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Why it's OK to leave a tech job at 5 p.m. (cnn.com)
191 points by edw519 1832 days ago | hide | past | web | 181 comments | favorite



This country rapidly needs to regain its sanity when it comes to work/life balance. While some of us employed in tech may have the luxury of giving the middle finger to stigma, many employees in other sectors are not able to do so.

What do you do when a 11-12 hour workday is expected upon penalty of being marginalized and eventually let go? In particular, what do you do when you don't have extremely in-demand skills, and cannot readily take the gamble on being back in the market for a new job? This is a situation many of our peers are in, and it deserves attention - if for no other reason than it 1) applies to many tech jobs already and 2) will only become more of an issue if/when the current tech job market contracts.

If this unfortunate workaholic-glamorization trend continues, we are setting ourselves up for very unpleasant professional careers down the line.


Sometimes it's not even the employer, it's the employees who see working extra hours as a badge of honor. Everyone stays longer than they need to so if you decide you want a work-life balance, you are the odd one out and made to feel guilty.


Yes, but the company isn't doing anything effectively to stop this culture from existing, is it?

You know, sometimes I'm amazed at how groups frequently take on a life of their own. I've been in this situation before, and it's almost always more complex than meets the eye. Family therapists notice that usually the person who's acting up usually isn't the person who has a problem. They call this person the identified patient[1]. In other words, they're the ones the family has identified as being the patient. Having such a person helps create the appearance that the family doesn't have a problem.

In this case, there's usually an employee or two who are "acting out" the company's problem. You see this kind of behavior more frequently when you have someone who's more manipulative than your typical office jerk running the company. They may want their employees to work around the clock, but they don't want to get their hands dirty. So they find a way to manipulate some people within the company to do the policing for them. This helps them to look like the good guy while others take the fall for doing their dirty work. It's generally a pretty ugly situation for all involved except for the person who's reaping its benefits.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identified_patient


For a long while I used to think that if I work hard I will win. And I was right. But not for long.

Because working hard is just one thing. You must know what to work on. True hard work is to utilize time in hand to continually move to the next level of challenges after you are done with the current one. Once you do this you will realize that you are doing jobs that demand better productivity and quality time and not necessarily quantity of time.

It becomes a totally different story if the quality and quantity goals both merge. In such a case you are really in a different situation and I would say you are on the right path. And that is the path which leads to better life and pay.

That is totally different that the current BigCorp set ups. Tending to endless bug tickets, and minor feature enhancements will give you nothing on the longer run. This is where you gradually realize you are robbed of your soul and purpose in life in return for crazy hours and peanuts in pay. When people talk of crazy hours doing no benefit this is what they are talking about.

Not the prior one that I mentioned. In fact I would consider my self fortunate If I find my self in one such situation.


I honestly don't get it. I am almost skipping to my car after my day job so I can go home and work on my personal projects. Why would anyone want to stick around later to make someone else more money?


I get obsessed with what I'm working on and have to force myself to stop and go home. I leave work and I'm still thinking about what I've left.


Because you don't want to be the asshole that did not put enough hour, and did drive the project in a wall. Not that it was going anywhere else...


If a project's success is hinging on its developers' willingness to lose valuable personal time for it, those companies better start coughing up equity.


Or even better, they better start coughing up more $$$. As in substantially more. I think software companies should hire full time but pay by the hour. Overtime will disappear or be required rarely. Employees will be happier.

Of course, bad managers, to make themselves look good will assign 1 weeks worth of work for every hour at first. Till they all lose their jobs.


I think it depends where you are in your career. For me, there are times / projects where I find that I am pushing myself and improving my skills by working on them so I may go beyond whats expected by really delving in, optimizing code, etc to better my skills. Other times, I feel the way you do and have little connection to the work.


What do you do when a 11-12 hour workday is expected upon penalty of being marginalized and eventually let go?

You take advantage of the fact that it's all but impossible for humans to sustain their productivity while working those kinds of hours for any length of time.

With all due respect to whoever said it first, furious activity is no substitute for keeping yourself in working order. Or something like that.


You take advantage of the fact that it's all but impossible for humans to sustain their productivity while working those kinds of hours for any length of time.

In current market economics those jobs will be moved to people who are ready to work for lesser pay. Like to china, what that means is now you get more people for same money. Therefore more hours.


The average work week in US is 43 hours. To be precise, it is on average 8.6 hours per day worked.

Working 11-12 hours is definitely not common. Of the few people I know who do it, all do it voluntarily.


Indeed - people consistently overestimate the number of hours they work, particularly if they work more than 40.

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2011/06/art3full.pdf


That's probably because most people have ridiculous commutes. Even if you only commute 30 minutes each way, and work 8 hours a day, it certainly feels like you've worked 9 hours that day.


The average commute is 2.5 hours/week (about 30 minutes/day, both ways).

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t01.htm

(Compute "Working and work related activities" - "Working", but that's actually an overestimate, since there are more work related activities than travel.)


The overall average is a poor metric to use in this context.

How many jobs do you think are out there are are expressly limited to 40 hours a week to avoid over time? Or 20 hours a week to limit having to offer health insurance?

I'd be far more interested in an average for "professional" employment paid on salary, it would be far more telling.


"What do you do when a 11-12 hour workday is expected upon penalty of being marginalized and eventually let go?"

Quit and work somewhere sane :)


> In particular, what do you do when you don't have extremely in-demand skills, and cannot readily take the gamble on being back in the market for a new job?


Oh, I see that (Was that an edit?) In that case, you are in a world of shit. You'd the sub in the relationship and you'd either get used to it, or work your ass off after-hours to get skills and experience that make you more marketable. Nothing magic to that equation; plenty of people do it. It's hard, but better than overworking at a sweatshop


Of course, once everyone does that, that just puts pressure on our jobs. Even for things that seem a mile away--a maid or a gas station attendant--as they move into something white collar, that puts pressure on existing lower-level white collar workers, who in turn respond by doing the same thing.

For any suggestion that fixing something socially is equivalent to fixing it for an individual, you've got to ask yourself: what happens when everyone does it? Otherwise it's just a pleasant-sounding nostrum.


Yeah, but most people don't do that. That's the whole point. It's hard. People are lazy. The reason why we get paid to do what we do is that we climbed that particular mountain. If it was easy, we'd be unemployed. :)


You can be doing what you love and still have a crappy job with low pay and no hours.


Why would you work an 11-12 hour work day? If I had a job like that I would quit, even with no real marketable skills. I'd rather take ye olde 9-5 job even if it meant a substantial drop in income.


Totally. Right on the money. And the irony is that most people do work better during the day usually having 1 peak in the morning and one in the afternoon. I used to work long hours and spend hours past midnight on problems I could have solved in half an hour after rest. This is something that should stop.


I'm kind of suspicious whenever I hear the phrase "work/life balance". It strikes me as something that seeks to reinforce the industrial-revolution-era idea that my (week)days should be broken into thirds: working (not fun but pays bills), playing (fun but costs money), and sleeping.

Sure, that's definitely better than working 12 hour days, but is that really the goal? It seems that most of the fun-loving and happy people I know, regardless of their financial situation, don't operate in such a world.

A good friend and startup founder (who you might think would tend towards free-market/libertarianism, since he works very hard and surely wants to be compensated for it) asks me: we can feed and clothe and house everyone, so why don't we? Why isn't work optional? People who work hard to make a dent in the universe will anyway, and people who just mess around don't really get much done at work anyway, so why keep up the charade? How many great ideas (or works of art) are stuck in somebody's brain simply because they don't know how to make that idea pay the rent?

