's bad advice for most people. I've seen plenty of mediocre devs take this kind of advice, and it's sad/embarrassing to see. Anyone who's decent figures out that they can cut corners at their first job. 90% of the devs I've worked with (conservatively) should never cut corners and should've been putting in more hours to become adequate. Most feel-good self-help advice like this is worse than useless, it's harmful to anybody who finds it novel.



I have a 40 hour contract.

I could reduce my hours official and getting the percentage amount less.

I try to reach 40h.

I cat follow your argument? Should u just start stealing because no one is controlling me?

There should always be something to clean up, automate, make nicer or learning about something business relate (can be Technologie).

We have headcounts or we had no more budget for one person more. So I would prefer this headcount to be filled with someone good and working 40h because if you work 20 I could try to get someone else additional doing the other 20.

Is is so much different in all other companies or why is this brought up so often?


Nope. Don't believe it, it's another hubris-heavy article from Forbes.

Sadly, for most people in the world, the future of work is more likely to be 9-9-6. Clock in at 9am, leave at 9pm. Repeat 6 days a week, for the rest of your life until you can't work and no social safety net other than your family. This is what your overlords want.


The economy works against us, not in favor of us. For example, we went from households with one breadwinner to two. What did it bring us? Did we get more free time? Nope. Cost of housing and living in general increased. That's what we got.


We went from households where everyone worked 12+ hours a day, to a tiny chunk of the world population could get by with a single income household, to a dual-income system. Mid-century America was an anomaly.

I’m not saying it shouldn’t be a goal to have no/one income households; sounds great for QOL, but let’s not ignore the bulk of history & humanity.


This assumes that the non-breadwinner did not work. In the vast majority, the second party, almost always a wife, was busy homemaking -- toiling from sunup to sundown tending children, making labor-intensive meals, cleaning, doing laundry, making clothes, growing and preserving food, etc. Did they get paid for their 12-hour workday? No. They significantly enabled the breadwinner to specialize in his field, but only he is seen as contributing to the economy.

Today, we've got machines to do the dishes and the laundry, refrigeration, and foreign slaves / wage-slaves to make our clothes and crops. Homemaking is less labor intensive today, and what could be more leisure time has been replaced with two-income houses.

And, for example, my great grandma was both a housewife and she had a job at a sweatshop. The single-income household wasn't really an option for the poor in the 40s, and I suspect that it's only been broadly available to the upper class.


The parent point assumed nothing of the kind. For the point of this analysis, it doesn't matter whether the non-breadwinner was busy homemaking, skydiving, or collecting stamps.

The point is that they didn't need to trade their labor for money, and now they do.


No, you and OC are equating labor with leisure. Women were treated as property until very recently in history, and a married man was at significant advantage to an unmarried man.

Some women of the time had a choice: to enrol in a relationship with a man and toil for his household, or to toil for a paltry income; many needed to do both. Skydiving and stamp collecting were only options for the independently wealthy


I don't think women were treated as property by the vast majority.


Legally speaking, coverture laws stuck around until the 1960s. There was certainly a gradient both de jure and de facto, in time and in space, but my grandpas certainly beat my grandmas like they were property. One wouldn't stand that crap, and left his ass. The other was just subservient. I have cousins whose husbands won't allow them to learn how to drive, and only let them spend money on groceries. De jure, they could leave at any time. De facto, they're treated as sub-human. Today.


Today women have jobs so that they could pay for cleaning, doing laundry or for daycare for their children. Financially it cancels itself out, but women get just as little time with their own children as men.


As if the only thing women want in life is to mother? Or that men never want to father given that women now can have a career that isn’t only low level?


The point is rather than having 2 parents working 5 days a week between them, it’s 2 parents working 10 days a week (and maybe more)

They need to do this because the house that was affordable on one salary in the 80s now requires 2 salaries and childcare

Not everyone is like that, but I had to explain why we didn’t have childcare costs when we took a mortgage put last week (I work as in the original point - I work from home, I take the kids to school for 0830 and pick them up at 1530, in between I do things like the dishwasher (while boiling the kettle or making lunch) and do what I deem enough hours to fulfil the goals of my department.


