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Bring Back the 40-hour work week (March 2012) (salon.com)
304 points by pnathan on Nov 13, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 237 comments

The 40-hour week is forever gone in the startup world, and that is simply one of the trade-offs in having moved from a world where big enterprises emphasized long-term relationships with defined pension benefits and health coverage for life to a new world in which such enterprises have faltered and sunk only to be displaced by the startups that disrupted them through technical and other innovations. One can howl at the moon over these developments but is it really desirable to revert to an older day where a faithful employee's reward for long-term service was getting a gold watch on retirement or a $10K bonus for having invented the thing that made the employer hundreds of millions?

On a technical legal note, U.S. overtime laws have long since institutionalized the 40-hour week for non-exempt (generally lower skilled) employees and that remains the overwhelming norm in the economy. In that sense, there is no need to "bring back" the 40-hour week. It never went away.

If, as the author seems to espouse, the goal is to impose a strict weekly limit on the higher-skilled employees as well (in the case of Silicon Valley, tech professionals), it takes laws to do that and laws restrict freedom. Granted that efficiency studies might cause some employers to adopt strict hourly limits as a matter of company policy, or that individual lifestyle choices might cause a given employee to run in horror from the idea of slave-like work hours, do tech professionals really want to be prohibited from making such choices for themselves? It is one thing to say that laws are needed to protect those who cannot protect themselves. It is quite another to impose the force of law on what really is a lifestyle choice to be made by those who are equipped and smart enough to make it for themselves. Trying to "bring back" the 40-hour week from this perspective is, in my view, a very bad idea that would seriously harm the tech-driven companies that populate the startup world.

an older day where a faithful employee's reward for long-term service was getting a gold watch on retirement or a $10K bonus for having invented the thing that made the employer hundreds of millions

You think startups are any different? Unless you are one of the very first employees in a startup that is massively successful, you're not going to benefit financially compared to a job at BigCorp. In fact, the loss of higher salary, bonuses and benefits mean that startup employees are often working longer and getting less in return.

It's time to get rid of the culture where you have to stay in the office as long as the founder does- his incentives are totally different. A 40 hour week sounds great to me, but it requires a cultural change, not a legal one.

It's simpler to think about the misaligned incentives issue in terms of compensation rather than in job requirements. The issue with many startup jobs is that they underpay relative to their requirements, and get away with it because candidates have a hard time valuing equity grants in unproven and illiquid companies. But this is a market value problem, not a "40 hour work week" problem.

Ignoring the hours argument. If incentives for the founder do not align with the incentives of other people involved in the company there is a completely different problem at hand.

Well, consider it incentive scale. Everyone wants the same thing, but the founder will benefit but an order of magnitude more than most employees. Just because he's there late doesn't mean everyone else should feel obliged to.

Why not just leave for a job at BigCorp?

Personally, I did. I was lucky enough to get a job at a large organisation that is still very interesting and challenging.

Not everyone can be so lucky though- startups are often doing more interesting stuff than large companies, so there's an appeal.

There is nothing wrong with the most fun jobs paying less than the most boring jobs; that's just supply and demand. For similar reasons, jobs at game studios tend to suck a lot.

There is something wrong if they demand that you work more than 40 hours a week though.

That's debatable. Are they paying you for more than 40 hours? If your employer demands you work more than 40 hours per week, that's what the job there will entail. Not much different than the details of their culture or health plan. It's just another thing the employer expects. Like with everything in your career, if this doesn't match up with what you want out of the job, you're working at the wrong place.

If my employer demanded a tie and I didn't want to dress that fancy, then there's a disconnect between their expectations and mine. We don't fit together well. Some people will like working 50, 60, even 80 hours per week. Some won't. The people who should be employed there are the ones who like what that company has to offer them as the whole package.

> is it really desirable to revert to an older day where a faithful employee's reward for long-term service was getting a gold watch on retirement or a $10K bonus for having invented the thing that made the employer hundreds of millions?

Depends. Do you value the worth of your activity purely by personal income gained and count every minute in dollars? (Ah, you're a lawyer. Ignore that question.) In many of the cases we're talking about, the faithful employee's long-term reward is achieving things they could never have attained on their own.

> it takes laws to do that and laws restrict freedom.

Yes, the freedom to abuse employees, in this case. Restrict away.

> do tech professionals really want to be prohibited from making such choices for themselves?

Painting this as a choice is wholly disingenuous. If "the 40hr week is forever gone", in what sense is it a choice to work those hours?

> Trying to "bring back" the 40-hour week from this perspective is, in my view, a very bad idea that would seriously harm the tech-driven companies that populate the startup world.

This scaremongering is, in my view, yet more of the short-sighted knee-jerk sky-will-fall nonsense employers always trot out when employee rights are discussed. Which is a) never borne out by the results when the rights are enforced and b) why they have to be enforced.