I'm a programmer -- or at least, of all the things I've done in my life, that's the one I've been paid the most money for. But personally, I hate that it's always indoors and sedentary. It's unfortunate that society places so much value on an activity that is arguably bad for my physical and mental health. So why are virtually all programming jobs (ostensibly) full-time, i.e., 40 hours? A programmer's salary is great, but why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary? Out of all the possible ways of dividing up my time, spending all daylight hours indoors writing code is perhaps the worst I can imagine.

I know I don't have all the answers, but I think that after a decade of work, I'm starting to know what questions to ask. If I find myself asking about "work/life balance", I've already lost, because it means I'm admitting that the "work" is something I know I won't love doing. Certainly some people have no problem breaking their day up like this, but I can't, and I suspect I'm not alone.


People who work hard to make a dent in the universe will anyway, and people who just mess around don't really get much done at work anyway, so why keep up the charade?

This is typical libertarian claptrap, from the Skilled White Male litany. The only thing of value appears to be making a dent with your special skills, and no consideration is given to the huge numbers of unskilled jobs required to keep 'the universe' running.

The point is that society supports far more shitty retail jobs than universe-denting programming jobs. Those shitty jobs need to be done, and it's hard to excel in them. What kind of dent can a convenience store clerk make? They're still necessary though - and for people in those jobs, work is not particularly fun.

In terms of your hand-wringing about full-time programming work, there are all sorts of ways you can work part-time in programming and part-time in something else. That you can't see this shows you haven't really thought about the problem seriously.

Hell, if you really are a 'denter' and have skills that are in demand, you have a good chance of simply going up to your boss and saying that you only want to work part-time now. Frequently they'll still want to keep you on for your dentable skills.


> This is typical libertarian claptrap, from the Skilled White Male litany.

Perhaps I was understanding or explaining it poorly, but my understanding is that it's close to the opposite of the "typical libertarian claptrap", which I take to mean something close to "we need the concept of money (and a free market) to get people to work" (and consequently, if you don't work, you get no money, and therefore none of the stuff you need). The position I was talking about is very explicitly that, whether or not you work at all, you deserve food/shelter/healthcare/education/etc.

The point was not whether you can change the world with your work (I think that'd more accurately be the "G. H. Hardy claptrap"!), but why you do what you do, or not, e.g., I know someone who works in a bookstore who would be there even if salaries did not exist.

> shitty jobs need to be done

This statement has been the case for all of human history, and yet the mechanism by which these jobs manage to get done has changed rather drastically many times. Even assuming the current set of "shitty jobs" isn't changing, I see no reason the mechanism couldn't change again.

> In terms of your hand-wringing about full-time programming work, there are all sorts of ways you can work part-time in programming and part-time in something else. That you can't see this shows you haven't really thought about the problem seriously.

You are welcome to accuse me of being stupid, or to point out that these opportunities are incompatible with my other (unstated) requirements, but it's not fair to claim that I've not thought about the problem seriously.


The position I was talking about is very explicitly that, whether or not you work at all, you deserve food/shelter/healthcare/education/etc.

I misread you then. What you wrote sounds like the typical libertarian spiel of 'skilled work = hard work' and if you're not skilled, then by definition you don't work hard, with the corollary that you are then not deserving of wealth or esteem.

You are welcome to accuse me of being stupid, or to point out that these opportunities are incompatible with my other (unstated) requirements, but it's not fair to claim that I've not thought about the problem seriously.

I don't think you're stupid, but I do think you're hand-wringing (that is, not serious about doing it) if you're having trouble figuring out eays of doing it.


I'm sorry but this is BS. You don't deserve food/shelter/healthcare/education etc. You only deserve what you go out of your cave, kill, and bring back home.

Food, shelter, healthcare, and education are all things that require someone else to do something to provide. Why should I have to go to work to pay for your X that you think is a right so that you can sit on your couch or plant trees and be happy. That's absurd. That bread you find at Kroger, somebody had to work to make it appear in your cart.


Now, that's what "typical libertarian claptrap" looks like.


> That bread you find at Kroger, somebody had to work to make it appear in your cart.

In any community there is likely to be someone with a passion for something. Whether that something is making bread, helping the sick, or teaching children.

It's true that there are some jobs which people aren't naturally inclined to do, but in the society being described I think that communities would become smaller, and more cohesive. Some the of the jobs required to maintain a large city no longer need to be done, and those that do still need doing become less of a strain and can be distributed amongst people.


we've tried utopian societies before. they have never worked. we've tried socialism and it mostly doesn't work that well. communism looks great on paper and it has been a failure. why do people still continue to believe this is the way things should be?


>I'm sorry but this is BS. You don't deserve food/shelter/healthcare/education etc. You only deserve what you go out of your cave, kill, and bring back home.

Yes. That's what we did when we lived in caves.

When man grew into civilization (neoliberals excluded), we collectively decided that people deserve food/shelter/healthcare/education. Not in every country, mind you. But then again, there are countries so backwards that they still have the death penalty...


>This is typical libertarian claptrap, from the Skilled White Male litany.

No it isn't. That's straight-up Socialism. The phrase who you might think would tend towards free-market/libertarianism doesn't mean what you seem to think it means.


The idea that people who make dents are the only ones that work hard, and people who don't make dents don't want to work/don't work hard is part of the worldview of libertarians.


No libertarian is going to suggest that the guy out laying asphalt isn't working hard.

You seem to have confused libertarians with some sort of ultra-elitists, whom I don't think exist in any significant number.

Only a very small fraction of mankind is actually making a dent in the world. Are you saying that libertarians believe that only 0.01% of people are actually working hard?


You are correct, no libertarian will say that as a direct comment. However, it is implicit in the way many of them present their points - if you're not getting ahead in the world (usually this means accruing enough wealth to live comfortably), that's due to 'not working hard/smart enough'.

Most of the libertarians I have talked with on the web are skilled white males, largely unaware/unaccepting of the advantages they've had in being able to gain the skills they do, and basically assume that if you don't have marketable skills, it's solely due to your own effort. Big subscribers to the Just World Fallacy. They offer no mechanism for either levelling the playing field nor systematic assistance for those whom catastrophe strikes. There's very much a subtext of "you only deserve to be comfortable if you're like me" in libertarianism.

Only a very small fraction of mankind is actually making a dent in the world. Are you saying that libertarians believe that only 0.01% of people are actually working hard?

I think we have very different ideas of what 'making a dent in the world' means.

I must note, however, that it's interesting you use 'mankind' - another trademark I find libertarians use frequently, hence why I specify "skilled white male" above.


You're setting up a straw man here.

Group A--believes the best way to help the poor is by allowing the free market to lift everyone, and allowing private charities to fill the void.

Group B--believes the best way to help the poor is by taking a small percentage from everyone who can afford it to guarantee basic human necessities for everyone who can't.

You can debate the effectiveness of the methods of Groups A and B all you want. And that's what you started to do, but then you went directly to questioning the motives of Group A.

Since they don't agree with your methods, you've decided that libertarians believe that the poor get what they deserve and have no interest in helping them. You've moved them from the "wrong" category to the "just plain evil" category.

If libertarians really believed that the poor get what they deserve, why would they donate to charity? If your model were correct, one would expect self-professing libertarians to donate considerably less money to charity than other idealogical groups. I can't find any statistics to back this up.

>'mankind'

You have enough sample data to associate the word "mankind" with libertarians? Or are you more likely to take notice of the word's use when engaging with libertarians?


> If libertarians really believed that the poor get what they deserve, why would they donate to charity?

...they do?


Of course they do. Libertarians in general believe that private charity should replace the government safety nets. Private charity is the first response most libertarians will give to the question of what do we do with the indigent.

You're confusing libertarians with Ebenezer Scrooge.


The ones I have come across have generally stated that they will engage in private charity if the government stops taxing them. It holds all the value of an election promise. But if you're not on the poverty line and you're not already giving to charity, you won't magically become charitable with the application of more money. It's just not how people work.