Most people don't have a "career". With that I assume that you want to become management or CEO. Everything else is just normal work. In that sense, exchanging motherly duties with meaningless work is not worth it.


I have a good friend who is an architect, which is neither CEO or management, who wants to be able to express her trade but has very mixed feelings about the need to also mother.

Even if retail or whatnot, having an identity outside of the home to give you self worth isn’t exactly unique to C-level execs. I think it’s quite patronizing to assume that’s the only route to self-actualization.


I don't know why people think that being a mother is somewhat bad.


Perhaps I worded that wrong. When I said mixed feelings about the need to mother, I mean the pull where society says she must choose between career and mothering, and that it’s selfish for her to choose more time working. Yet this is of course never done for the husband who is assumed to by default be the one that can and should choose work over fathering.

The larger point being that 2 parents working to cover child care costs seems impractical from a viewpoint that looks at that net, but that would exclude the fact that many people define identity, societal productivity, fulfillment and even enjoyment from their jobs outside the home.

It’s also means that you can continue advancing in your career so that when you don’t need full time child care you’re in a stronger position. Many women who leave work for years to parent have a very hard time getting hired.


Being a teacher is a career. Being a doctor. Being a lawyer.

Going into management and other paper pushing is pointless work sure, but many careers are very valuable and build upon skills and experience in that job with profession in that job as much as you want.


So your "career" is just "work" or "job". Which is fine, because everyone has a career then, even if you stay at home for your children.


I strongly dislike the idea that a households with one breadwinner is/was the usual/ideal organization of a family, but instead of writing a long rant, I prefer to give you a link to a 5 article series by Bret Devereaux about the production of cloth in the Roman Empire and similar times/places. https://acoup.blog/2021/03/05/collections-clothing-how-did-t... (HN discussions, with ~100 upvotes each https://hn.algolia.com/?query=Clothing%2C%20How%20Did%20They... )


>we went from households with one breadwinner to two. What did it bring us?

You are assuming the US had a choice in whether its population has to start working in the latter part of XX century.

Single breadwinner thing, along with cheap quality housing for everyone, highway build up and other projects of massive scale of that era were mainly possible because every other relevant player in world economy was still rebuilding from losing most of its population and/or infrastructure, transitioning through a huge political shift, or Argentina.

It was never sustainable in the long run.

Once those resources ran out economy had to transition back to what is natural for it - everyone contributing.


Yeah but we got a lot more stuff and experiences than single breadwinner households of the past. We’re not optimising for free time spent in material poverty.


Before the invention of the laundry machine there was something like 15 hours of weekly household work washing and drying clothes.


it goosed economic productivity, which is what those positioned to capitalize on it (pun intended) wanted. what it didn’t do is bring the holistic prosperity that was promised, because that really wasn’t wanted despite the rhetoric. it’s time to insist on fairness and dignity for work, not try to devalue work further by trying to minimize it, which plays right into the hands of capital.


Compare this Forbes fantasy to the reality reported by Vox:

"Bosses are acting like the pandemic never happened"[1]

The sad fact of the matter is that most of the people who run things really don't give a shit about their workers, as long as they get rich.

Which is why I'm constantly amazed at there being any worker protections and limited working hours at all. Laws like that are the only thing that gives me any glimmer of hope at all.

[1] - https://www.vox.com/22455058/jobs-restaurants-office-employe...


Indeed. And much of that 996 time will be a total waste of lifespan - too-big meetings with no outcome, creation of presentations with no purpose, over-thinking decisions where random chance would be just as good. Or incessant internal propaganda all-hands performances. Inefficient work culture is just another contributor to Western cost disease.


Regular reminder that forbes.com is blogging platform open to anyone just like medium.com, blogger.com, etc. Articles posted there should not be given any default credibility boost.


I think this is a blog post, not an article. They've really ruined any reputation that they might have once had by muddling the difference.


Thank you for pointing this out. Every single time I see a forbes.com page posted, I see other people in the HN comments who clearly do not recognize this.


Newspapers have always had opinion sections.


True, but in my experience they are always clearly labeled as such. Whereas Forbes makes the difference non-obvious, as evidenced by commenters on Forbes opinion pieces often saying "Forbes says $thing" rather than "$blogger says $thing".