And certainly, if you're not giving to charity now out of some sense of 'cave deservedness' like clarky07 above, then nothing will make you give continuously to people in lifelong need of financial support.


Yes, they do. For libertarians the big sticking point isn't this or that thing should be done. It's whether or not people have the social obligation to help the poor or the legal obligation.


Yes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Brooks#Who_Really_Car...

"Those who think government should do more to redistribute income are less likely to give to charitable causes, and those who believe the government has less of a role to play in income redistribution tend to give more"


>Since they don't agree with your methods, you've decided that libertarians believe that the poor get what they deserve and have no interest in helping them.

Most folks I've debated who claimed to be libertarians have pretty much stated just that, and handwaved away the problem of those in need as 'supportable by private charity' (as you have suggested in A). Like I said, libertarianism provides no mechanism for levelling the playing field - those born into poverty are frequently not even aware that they can better themselves, let alone how. Libertarianism does not address this issue, instead promoting a system that sounds nice on paper, but significantly benefits those born into privilege.

The slogans of libertarianism are nice and catchy, but the devil is in the detail. If you're not skilled, white, male, and healthy, there's a good chance of falling through the cracks.

>If libertarians really believed that the poor get what they deserve, why would they donate to charity?

The one and only libertarian I've debated that did mention that they personally gave to charity did so as a boast ("I supplied two trucks full of stuff to Katrina victims", within the context of 'this is more than you gave'). No other libertarian I've talked to has mentioned giving themselves, it's always a shout-out to faceless 'private charity'. I'm not saying that libertarians don't give, but they don't seem to be great at giving positive examples of libertarian charity.

>I can't find any statistics to back this up.

Can you find any statistics to refute it? If not, you're only making half an argument. I can't find any references saying that astronauts didn't land on the sun, does that mean they did?

>You have enough sample data to associate the word "mankind" with libertarians? Or are you more likely to take notice of the word's use when engaging with libertarians?

I was raised by a feminist and have been noticing the word 'mankind' stick out like a sore thumb for over 20 years. I've only known about libertarianism as a philosophy for about 10, so it's fair to say that no, I don't just notice it more with libertarians. Libertarian dialogue is frequently sexist ('mankind' and 'rights of man' are common) and commonly makes no acknowledgement of issues that affect women (like what happens to mothers, who bear the vast brunt of the parenting load and have less opportunity to skill up).

The thing is, libertarianism promotes itself as being fair and egalitarian - if it were really about this, libertarians would self-police their own dialogue about this overtly sexist crap. They don't, and when called on it, they get defensive (as you have) and explain it away, rather than say 'my bad' and admit that they weren't being egalitarian. I personally find that this is just more support to the idea that libertarianism is really - perhaps subconsciously - about preserving existing privilege.

I don't know if you're a libertarian or not, but you are making some of the logical errors that libertarians do.


Even as I share your distaste for (parts of) the libertarian ethos, I think you're largly blind to your own ideological faults. To wit, poor people are not stupid, and using "man-kind" in a sentence is not an attack on woman-kind.

I don't buy this idea that we have to educate the poor about their options like they are primitive tribes (note the code appearing here). "They" are perfectly intelligent and aware of their options in aggregate... just give them more options and more of a safety net. Or better yet, ask them what they need...

Likewise, I doubly don't buy the idea that every use of a word containing "man" is a form of patriarchal oppression. The same as I dont view sports analogies as oppressing those who dont play, dont watch and dont like sports.


I espose libertarian claptrap all the time, I also try to work as little as possible by ensuring I provide as much value as possible.

The hardest jobs in the world also happen to be the worst paying, hard work is generally for suckers. Smart work is where the money is, eventually the money works for you.


tl;dr The world needs ditch-diggers, too

Thanks, Ty (or was it smails?).


Definitely Smails. Nice reference btw.


> why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary?

I have often wondered about this myself. I think I could be equally productive as a programmer on 20 hours a week, since I spend a lot of time on the web and generally doing things that we programmers do when we need to give our minds a break. I really don't think anybody can actually do 40 hours of programming a week.

I'm going to lazily posit the law has something to do with it. I had my own business for a while, but never really made enough money at it (I'm a lousy entrepreneur). Even if I weren't making more money for about the same time investment, I might have fled from business ownership simply because I didn't like having nightmares that I did the taxes wrong—and I never had an employee. It's probably as hard and as expensive tax-wise to hire someone for 20 hours a week as 40 and probably a lot harder for more than 40.

Another possibility is that it's just what happens in our society.

These answers don't feel all that satisfying to me.


You have no idea how much time I spend fake-working in the office. If I have to build something new, it usually gets done within a certain time range (that could be over the course of a day, several days, and I often dabble with it at home. Once it's done, it's done. I have to fake-work for the rest of the week.

Now, I guess I could manage my work habits so that project takes the span of a week (not working late, not taking work home), but I haven't been able to figure out how to do that. If anyone passes by my desk on fake-work days, I look like a real slacker asshole.


See, fortunately for me we use Java at work, and these day long excursions turn into 40 hour weeks. ;)


Interesting. My experience with Java is that the only thing that gets in the way of programming in Java is the verbosity, which an IDE with powerful refactoring tools (eclipse, IDEA, eclim) gets around nicely. I would argue that in many ways, Java is easier to program in than a lot of other currently hot languages because there is so much tooling around it (although I would trade basically any python package manager for ivy any day), it is statically typed, and its behavior is generally boring but extremely predictable, and not hard to reason about, excluding the threading library which is not super fun. What have you found is frustrating about using Java?


Maybe because I'm not used to java anymore I constantly find myself wanting to do things that are "bad" in Java. I want my function to return more than one variable and then accept it on the other side like x,y = getCoordinates(); Yes I can do something almost like that in java with an array or collection but it's considered "wrong." Sometimes, I want to have a module with just functions, not an a class. Writing the long list of setters and getters that just return and set themselves is really frustrating to me, knowing that in other languages I would just have properties. And working around this in java by making them all "public" is considered "wrong."

And while I agree that java has excellent tools, the one tool that doesn't work as well or as easily for me is the interactive console. Perhaps it's java's verbosity, or maybe this tool hasn't been as fleshed out as it has been in python, javascript and even php (phpsh), but I haven't found one that works as easily for me.


I agree, writing Java without powerful refactoring tools is a bore--that's why it's great to use Eclipse's "Generate Getters and Setters based on Fields" refactoring tool.

Interestingly, I've never really felt the pain of not having a good REPL for java, although I often use it in other languages. Although Java isn't interpreted, unlike the other languages you mentioned, Scala is both interpreted and compiled, so it's not a great argument for why it doesn't have a good REPL. I think eclipse's very strong autocomplete somewhat obviates the need for it, because I know that I mostly depend upon bpython/ipython for the easy access to docstrings and information about arguments.

I wonder if part of the reason why I've never felt the need for a REPL in Java is simply because there isn't one built in, so it isn't a tool that I ever reach for. REPLs are great for prototyping, and for learning, but I've found that the more I learn about a language, the less I tend toward using the REPL, so perhaps it's simply that I got used to being able to edit my code instead of having to type it all in again.


If you'll be programming in a language like Java, it really helps to familiarize yourself with the tools. I don't remember the last time I had to write boilerplate getters and setters for member variables. In Eclipse, for example, you simply declare the member variables, click on Source -> Generate Getters and Setters, and viola, all the boilerplate code is inserted for you.


If you were writing this in C, you'd return a point as a struct. The Java equivalent of a struct is a class. Write a class to wrap those values and return an instance of that class. Yes, there's overhead there that a struct strictly avoids, but it's the way the language was designed, and it's a much better solution than indexing into an array or collection.