Possible. Companies and countries that do this will have cheaper labor and lower cost of goods.

TikTok has a 996 culture and is killing Facebook.

The only way out of this is through automation or potentially economic protectionism.


There's no way that they're beating Facebook because they make their employees work 72 hours a week. Any one who has worked 70+ hour weeks knows that your productivity drops off a cliff and never shows back up.


TikTok is killing Facebook because it's a more compelling product, not because the engineers are overworked.


It is now. Facebook was a killer product back in 2007 (and probably until recently, it still was).

The inevitable fate of TikTok is to become more like FB than different, assuming that they are successful, because of the business model commonalities.


> TikTok has a 996 culture and is killing Facebook.

Because of, or despite?


Automation hasn't saved us before.


this sounds amazing. where do i sign up and get assigned my serial number?


>This is what your overlords want.

Good to see a healthy dose of reality.


OK, but it was a deliberately flippant remark with a grain of truth.


I know, It's hard not to be flippant with the crowd over here.

(sometimes I wonder what their background is, It looks like it's a bunch where their parents were from a poor socio-economic backgrounds, so that in their view when both couples are working for 40 hrs a week and paying off a mortgage is seen as 'progress' )


We can avert this future if we unionize. Labor unions are the only way to extract fair treatment from executives and boardrooms.


unions don’t alter the dynamics that cause downward pressure on work, which are the lopsided labor market dynamics that greatly advantage corporations over the individual (as well as over customers, by the way). we need to make labor markets radically transparent and promote worker mobility over corporate flexibility, at the very least.

(my last startup venture was in this space)


>promote worker mobility

I agree, the best ways to do that include providing universal healthcare and basic income to all citizens, which would separate "work" from "survival". That's the only way I see to create a truly fair marketplace for work.


like so much in our economy, healthcare suffers from the same poor market dynamics as the labor market. being tied to full employment is only one of its ills (it need not necessarily be universal, but rather universally affordable). the healthcare market is extractive and collusive rather than competitive and fair. we must fix those things first, largely through political pressure and policy changes (like tax reform and eliminating distortive subsidies). otherwise, it remains extractive and collusive and wealth keeps funneling to the same poor allocators of capital and away from working folks who are collectively good allocators of capital (via ‘wisdom of crowds’). good capital allocation instills competition, drives down prices, and incentivizes real innovation (vs. the financial/legal kind).

ubi would do something similar. it could never be big enough to change systemic issues, so would result in a funneling of the distributed wealth back to the capital holders, with no structural change other than inflation and rents going up.

so there’s no magic bullet. we need to make thousands of policy changes, all aimed at making markets fair and competitive foremost.


Okay, so how do you convince corporations/lobbyists/politicians to support this? Appealing to their kindness and decency? Or through more realistic ways like inception?


We don't need to "convince" any of them. The nice part about a democracy is that if enough people decide that this is important, we can elect politicians who already support it, then they can make laws which corporations and lobbyists have to follow.


The problem here is mostly office workers. I do think Americans spend "too much" time in the office, but this is because so much time is wasted, due to the costs of working in a big bureaucracy.

While it's easy to say "I could work 50% less time and accomplish just as much", actually doing that in a sustainable way (e.g. without shifting mindless busywork onto other people) is a hard problem.

It's a bit like all these people talking about government waste. Yes, we know there is government waste. But that doesn't mean we know how to make the government more efficient in a sustainable way. This is because the government is also a big bureaucracy, and making these structures efficient is something that we don't know how to do very well. People tend to carve out their own little empires, they sabotage each other, they create their own view of the world which differs from the view of the world of someone one level up or down, and then they spend effort on things not really explainable to those outside their view of the world, and often those efforts don't make much sense to people outside that specific bubble.

What this means as that as we continue to get more bureaucratic, the situation will only get worse, not better. We will be able to accomplish less and less real work in the same unit of time. You can see this now with irreality everywhere. It's infuriating, but unclear on what to do about it. It's bubble-within-bubble with so much effort expended at completely irrelevant things to anyone outside the concern-bubble.