As for multiple return, I've never once seen a need for it that couldn't be solved by creating ad-hoc MethodReturnValue classes that wrapped everything I wanted to return multiply.


There's beanshell, but it really isn't all that great.

My big problem (I came to Java after learning Haskell) is NPEs.


> A programmer's salary is great, but why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary?

My company does this. Work half-time, get paid 50% of full-time programmer's salary + health insurance.

My anecdotal impression is that "productivity" is much higher than 50% of a full-time person, but everyone feels less busy, less stressed and more relaxed. Ends up being a great deal for both employer and employee I think.

Anyway, if you're a Rails dev in the Bay Area drop me a line, we're hiring.


Anecdotally, I seem to get at least as much work done during a two-week sprint in which I have taken a few days off. Programming is not a linear process. On the other hand, there is something to be said for being immediately available to handle issues that arise during work hours, I suppose.


I just recently commented about this in another thread (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3841211), It makes me really happy to see a company that's doing this.

Unfortunately I've just begun learning rails, and am not in the bay area (yet!).


> A programmer's salary is great, but why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary?

You can. You need to become a contractor and only accept 20 hours of work a week.

I know that the guy that teaches yoga and step at my gym is a programmer as his "day job". That's one way to stay healthy.


Become a consultant. You get wide freedom in how you spend nonbillable hours.

There exist many people working 1,000 hours a year or less. We all know this. At some point we started believing they must not be successful members of the professional class. That is observably false.


If only it were that easy. :)


>There exist many people working 1,000 hours a year or less.

Heck, there are people out there that haven't worked a day in their lives...

(drum roll)

...night watchmen.


All of the labor laws have been set up around the model of people with life-long careers working at a factory (or equivalent). That is no longer the norm, and the impedance mismatch between outdated laws and the modern workplace has become greater and greater.

Why is 40 hours the norm? Why is working a single job all the time the norm? Why are all of your health insurance and retirement options tied to your current employer? In every case it's due to an accident of history.


Why are all of your health insurance and retirement options tied to your current employer? In every case it's due to an accident of history.

Indeed. If you look outside the US you'll find many countries that aren't set up that way. It's going to be interesting to see how that effects the way jobs evolve in the future. Mine aren't in the UK for example - and I imagine that if they had it would have had quite an impact on the risk/benefit of some of my work decisions over the years.


> Why are all of your health insurance and retirement options tied to your current employer? In every case it's due to an accident of history.

I won't deny that it's an accident of history, but I'm not sure if it's related to the same accident of history that made single full-time jobs the norm. After all, most other countries where single full-time jobs are the norm don't have that particular problem.


It's certainly related. At many points in the history of US labor people have sought for the appropriate "resting point" for various responsibilities (such as pensions and retirement investments) and often they've come to the employer, because through a certain viewport during a certain period of time it seemed like a sensible solution.


The problem is that there does still exist a whole lot of jobs that require people to do them that are not easy to motivate people to do. Some of these jobs are required so that we can house, clothe, and feed them.

If nobody actually had to work, would we really have enough people building homes, farming food, and making, and distributing food such that we could continue to feed, clothe and house everbody? I don't know what the answer is, but you must admit that there is a serious possibility that the answer is No. I agree everybody should have the right to food, clothes, and shelter, but I'm not sure that the approach of giving it to everybody for free will actually be sustainable, at least not without some additional thought into the infrastructure.


The basic idea being discussed is very close to a "Guarunteed Minimum Income" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guaranteed_minimum_income ). Essentially, everyone regardless of work is supplied with a certain minimum, but with enough work they can earn far more than that minimum.

I do not believe it has ever been fully tried in practice (though a strong social safety net comes somewhat close in a piecemeal fashion). But there is no reason in principle it cannot work and some respected thinkers such as Thomas Paine have advocated it. There would be enough people motivated by a combination of the love of the job and the desire to earn more than the low-guarunteed minimum to ensure necessary societal functioned.

It may have some undesirable side effects, but in principle it could be made to work.

Edit: Slight edit for clarity.


Well we enjoy the effects of the "social" engine of grouth in Spain now a days(among the other problems as a construction bubble, etc..) Basically you have people trying all sort of tricks to recieve a salary from the government just because they deserve it. That way they don't have to work anymore. People tend to look at this as a right and the ones who go and earn their money with their effort are regarded as "dumb", after all it makes no sense to work if you don't need to. Maybe this is a cultural thing, but I find dangerouse to reinforce people in receiving money with out contributing with their job.


I don't know if people should receive actual money, but it makes sense to me that they receive access to safe housing, food, healthcare and education. I don't think this can work in poorer societies, but in ones which can afford it, well, it seems most humane. If you aren't working, and can, well you won't be able to brag to your friends about having the latest ipad, but you should still have a place to sleep and food to eat. I think most people don't like sitting idly by all day long and since a lot of fun things cost money, they'd be willing to sacrifice some of their time to be able to afford those other things. I have been to Norway a few times and I liked the way they managed to balance things out there. Also, I recently watched this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html How economic inequality harms societies and I thought it was interesting.


I agree in the part, that is more human to share with those that don't have. But giving all the basics to those able to work will back fire ( as it currently does in countries like spain), people will go to great lengths to cualify as a "payable non worker". As politicians earn their possition with votes, they tend to buy votes increasing this "social" solutions. Over time money spent in this piles up and reaches unreasonable sizes(and fuels corruption aswell) A completely different scenario are the health care, housing and education of on-risk population, I meen kids and old or ill people. Here in Spain the system has been abused (mostly by the lack of value that people gives to Free stuff felt as a IS their right to enjoy no matter what, on oposite to Ariely's studies). I still find great that anybody may have access to the latest cancer treatment or heart surgery( while the per capita cost of health is lower than in the US).


I don't think we can afford a guaranteed minimum income unless it's too small to live on or health care isn't included. Health care is expensive. Right now the system works (in every first world country) by transferring money from young, healthy people to older sick people. Give younger people the opportunity to slack off, and a great many of them will.


I think the idea is great, and there is probably a way to make it work. I also just think that it'll end up being more complicated then we imagine in order to build it in a stable manner.


> why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary?

I would gladly give up 20% of my salary to take Fridays off entirely.


I'd prefer taking Wednesdays off. I'd probably end up working from home anyway, but at least I wouldn't have to wear pants: http://dailytannenbaum.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/times-im-...


Same. I think about that too often.


don't forget you cost your company more than your salary and compensation.


True. I'd also not be drinking water, using a parking space, or any of the other office facilities, and if I shut down my PC I'd be using less electricity.

I'd of course still be receiving benefits and taking up space on the mail server, and my desk would sit there unused.


> Why isn't work optional?

This is what the German Pirate Party has in it's manifesto:

11 Right to secure livelihood and social participation

Each person has the right to a secure livelihood and social participation. Respecting and protecting human dignity is the highest commandment of the German Basic Law. People can only live in dignity if their basic needs are met and their social participation is assured. In our monetary economy, this requires an income. If an income can only be achieved through work, we must assure full employment to protect all people’s dignity. This is why full employment has been a major goal of our economic policy in the past. There are two paths by which we try to achieve this goal: Through economic measures which aim to create jobs or through publicly financed jobs with the main goal of securing people’s livelihood. These are both detours which require substantial public funding. If public funds are used, however, this must be done as efficiently as possible. Since the goal is to secure an income and a livelihood for everyone, this income should be guaranteed directly to each individual. Only this way can we protect the dignity of all people without exception. Just as we provide public security, traffic routes and large parts of the educational system without a direct compensation, a secure livelihood must also become a part of our infrastructure. We Pirates are convinced that the overwhelming majority of people will seize the chances provided by a secure livelihood to develop their full economic and social potential. A secure livelihood creates room for self-determined education, research and economic innovation. It enables volunteerism, e.g., taking care of relatives and children, independent journalism, political activity or creation of art and free software. This benefits our entire society. This is why the Pirate Party supports solutions which guarantee unconditionally a secure livelihood and social participation while sustaining and enabling economic freedom. We want to prevent poverty, not prosperity.