That is why people end up working crazy long hours in the economy as a whole just to keep things going, and telling people to "work less" is a bit like treating the government waste problem by cutting all budgets by 10%. All that happens is that work piles up and the organization as a whole becomes less efficient over the long term.


Massive eyeroll at this article. It has been predicted for literally a hundred years that technological advancements would make it so we all only work a couple hours a week. Somehow it didn't turn out that way.

Of course, in a competitive economy with property rights, it's impossible that we all only work a couple hours a week. If you say "I'll only work 20 hours a week, but I still want a salary that completely supports my lifestyle", chances are someone else is willing to work 40 - 60 hours a week to get ahead.

These utopian seeking articles that give zero analysis to basic economics, nevermind basic human nature, are just daydreams.


All that is necessary to enable the average worker to work many fewer hours a week is for the amount produced in those fewer hours (over the whole economy) to be sufficient to allow everyone to live comfortably, and for the output to be shared reasonably equitably.

We have the former. We've had it for 50 years. The only problem is the latter: We have allowed the people at the very top to take all the extra gains from the productivity increases since about 1970.

Changing the system to prevent that level of blatant skimming off the top, and ensure that the benefits of the economy are shared equitably, is what we as a society need to be working on right now.


I don't really disagree with you that much. Clearly there are government policies that can redistribute wealthy more equitably than, for example, what happens in the US, as evidenced by other 1st world social democracies that have very different tax policies and lower Gini coefficients.

But that said:

1. In a competitive economy, that can never be handled by a company-by-company basis (except for companies that have huge monopolistic moats, hence all the perks at the large tech companies), as other companies will be willing to work more and take more business. So it would have to be handled at a government/societal level, and this article talks nothing about that.

2. In a competitive global economy, it can be extremely difficult for one country to provide tons of worker protections and benefits if other countries are willing to forgo those benefits to get ahead. Indeed, that has happened in many Western European countries: if you have a job, especially a government or trade-protected job, you're sitting pretty. However, many of these countries have had to deal with overall lower growth which has resulted in staggering youth unemployment.


> blatant skimming off the top

That skimming off the top is via ownership of shares. I wish we had a culture that rather than savings, we invested. If the masses did that there'd be much less cause to complain and more right for ordinary people to vote on company board members that promote better values.


This reads very much as "I wish the poors and plebs would start doing things my way, rather than criticizing my way for being only accessible to the wealthy and effectively legalized gambling."

I forget the exact numbers right now, but a depressingly large percentage of Americans today literally do not make enough money to be able to save anything. These are not problems that can be solved by market solutions. We cannot fix inequality that dwarfs that of the Gilded Age by encouraging people living paycheck to paycheck to buy stock so they can have the privilege of a single vote out of millions on whether Rich White Guy A or Rich White Guy B gets to be on the board.


Before retiring recently, I worked as a lead programmer at a minimum of 10 hr/day 5 days a week and occasionally Saturdays, and some months I worked 7 days a week since we always had deadlines and our execs changed stuff every single day. I finally had enough of this madness. No way you could do my job in 5 hrs/day.


can i ask you why you did it? did you ever look at reducing the amount of work / switching jobs? To me this sounds a little bit insane (but in a non-judgmental way).

I hope you enjoy your retirement.


40 years is enough; if for some bizarre reason I'd ever want to work again for someone, I'd switch to Product instead of Dev. Understand both what to build and how is a huge benefit.


i was asking why you did it for so long, not why you retired :)


i have some bad news for you: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs

jobs and what you are payed are in no way related to the value you produce. if anything, you should be payed more.

a 10 hour work week is doable but will never happen because capitalism and controlling the masses of people.

what do you think people would do if all of a sudden they had to work 20 hours instead of 40? people with free time are one of the most dangerous things to the “ruling” class.

re: 60hours/week. Do you really have a lifestyle at that point? Do you even have a life?


> re: 60hours/week. Do you really have a lifestyle at that point? Do you even have a life?

I mean, this comment basically proves my point. You appear to be saying "60 hours a week is basically inhumane", but many eager young people are willing to work far longer and harder, and, importantly, not because they are worried about starving, but specifically because they want to get ahead: think doctors (in 2003 in the US physician residents had their hours limited to just 80 hours a week - i.e. they were working far longer than that), and bankers (e.g. Goldman Sachs bankers recently asking for an 80 hour cap: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56452494).