(from http://www.piratenpartei.de/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/parte...)


Well here's an idea. Imagine a company where you get hired with a probation period, and if you manage to automate a significant aspect of your job during that period, you get to keep it. That is, if you make yourself obsolete, you get to keep the pay. If you then do the same for another task, you get to keep the pay for the higher-paying of the two AND you get to give the lower-paying one to a person of your choice.

This gives you both incentive to take crappy, menial jobs as a technology expert (a robot could do that crap - no human should be so punished) and the most valuable thing of all - free time without worrying about income. And if you like automating human-degrading jobs, you can move up while giving people you care about the same thing.

Just an idea I'm throwing out there, it's my best answer so far for how to deal with the problem.


Interesting idea, but what happens to the older or less-educated workers who could have handled jobs similar to those? You might eliminate the need for drudgery, but you'd need a way to bring lower-end workers up to the levels needed for jobs that were previously 'beyond' them, and place them in those jobs.

It's the eternal problem of Luddism (aka technology is taking away our jobs and we aren't getting better ones).


Well, they can be gifted an income source from one of the more proficient ones and that gives them a chance to develop themselves with all the newfound free time.


> why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary?

Health insurance.


This is the most cogent reply yet.

Health care is mostly not insurance, is tied to employment for a purely historical reason, and is precisely the largest issue preventing people from ditching safe but boring jobs and going after something new.

(And YC clearly understands this: look at the age of YC founders. Young, healthy, able to depend on someone else's healthcare or none at all for a year or so. Oh, and no mortgage.)


This is a standard answer that everybody gives, but for the most part it just isn't true. People hear the occasional horror stories and assume it is difficult for everybody without trying to source it themselves. I am leaving my current job at the end of the month and will be freelancing/starting my own business. I bought health insurance with no problems. I was approved in less than 2 weeks. I am married and have 3 small children and pay a little less than 300 a month.


You are fortunate not to have any pre-existing conditions in your family and i wish you not to ever have any. If you were to develop a serious condition while on individual or or a small business(<10 people) group plan, you will eventually be priced out of your insurance by your carrier raising your rates. This risk is generally spread out over large group such as a big company with several thousands of employers such as Google and thus their medical costs are same regardless of your medical history.

Furthermore once you or your family member develops a "preexisting medical conditions", you may not be approved next time you decide to to from corporate plan to individual. My wife was denied by one carrier for having chronic migraine for which she was taking prescription drugs and not seeing a doctor more than once a year.

With a current state of healthcare/insurance, I will only be able to leave my current employer and start a startup for as long as COBRA and CAL-COBRA allows. After that I will be forced to either join a larger company or have my family be without healthcare if a carrier decided to deny us coverage for preexisting conditions.


> You are fortunate not to have any pre-existing conditions

THIS. Although in many states there is a high risk pool that you can sign up for, when insurers deny you. I know someone who's done this in California and while there was a 6-9 month waiting list, and the coverage wasn't great, it was much much better than no coverage at all.

States with high risk pools:

http://www.naschip.org/states_pools.htm


What do you think is going to happen at renewal time if you develop a heath problem? Can you afford $3000 a month?


At that point it might be worth it to go back to a full time job :).


Or move to the elusive 51st state, known as Canada. :)


You actually can do all of the things you want to do.

The only thing that is stopping you is the risk / uncertainty of changing your situation.

One thing I've come to believe is that there is never enough time for anything. And so you have to make time.

If you're serious about adjusting your life to fit more outdoor or social interactions, there are part-time jobs and activities that can fulfill that. And there are plenty of contract jobs to fill up 20hrs a week, probably even several part-time contracts.


"I'm a programmer -- or at least, of all the things I've done in my life, that's the one I've been paid the most money for."

Nice. Pretty much how I see myself. Also, FYI. After many years in the industry I realised I was stagnating so I decided that something needed to change.

After a lot of thinking I managed to negotiate a 4 day week with my employer. I wanted an extra day to work on other projects and to learn new things. Eventually I signed up for Uni and am now working on a masters part time.

I'm thinking about pushing for a 3 day week next semester.

Just remember that anyone can do this. If you are a good worker most employers will do what they can to keep you around. More often than not, you can do in 4 days what 2 juniors can just manage in 5 (you may not realise this, I didn't).


I'm currently working 3 days a week as a programmer, 3 days a week as an English teacher here in Tokyo. Balance is really important to me.


Doing contract work?


No, part time in a company who needed English speakers on short notice. Not great pay but interesting (in its own way).


Interesting. I'm also in Tokyo. How can I contact you? Or, can you send me an email?


My name at gmail or same name on twitter


> A programmer's salary is great, but why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter, or teaching rock climbing to high school kids, for maybe 55% of a programmer's salary?

You can. You just have to learn to negotiate.

I currently work 4 days a week, with the other day being split between helping with a youth club, and Open Source hacking, and throwing a mountain bike down hills. I had to spend more time looking when I last changed jobs, but that also ended up with me in a job that I love for other reasons as well.


Why do you think the proportions of "try" and "don't try" are fixed? Evidence suggests environment and culture affect how hard-working and curious are a group of people. There's no evidence that unlimited unemployment for as many as want it is financially possible or good for anyone's physical or mental health. You want nobody to go hungry or homeless; this is noble but it can't be solved by only having programmers, stock traders and artists go to work.


> I hate that it's always indoors and sedentary. It's unfortunate that society places so much value on an activity that is arguably bad for my physical and mental health.

You should invent a computer specifically designed to allow you to work outdoors, including while walking. I'm on that same mission for the same reasons. http://bit.ly/vergence-singularity


Because once you remove people's payment for something, you remove their right to make decisions about the things they would have previously bought.


we can feed and clothe and house everyone, so why don't we?

There are already communities where everyone has the absolute right to food, shelter, healthcare and education. Those who live there could, if they wished, devote themselves full-time to self-improvement and community work.

In reality, they're called "sink estates".


why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer

There is a shortage of programmers out there. Start negotiating with your employer or get a new job. Make that a condition.


"It's unfortunate that society places so much value on an activity that is arguably bad for my physical and mental health. "

IT IS NOT, I work as a programmer(I 'm engineer) too. You are the person responsible to be healthy, you don't have to work sitting down. You can(You should) go out every single day and exercise.

Do not blame your job,your girlfriend or your wife, your parents or society. It is your responsibility.

Don't feel that I'm trying to criticism you. On the contrary I'm taking the time to write(the only time I use for reading news I won't read today) this because I want to help you. I don't know you but I would have loved someone telling me in the past.

I could not believe the change I experienced when I started doing it myself. Believe me, there is scientific reasons for that. I read a lot of scientific papers and entire books explaining the reasons. Your veins get bigger, your brain gets more oxygen, your cells get more food and evacuate waste much much better(read about the lymph system), your sugar is used and not converted into fat, your insulin gets lower level(you feel less anxious)... there are entire books about the details, but long story short, your life improves and you feel better, you work much better.

When you work sitting down, your body remains in a passive state, it has to do with blood pressure that change a lot when you stand up(proportional to height from your toes). The body "reacts" to standing up as it is a signal to activate for daily activity.

We are made for moving a little every day, but no so much. You only need moderate exercise every single day.

You will be much more energetic, more capable, optimist, people will love to be with you... you will work without counting the time because it feels great.

It is not a single step, it takes years of continuous improvement, but it is worth it. You need to experience it yourself to believe or actually seeing other people much better than you(that is the way I changed, when I stopped being in denial seeing other people do much better than me).

What you should not do is blaming others or other things(your job) for not being healthy.

About doing 20 hours as programmer, 20 hours as a designer or teacher... well YOU CAN. Who is putting the gun in your head telling you what to do or not?. You are a grown up person, Aren't you?(maybe you are a teenager that started programming at 6, I don't know) It doesn't matter, you can do real(not reading HN or facebook) 40 hours of programming a week(I do) once you know how to manage yourself.

Read "the power of full engagement" just for starting to get it. It will take a while for you to break bad habits from years of bad training.

Another invaluable audiobook:" The Now habit"

but the first step is stop being in denial of where you are first. I expect a lot of people to downgrade this post because there is a lot of population in HN that do it wrong, that martyrise theirselves into work because they don't know how to do it better.


>I'm kind of suspicious whenever I hear the phrase "work/life balance". It strikes me as something that seeks to reinforce the industrial-revolution-era idea that my (week)days should be broken into thirds: working (not fun but pays bills), playing (fun but costs money), and sleeping. Sure, that's definitely better than working 12 hour days, but is that really the goal? It seems that most of the fun-loving and happy people I know, regardless of their financial situation, don't operate in such a world.

Maybe. But isn't it also obvious that not all jobs are the kind of jobs required for the above to be true (people, generally, do not "love" flipping burgers, for example), and that, actually, jobs you "love" are in the minority (and we absolutely need the majority jobs too).

There's nothing wrong in your job NOT being your "passion" --and that is not constrained to burger flipping but also to IT and every kind of environment. If we only insisted on people working on their "passion" we wouldn't have things like technical documentation (unless many people exist that like to devote their life to writing 500 pages of SGML for other people's programs).


> ...why can't I work 20 hours as a programmer, and 20 hours as a tree-planter...

Here's one reason: you'll accumulate experience at half the pace of those programming 40 hours a week, which means you'll probably lag behind others in terms of usefulness and salary.


But you'd be awesome at writing code for agricultural applications! My point is that there is value in acting as a conduit for knowledge between disciplines. In fact, most "breakthroughs" consist of someone porting an existing technique from one discipline to another.


What's funny - to me - is that I'm sitting here asking myself "why is this even a story?" I do not work more than 8 hours a day, when working any sort of $DAYJOB. I just don't... there's no good reason to, and I'm not going to do it. My time belongs to me (or, more appropriately, to my startup) and the opportunity cost of spending extra hours at "the office" is just way too high.

Now, if I were working for someone else's startup, or working on my startup full-time, and had significant equity and working long hours had a direct correlation between my chances of becoming independently wealthy, then sure. In fact, I already work 60 or 70 (or more) hours a week, since I'm spending almost all of my night and weekend hours on Fogbeam Labs as it is.

But, yeah... unless there's a compelling reason to work long days at a job that is basically "just a salary", I refuse to do it. I don't really give a shit what my coworkers, boss, or anyone else thinks about it.


I was also curious why is this even a story. But then again I'm European.


I think it's tied to the industry you work in more so than geography.

For example, game companies can lack work/life balance, even in Europe.


I think you picked the worst example. I have heard harsh warnings about going into the (German) game industry since I was a freshman. And I have heard bad things out of the most famous German game shop during their last AAA release crunchtime, so it doesn't seem to have gotten any better.


I dunno, last time I talked to a guy at Techland he said it's 8 hours a day unless it's close to release. They have to play games for an hour too.


It is news to where I work. When I interviewed I was told 40 to 45 hours a week. I get here and was doing 40 hours and then told they need "more hours out of us" and "it would be different if there wasn't a backup of work" (which as far as I could tell there wasn't any, just one of the devs constantly changing stuff).

There are 3 devs (including me) and the other two keep putting in much more than 40 hours whereas I strive for just 40. When I first started I tried for more but then I realized that it didn't matter. There was no incentive for me. It actually made me hate the job more and more.


I get here and was doing 40 hours and then told they need "more hours out of us" and "it would be different if there wasn't a backup of work" (which as far as I could tell there wasn't any, just one of the devs constantly changing stuff).

Call me radical (and more than a little bit reckless) but I find the appropriate response to that to be some combination of:

"Then hire more people"

and/or

"I quit"

Of course, I am single with no wife/kids/etc., and not a lot of responsibilities except to myself, so I can afford to be a bit cavalier. I understand that not everybody can, but in that case, I would use the situation as motivation to go with the adage "If I can't find the job I want, I'll create the job I want" and start a startup. Yeah, you wind up working even more hours then, but - at least for me - it's justified because the goal is to create a better situation for yourself in the end.

But again, I acknowledge that my path isn't for everybody and that everyone's story and constraints are different. So please don't take this response as being judgmental or anything. Just offering another perspective...


I agree with that and definitely want(ed) to do that but my situation wasn't the best for that doing that: - no CS degree and no professional dev experience - saving for a wedding that is happening this October - quit a job that paid decent (for an Economics major ;) ) to do this.

I'm planning to leave around my 1 year mark so I can find a better place to work (oh did I mention they offer 0 days off for the first year, turns out it is a much bigger deal than I thought it would be for me). So in my free time I work on my blog, post some code and keep on taking my MS classes.


"more hours out of us"

This is the red flag. They may genuinely need more productivity, but any company that thinks it can get more productivity out of devs by letting them work more hours is being fundamentally mismanaged.

Long hours are virtually always a symptom something else is very wrong.


Oh I most definitely agree. I think the problem is that the company isn't a tech company (it is debt collection) and the people who bring money in can work 5 extra hours and bring in more money. The owners aren't tech savvy and definitely don't know the first thing about development. I think in their mind they figure the collectors can work 5 hours and make x more money than the devs should be able to work 5 hours and increase productivity by y.

It is a red flag but unfortunately I was told this AFTER I started the job and figured I wouldn't be able to get another job since I have no dev experience and no CS degree.


Asked myself the same question. 95% of the "article" is a quote from Sheryl Sandberg's interview.


Exactly. Expecting more, should come with recompense. You want 10 hour days, ok then Fridays are off. Or every week I get one PTO day.


I believe strongly in a sustainable pace. Software development isn't like brick-laying - you can't work more hours, past the breaking point, and expect to get marginal returns. Sure, you'll get some sloppiness and "bugs" in bricklaying, but likely nothing that can fundamentally ruin the project.

Software developers working too much lead to negative returns as they add more bugs than they fix (or add features). And sleep-deprived coding has lead to more architectural "bite us in the ass" problems than any slightly faster feature output.

That's why I have a cap at ~40 hrs/week. Don't work any more or I'll get mad.

And I believe in the "Results Only Work Environment" (http://www.gorowe.com) - there is no clock; folks "working late" or "coming in early" have nowhere to hide. Only the people working at a sustainable pace and consistently delivering high-quality, working software are rewarded.

And we're hiring: http://fundinggates.com/jobs


you can't work more hours, past the breaking point, and expect to get marginal returns

I find it a little depressing how difficult it can be to convince folk of this though - both employers and employees.

Once team I was brought in to help was working silly hours, and I could very quickly see that it was having a terribly effect on productivity. You could just look at the stories that were being worked on at 9pm on a Friday night and guarantee that you'd be seeing them again the next week with a bug report attached.

I managed to persuade everybody to start working more sensible hours. We collected stone cold facts from the history of the number of bug reports and complaints + stories done that this was more productive on every scale. And yet..... push back from management (who were very invested in the "startup's work 60 hours a week" mindset) and some of the developers (who had become locked into "hero developer" mode).

Even ignoring the ethical argument (not saying that you should) it's just more productive to work that way.


I strongly advocate pace as well; I don't think it's THAT dependent however on hours/week. I prefer working longer hours when my pace is high and working less when I'm feeling not very effective.