Point being, there are plenty of people willing and desiring to work hours you consider "inhumane", and those people will certainly desire a far greater share of the "pie" than those working much less.


They're not eager to do it for its own sake. They're eager to do it because they think it's their only shot at a comfortable lifestyle.

There's no reason this should be the case. There's no reason anyone in this country should have to worry about having a less-than-comfortable lifestyle, given how much food, energy, and various necessary and luxury products we're able to produce. It's only the case because of the massive income inequality we have today.


> they think it's their only shot at a comfortable lifestyle.

That is patently ridiculous if you've ever known any Goldman Sachs interns or medical residents. These folks all have plenty of much easier options for having a comfortable lifestyle, and they know it, but it would be a comfortable lifestyle with certainly less luxury and prestige than GS banker or doctor.

That is basically my whole argument, that there are a subset of people who will work super hard just because they want to be at the top of the totem pole. Arguing that these type A folks think that working 80-100 hour weeks is "their only shot at a comfortable lifestyle" is laughable.


nope. someone being able and willing to do “insane” things for a bigger piece of the pie should not make this the norm. should people that are one paycheck away from being homeless be okay with the 80hours?

gonna ask again: at this point do you have a life?


"In thirty years America will be a post-industrial society with a per capita income of $ 7,500. There will be only four work days a week of seven hours per day. The year will be comprised of 39 work weeks and 13 weeks of vacation. With weekends and holidays this makes 147 work days a year and 218 free days. All this within a single generation."

From The American Challenge by Jean Jacques Servan-Schreiber published in 1967.


Surprisingly accurate, but maybe not in the way he meant. The post-industrial jobs are restaurants and other service workers. The 4x7 shifts are for the employer to stay under the threshold for providing a health coverage plan. The weeks of vacation are unpaid and occur from frictional unemployment (time between jobs), business downturns, and pandemic closures.


Yeah, when I saw the headline I thought this was one of the articles published around 1900.


I simply can't put in more than ~20 hours of productive work per week anyway. Yes, I used to sit at my desk in the office, but I was basically doing nothing and just wasting time. Either I'm just lazy (highly likely), or there is a cap for the number of productive hours you can spend doing creative work.


For me it depends a lot on what kind of work it is. Architecture/design/troubleshooting or other mentally taxing work I agree fully, maybe 4h after lunch per day. I can easily put in 40h+ of productive work when implementing straightforward solutions though (coding, documentation, testing etc).


I would agree. I can easily put hours into straight programming when there is clear designs and goals. Actually designing the program though can just get exhausting.

I won't discount personality differences but I've certainly seen it enough in others that I figure there is some sort of mental limit.

A lot of discussion on automation is on removing the tedious, basic stuff so we can focus on the more difficult mental tasks. I do wonder though if perhaps we won't get as big a benefit as we think just due our nature.


Dirac worked four hours in the morning and then had fun the rest of the day. He would have agreed with you and it paid off for him ;)


I’m sitting here staring at that headline as my tablet sssslloooowwwlllyyyy debates if it’s gonna load the rest of this article and all I can think is: for who?

Is this gonna be the future of work for construction? For fast food? Store clerks? Will this 20h/wk schedule pay enough to support them and their spouse and a kid or two?

I am betting the answer is “no” and that this future is only coming to Forbes’ target market, or some subset thereof.

Edit: got it to load on the other tablet, the first sentence says this is only talking about white-collar workers, so... nope!


Perhaps, but… I suspect that rent[0] is related to how much “spare” money people have, and that land prices (and the land component of house and apartment prices) are related to rent potential, so a substantial reduction of working hours may merely reduce those costs.

[0] Strongly WRT rent of real estate, weakly WRT all economic rent: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_rent


I’ve been doing this for years and it has coincided with more productivity and much more life satisfaction. It has made my working hours into pure, dense, focused and organized effort. I don’t think we are really built to work 8-9 hour shifts, we just end up padding the time with distractions and lack of focus.


I was about to ask a rhetorical question whether the people writing these articles true believers or just hired guns. But then I decided to this guy's other contributions. My conclusion is that I do not like the image of person in my head.