I know companies that throw everyone out of the office at 6pm sharp. No working from home allowed either. They seem to be doing just fine. Sometimes you have to force people to work reasonable hours or they'll just burn themselves out in a year or two.


Nicely put. Results matter, not hours. Most people have still not grasped this. And coding late, or even into the next day is kinda like driving without sleep: dangerous, illegal (in many states), and likely to lead to the shittiest code one ever writes.


i used to be the one who would ask, "where is everyone we're a startup and it's only 7:30pm?" I used to freak out if I saw a line of code that was stupidly duplicated or just plain wrong.

It's been 3 startups, and 2 kids later that I realize just how wrong I was... so far no great success - but moderate success, many lessons learned and certainly people i've pushed away for truly silly reasons like perceived hours spent behind the desk or strange lines of code written... reality is I now spend fewer hours behind the desk although admittedly probably still far too many to be sane... and definitely used to (and still do) write crazy lines of code... I think it's a matter of perspective, age, prospects and who knows probably other factors that'll influence our feelings about how many hours we need to put in... after all, is it one critical bug fixed or 100s of lines of new code written which matters more - is a mater of perspective, that one bug fixed could make the difference between winning the big client or losing'em... I think "hours spent behind the desk" is a silly measure of ones productivity... a well rested mind after all makes far better decisions - that's not to say we should be lazy, but that we need balance - plan and simple.


I love this. You are so right. Im glad you came to your senses as well.


How far you've come. I'm proud to see you write this.


haha, i'm still freakin crazy dude!


"But, let's forget about having family or being married for a minute. 5:30 as an on average time for going home should be acceptable for everyone -- single or not single ... family or no family -- assuming you don't come into the office everyday at 11 a.m."

Frankly, though, a lot of us do come into the office at 11 a.m. (or sometimes even later), and are happy with working later hours in exchange.


At which point the article becomes more about working your 8 hour day and leaving. I doubt your happy to work until 11pm or midnight for the privilege of showing up at 11am.


One advantage is that getting in at 11am usually means it's more difficult to bully you into staying past when you should be leaving.


Can you clarify who is "us"? Facebook employees? Or programmers working in American tech companies in general?

I live in Japan. In 99% of Japanese companies, and even most of the foreign ones, there's no such thing as flexible working hours. I'm curious to know how common it is in the US.


For an orthogonal perspective, see grellas (writing on another article):

Work-life balance is very important as well, a point the author emphasizes. He seems to have made that choice later in life (as did I) and I commend him for it. But, while I can exhort others too to strive for such balance, I will not begrudge them the choice to work exceedingly hard (especially as they are first developing in their careers) to achieve other "unbalanced" goals. People do accomplish insanely great things by working insanely hard. If they choose to do this in their work as employees, that is their privilege and, as long as they are highly-skilled and highly compensated, I say more power to them if they do it without the benefit of protective labor laws.

Complete comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3642433.


I think that this is the operative statement:

  as long as they are highly-skilled and highly compensated


I do this, and occasionally I catch flak for it. I put in 8 hours, and that 8 hours happens to be fantastic -- regardless of how busy I look, what I work on, or who I work with. The problem is that casual observers don't see that. They only see the present.

Thankfully, my efforts were noticed despite my lack of unpaid overtime. I've been promoted twice in the past three years, added to special panels and events, and even been given assignments that just rock.

There is this stigma around working 40 hours a week, and only 40 hours, that I will never understand. If you don't need more 40 (or even less) to do your job, what does it matter? The employer is getting what they asked for, and often times more, and you're getting a paycheck. Its called ROWE: results oriented work environment. Just a shame it hasn't caught on in the US.


> "They only see the present."

That's a symptom of bad management. If they assume presence == productivity, it will be just one of many flawed assumptions and bad practices that will result in a pretty lousy workplace for knowledge workers.


Did no one read the part of her interview where she said she started work (sending emails so people would notice) at 5.30 am? And then would send emails from home at like 9pm? Ie. she was working way more than 12 hours a day, she just happened to leave the office at 5.30 when other bosses might be scheduling meetings.

The 'story' is completely not what it's being made out to be.


I've worked those longer hours on one startup, 10-11 hour days for several weeks putting out fires. Never once did I get paid more or even a congrats for the work. It was expected and quite frankly, I enjoyed it as a new hire. It helped me get up to speed, built up some comradeship with the other devs/mgrs there, and I had nothing better to do at home. But as the fires died down and I became well-known for my work ethic, WHEN IT WAS NEEDED, I pulled back to 8 hour days on average. So as in many things in life, it's ok in moderation to work longer hours, but I try not to make a habit of it.

Nowadays, I'm at a large enterprisey business and I may work 7 hours during off times. But there was a point (oddly enough right when I started) where I was putting in 10 hour days for a couple weeks. Now that I have kids, I really do want to get home before they go to bed. Also helps that I have a 7 minute commute.


One of the joys of being a contractor is the complete lack of shame at leaving at 5pm, and being happy when asked to work later (aka get more money).

As a salaried worker I was easily pulled into working late hours as it was the status quo. In essence when you are salaried, you are owned, and will be frequently asked to work late, work weekends, and work from home at night. As a contractor, you will still get asked, but only when the reward for the company is worth the cost. As a salaried worker, the only cost for the extra time is your happiness, which isn't worth as much to them as you think.

The best jobs are ones where there is no expectation of hours though. This is where you have a significant stake in the outcome, such as an early employee or as an independent project. Where you are no longer getting paid for your time, but only for results.


My commute is no less than 1hr, so if I'm to be home for dinner with my family I need to leave at 5 (5:30 tops). My boss is very understanding of that... in the sense that he agreed to let me come in at 7am so I could leave at 5. Did I mention my 1hr commute? You do the math. I'm gone 12hrs a day. And I still feel like I need to sneak out as everyone else is likely to be there until 6 or 7. I hate that this seems "normal" and that I feel guilty for leaving at 5. I do enjoy the couple hours of quiet time in the morning though.


I used to work at a developer job where it was taboo to leave before 5:30 (even if you came in at 8:30). Management often scheduled meetings (that lasted at least an hour, sometimes more) at 5:30 on a Friday. If you wanted a personal life there, you had to fight for it. And I did - I left the job :)


Work/Life balance. It's not supposed to be a bullet point to hire people with that is forgotten the moment they start working.


When I was working for a company, I would get it an 8:15 and left at 17:00 on the dot. When asked if I could stay to do something which I felt could wait until the morning, I would say no and leave. I didn't get fired, instead I had a life. Working is not everything, there are much more important things in life.


Completely unrelated, but why do stories having anything to do with Pete Cashmore always include a photo of him looking seductively into the camera? This one seems to be in some cool night club. As if knowing that the author happens to be a rare attractive tech reporter adds some credibility to his stories.

I do agree with the tenets of the story though. Working until 5pm should be plenty long to call it a productive day if you don't spend your time yanking off at the water cooler or gossiping with coworkers or even worse sitting in pointless meetings.

I felt so adamantly about this at one point that I wrote a series of op-eds to the New York Times trying to make the case that the single greatest way to alleviate our dependence on foreign oil, lower pollution, mitigate the need for mass-transit, and increase productivity was to give tax incentives to employers who allow employees to work from home 1-2 days per week. Seems surprising to me that more focus hasn't been put on this recently. Anyhow, the stories were never run and now I'm really off topic.


I leave at 4pm.. but I get in at 7am. Generally I get a good 3-4 hours of quiet work done before everyone else shows up.


It might be OK in the company policy, but where it counts is co-worker and manager opinion. I personally have found that coming into work at 7am and working til 4pm just doesn't fly with other co-workers. They get the opinion that I didn't have to work as much as everyone else. Productivity can be hard to judge, so it's easy to revert back to time in the office.

I believe there was a study at Google that had similar results as what I experienced as well.


I sell my skills for money. It is all I have, my skilled time. I exchange that time for money. If my pay ends at 5.30, so does my time. No employer has ever given me free money, so Im not about to give them my time for free.

The day the free cash is handed out is the day I dish out some free time.


there are bonuses and promotions. Or another words 'discretionary' compensation. Your formula above does not work in unless you work for a 0 discretionary compensation place.

Promotion paths are also important -- a position or title that is externally recognized as 'achievement'. Is akin to a 'vetting/classification' that was done for your talents. VCs look at that as well as anybody else.

So to summarise,discretionary compensation and promosition creates competitive environment. That drives the stress, long hours,and success or failure within a corporate career path.


I work till 5pm. Have done for about 2 years now. Whats happened?

1) I haven't burned out 2) I have retained good relationships with my family and friends 3) I enjoy evenings out

Previously I worked all hours. If my partner had let me I would have brought the computer to bed and typed into the night. I burned out and jeopardised my relationship.

I get that there are times when you need to work longer. When you have a deadline or something really needs to be done. However.. if this is every day for a long period of time then you are probably doing something wrong.


I hear people repeatedly saying "work-life balance". Work and Life are not different things. Everything is life. If you don't have life, you can't work. It's as simple as that.



Been a software engineer for 15 years now. I've always worked 40 hour weeks, about once a year I work a 60 hour week. I've probably made more money than my peers on average, plus I've had a life outside of work. I've always been baffled why employees put up with 50+ hour work weeks.


I think everyone is complaining a bit too much. I'm trying to find an internship, (read "begging companies to let me work over 40 hours a week for them free of charge.") and have had absolutely no luck.

You're making a living, right? So what's a few extra hours per day?


That's time I don't spend seeing my partner. That's time my health deteriorates because working excessive hours is unhealthy. That's time I slowly lose friends because I never see them.

There's no point in making a living without having a life.


Well, that ultimately comes down to preference. I would rather have a job than extra time to spend in my personal life.


Well, yes. Having a job definitely takes precedence over time off from a job. But working grueling hours will only work so long for you - trust me on that. Been there, done that, got the entire t-shirt collection.

What I regret most about being willing to do this though is that I made life difficult for fellow engineers. Everybody who unquestioningly puts in long days makes it harder for somebody else to actually keep decent hours. (And you'll want to go there at some point - see above)

There are plenty of places that have good work hours, and most places that don't have crappy engineering practices on top of everything else. So if you want to do your future self a huge favor, don't sell yourself via "I can work insane amounts of time". What you'll get for that - if you'll get anything - is a crappy job at most likely a crappy place that you'll quickly come to hate.

Sell your skills instead. Or, if you actually love working 16-hour days, strike out on your own. At least then you're not working to line somebody else's pocket.


I understand your statements as coming from someone who is looking for an opportunity and frustrated now. Wait until you get a job( which you will) and 'settle'. If you are already employed or , looking for fulfillment outside your 'day job', this thread might be more relatable to you.


Unless you exhibit traits of aspergers such as often having an obsessive singular focus, this isn't about preference, it's a fact of the human condition. You will burn out and you won't be productive.


> I would rather have a job than extra time to spend in my personal life.

I've never interacted with an old and dying man or woman whom would've said anything similar.


Oy, my company pays interns. If you don't want to get paid, I have some spiffy projects that I would love to hire someone for free to take on.


"Let them eat cake," she said.


cake is a lie


This is why it's important to have a secondary source of income (most likely a business) and money in the bank. If I'm required to work past 5 for too long (once in awhile, it's fine), I find work elsewhere.

It's worked pretty well so far.


Yeah, the balance aspect is pretty key on both sides. I generally put in 7-8 hours in the office, plus perhaps an hour or so in the morning before the rest of my family is awake (though I may not always work this hour). I've been with the same employer for over five years, and there have been times that I've been asked to work a bit extra (though, typically, I've been able to leave at 5, and work later in the evening, after the kids are in bed). And, of course, there have been times I've been given a great deal of flexibility in my work schedule to accommodate emergencies.

Of course, this isn't typical, perhaps even in tech, and I feel rather fortunate to have this situation.


I leave at 4.30 pm. I get in at 8.00 am, so I figure eight hours is enough -- any longer than that is pointless because I'm too tired. I have a three/four hour commute on top of this and have to be up at 5.15 am. I get back home around 6.45-7-45 pm, so, fuck it, my day is long enough.

I've got a life, my own internal dialogue and other interests. Life's short enough as it is.


Why on earth do you commute so long? Is that really the best option for you?


I had a point early in my career where I accepted a 5 hour daily commute (round trip) in order to accomplish the more important goal of finding meaningful work in my field in the region I wanted to live in. Definitely sub-optimal, locally, but things worked out for the best in the end. I _did_ gain 25 lbs or so in 10 months of doing this. Luckily, it sounds like the poster is only doing this temporarily.


No, lets face it, it is sub-optimal for anyone. I'll be leaving soon anyway. I couldn't keep that up indefinitely.

Although, weirdly, there are those in there who do even further commutes.


Please, tell me you are not spending that much time driving every day.

If it is a train or a boat, a plane, anything where you do not have to concentrate, I could see doing that, as you could do plenty of interesting things on a commute these days(ereaders, netbooks, regular books and so on).

I had a 4(2 back and 2 forth) hour daily commute for a year and it was not bad at all since I got 3 hours or reading time every day on a train and and one hour of walking(15minsx4). That actually was quite nice as it let me unwind and get into appropriate zone.


No. I do sometimes, but I do take the train and bus (which incidentally costs a fortune) because I'd pass out at the wheel. This has never happened but its always in my mind.

Besides there's (typically) nowhere to park. I've decided to leave in the next few weeks. Life's too precious for this sorta shit.


So you have 5-6 hours of commute time? This is insane. I had 2 hours of commute time and it drove me nuts.


I have 2 hours of commute and I'm battling mental instability. I have to keep a queue of audiobooks handy, because two weeks with traffic and nothing to uplift me is enough to drive (haha) me into a bad mood by the time I'm home. I'm also a more aggressive driver when I'm not listening to something worth-while. The worst part is, last job, I had the same time commute, but could code on the train. Night and day.


Not really a substitute for a shorter commute, but you might try this:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Guide-Building-Classical-Collectio...

Caveats: - Published in 1999 so I don't know how available the albums are. - Classical is really sensitive to dynamics, and cheap car stereos suck at same. You turn up the volume to hear the quiet parts, then get blasted by the loud ones. I don't have a good car stereo, don't know how much it would help. Earphones are much better, but I don't know about driving with them.


Thanks for that!


Like you, I couldn't even entertain this had I not an enormous load of audiobooks and a Kindle loaded with hundreds of titles. Most of which I've read. And listened to. At least twice.


Off topic, I know, but the local library often has a lot of good ebooks + audio books which are mp3 or on CD which you can rip... You probably could get an account with the library where your job is, too, if the rural one is too low-scale.


Its interesting -- my little rural library is very good. If you want a book they don't have, you fill in a card and they will either requisition it from somewhere else or they will buy it.

Although I'm rural, the local amenities are actually great -- one of the reasons I'm here. We're lucky. Excellent doctors and hospitals, too.

Great neighbours who aren't weirdos, its also so quiet on a Friday and Saturday you could hear a pin drop. That might drive some people crazy but I like it.

I have a little garden which I'm making nice and a few interesting little techie projects that I want to finish (I just don't have time right now) but I will quit and then use my time rationally. Who knows where it might lead?


It is absolutely batshit fucking crazy. And I don't even like the work.

Partly my own fault because I chose several years ago to live in quite a rural area. Still, not worth the hassle.




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