On the other hand, who wouldn't want to have shorter work days and weeks for themselves...

Than again, office work is a tiny percentage of all work. And I've spent enough time doing all kinds of stuff to notice that most office work isn't work, nor is it needed at all. I think UBI might help with that. Not necessarily though


All I ask is for even just a portion of available software jobs to have this schedule. And I'm perfectly happy taking a 50% paycut to get it too. My employer would likely get more productive work per hour they pay for and I would get lots more free time and a higher per-hour take home pay (a larger proportion of my income would be in lower tax brackets). Win win.


A friend of mine had a very similar workload his entire career, although differently scheduled: He would work full-time for a couple of months, then not work for a few months afterwards. As long as the companies you work for have relatively short project cycles, this could be possible.

Of course he was relatively stagnant in his position, but when we looked back on the years at his retirement, it was amazing how much travelling he did over the decades.


My current plan is to transition into such an arrangement. The downside is having to job hunt once or more per year and eventually having a lot of gaps on your resume. I'm waiting to reach a certain net worth but hopefully within another couple years.


If this is what you want to do contracting is the way to go. I know several people who do contract work through the winter months and then spend summer sailing round the Mediterranean and Caribbean off the proceeds.


Yeah that's definitely what I'm interested in. I don't know much about the contracting market as I've mostly worked full time jobs so if you have any tips let me know.


Find a recruiter and say you want to do some contract work, its a seller's market at the moment so unless you're CV is absolutely dire you'll have work within a couple of weeks.


In 1930 Keynes predicted we’d have a 15 hour work week “within a 100 years”. Only 9 years to go...


I was going to write: and that's sort of come true, if you care about having a similar standard of living to an average person in Keynes' time. But then there's housing, and that idea falls apart.


See, but he was smart enough to list a date so far in the future that no one could call him on it...


I have a sneaking suspicion that if you are a knowledge worker you are already probably doing this unconciously. Online research, entertainment and shopping for non-work related stuff, errands, stock trading, etc. Working from home makes this easier because you can have a non-work computer right next to your work laptop so no chance of the company snooping into what you are doing.

Ofcourse if you work where every hour counts- construction, nursing, waitressing, driving for uber- it'll be a while till people figure out they need to be paid more or work less for the same $


Another Jack Kelly article...however cool the title sounds the author is by no means sane. Below excerpt is from previous article of his-

""" The pandemic, coupled with calls to defund the police, has left New York a little dirtier and scarier. There have been reports of questionable characters committing heinous violent acts on the streets and in the train stations."""


At this point I'd be happy with everyone admitting how little work gets done on Friday's and at least start trimming that day.


I wish Friday was a day of no-work... People seem to batch up all their requests from the whole week that they didn't report and drop them in your lap like a turd in the punch-bowl on Friday mornings. "Yeah, so we'll be getting a follow-up on Monday? Thanks, have a good weekend."


Where I am, Friday is a no meetings day. I.e. the day on which productive work can actually be done.


That's what I'd love to aim for, if I didn't have to be so responsive to enterprise customers...

On the rare occasions that there isn't a teacup-hurricane blowing, doing work on a Friday is possible. Still pretty rare, just because usually all gumption has been consumed by the time I stagger into Fridays.


yes. productive work done AND deployed to production.


Won't that just move the little work done day to Thursday? Maybe a low work day is necessary.


Will companies that do this lose to the ones that work more? If so, Darwin says that this is not the future of work.


some bad news for you: Darwin does not apply in this case. given a problem and enough time, mother nature will solve it. given a problem people can probably solve it in less time by actually you know designing the solution.

one could argue that a lean company may actually have lower costs and will probably have comparable output.


I worked at a company where I turned up late for work, left super early. Did some work in the evening, worked from home when I felt like it. Want to talk employee engagement, its the happiest Ive ever been working, and Id put a lot more effort in just to have that flexibility. I worked a lot more productively this way, and also it fitted well with eg senior people that work 10 hours a day or whatever, as Id respond "out of hours". Forcing 9-5 attendance on people who can be more productive working to their own schedule just seems stupid.


I know people, today, who could stop coming into work 1/2 the time and the work would still get done. These are the people who drift from meeting to meeting without ever actually contributing anything. Every now and then they make a PowerPoint. When they're asked a hard question, they always have to conveniently drop for another meeting. These people could get away with "working" less. Maybe this article is talking about them.

For people actually doing the work, or people working a job that pays hourly, I don't think a 5-hour, 4-day work week is coming any time soon. I hope I'm wrong though.


you are wrong. a lot of bs generated by the people that are “important” and “constantly in meetings” drags productivity down for everyone. take this and also apply it vertically on the reporting chain. Yeah 20hours/week is totally doable.


Let’s face it, most corporate jobs are bullshit and we know it. The reality of the balance of work is that in order to justify better than living wages in corporations you need to be good at high-school skills, e.g. cliches (organizational leadership), and looking cool (followership, executive presence).

Meritocracy is unfortunately a myth at a management level. It’s hard to keep the perception of value up when you can’t show face and flex your high school skills.

This is why the 40 hour work week will not die in corporate America at least.


how dare you! it you don’t work more than 60hours/week you don’t have any work ethic and you should probably not be able to afford basic stuff like living indoors and eating. /s


Give me something I'm interested in and I can easily put 70 hours down. Median salary is good enough.

Yeah man downvote me as you like, but let me tell you, those of us who cannot work on what we are interested in professionally are pathetic as we don't get to fulfill our calling (regardless you believe in religion or not). And nowadays most fields, I'm sorry friends, do not need more gentlemen scientists, you have to get into the field to do useful work.


For a few white collar jobs maybe.

But I know a bunch of people who work 40h a week in retail and say it barely pays their rent.


That really sounds like the ideal schedule to me.


People's insatiable wants keep them working. If people really wanted to work half time, they would.


lol. are you serious? most people give the choice between no/little work and a lot if work will go with no work.


my previous boss started 4 day weeks 10 years ago


To achieve this, we'll need buy-in from the experienced.

I'm a contractor who has programmed for just over 30 years (20 professionally) and my current employer doesn't mind what hours I work, as long as I get my work done. They like having me onsite for reassurance, and I appreciate their positive energy since I can be hard on myself and set unrealistic expectations and take it hard when I miss the boat. So a schedule that optimizes bang for the buck and prevents work-halting burnouts could work for us.

But see, the key there is that the people I'm working with are a bit older than me and they get it. They've seen downturns but had the discipline to persevere. There's no gnashing of teeth when I explain the realities of what we're up against. We just buckle down and form a plan and do the work, whatever it takes.

In the past, I've worked for people who never noticed merit or achievement. Find a solution and pull a rabbit out of your hat one day, they want you to come into work early the next and maybe even work on the weekend. I realize now that they had personal problems that were never addressed. Maybe they were workaholics due to troubles in their home lives. Maybe they lived in areas that were too expensive for them or were in debt or just needed the money to live.

What I'm saying is that we imagine our employers to be these impeccable titans of industry, when really they're just people trying to make a way in the world too. Maybe they have someone above pressuring them to have a better month or quarter. Maybe they've never had a raise either, due to structural problems in our economy that have been reaching the boiling point over the last 40 years. They're in the midst of dysfunction just like us but have to reach even further to see a way out of it because their livelihoods depend on things outside their control, like having to rely on the people they employ. The anxiety for them must be crushing sometimes.

If we want to manifest a real change in the world like a 20 hour workweek, I think that we need to step back and see the situation from all sides and recognize that this is a local maximum. We can see how much better things are just across the way, but it feels like an impossible dream. It's a leap of faith.

To make it a reality, we need a plan. We need savings to have leverage. We need access to capital. We need connections. We need examples of where shorter hours lead to higher productivity, morale and sustainability. We need drop-in business tools that find tax advantages when 2 people work for half the hours that 1 would, which already happened in fast food and retail in their race to the bottom.

But we need to do better than them. Identify risk that leads to long hours/low wages and find concrete solutions to that risk. Provide ourselves real vision and leadership to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. Create a repeatable process that others can copy and build from.


> Future of Work Will Be 5-Hour Days, 4-Day Workweek, Flexible Staggered Schedules

Yes, exactly, once capitalism is abolished.




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