Hi Grellas, I feel honored by your comment on my submission. :-)

I personally didn't read "force of law" into the viewpoint of the author. However, I can see how it could be read that way, and certainly that would be one action item that could be drawn from the essay.

What I did read out of the essay was an interesting approach to maximizing productivity, which runs counter to an initial assumption. I see a lot of glorification of super-long weeks around HN (some people thrive on them, it seems), and I think that a counter perspective is useful; if the studies are born out, it's even a productivity hack, as one might call it.

Anyway, I do totally agree that legislating 40-hour work weeks would be a disaster. It'd really ruin the freedom we have in the US to really go deep when we need to.

There's an exception to the 40 hour week called comp time. You get paid for excess hours by being given paid time off.

The 40 hour week is already legislated. If you work over 40 you are supposed to get overtime. Overtime needs to be requested, though - that's an important point. If you're going over 40 you're supposed to tell your boss to get permission, and the boss is supposed to say, "nah, go home."

I know it doesn't work that way.

>>I know it doesn't work that way.

Its because as programmers we never work 40 hours productively. Quite a but of our time goes in procrastinating, reading stuff on sites like HN, Facebooking etc. There fore there is almost an untold understanding that 40 hours is not to be taken literally.

Please speak for yourself. I don't procrastinate. Most days I don't even check my personal email at work. Maybe I should, because despite not procrastinating I'm still pretty much forced to be 50 or 60 hours a week in the office.

At the same time, we require an inordinate amount of "back of mind" processing time in order to perform so much problem solving.

In other words, "the code's compiling" explanation for idling covers the linking up of modules in the code and in our brains' mental models of it.

Well, the article quotes research saying that knowledge workers only have six good hours in them. They need to fill the rest of the time somehow to not go insane.

On a technical legal note, U.S. overtime laws have long since institutionalized the 40-hour week for non-exempt (generally lower skilled) employees and that remains the overwhelming norm in the economy. In that sense, there is no need to "bring back" the 40-hour week. It never went away.

Except there are now so many exemptions that most of the white-collar working population is "salaried-exempt", and basically subject to no labor protections at all.

That's really not true. It's very easy to stumble into a credible claim from an employee that they've been reclassified as overtime-eligible. One easy way to do it is to discipline a team member, or the whole team, by docking pay for coming in late.

The only exempt jobs are in management, and in very well-paid programming jobs. I don't know the amount, but I imagine it's six figures or nearly that. Sysadmins and programmers who don't get overtime are having their wages stolen, basically. Unfortunately, the amount of ignorance (or denial) about this is widespread, so many people have accepted that they will work past 40 hours and not get paid for it.

>> Sysadmins and programmers who don't get overtime are having their wages stolen, basically

When I worked at the call center, 9 hours a day was pretty standard and I hardly ever remember working overtime. Its rare enough in that industry. But the whole point is the corporation expects bang for the buck when it comes to this. No procrastination, No Facebooking etc distractions. Heck you don't even get time to procrastinate, the calls just keep coming. Apart from the 30 min lunch and two 15 min drink breaks you generally don't take any time off. So you essentially work only ( 8 x 5 ) or 40 hours a week.

Coupled with unconventional working hours. Mine was the US shift, which in Bangalore was 1 AM in the night to 10 AM in the morning. I would come back, sleep till 5 in the evening and then learn programming till 12 in the night. Those were the most productive times in my life. Where I worked a full time job, did my engineering and learned a lot of stuff.

You also get amazing stuff done. Nearly everybody is as equally productive, the difference is in quality when it comes down to performance measurements. The problem is the programming world is plagued by procrastination problems and its difficult to fit everything into the 40 hour model. Because no one in real serious sense works 40 hours religiously.

Federal law has no salary requirements at all for exempting programmers. California law adds one, at $81,000/year -- which is simply not that much in Silicon Valley terms!

It could be a collective action problem. Everybody would be better off if everyone were limited to 40 hour weeks, but nobody wants to take the hit in perception that would result from adopting one on their own.

It's probably not the case that everyone would be better off if work weeks were limited to 40 hours because of the administrative costs of ensuring 40 hour weeks. A statutory 40 hour week works when everyone comes into work at the same time, or when people punch clocks. It's much harder for knowledge workers who drop in and out of "flow" at semi-random times.

To be clear, you're not arguing against the thesis of the argument, correct?

> ... when people punch clocks.

If I ever run a technology company, the engineers will punch clocks. If they work too long, their pay will be docked.[1] The clock punch machine will lock out the IT systems for an employee who is clocked out.

1. I'm paying for the beginner's mind and flow. Somebody sabotage's that, they get invoiced the same as breaking the coffeemaker on purpose.

And this is the top ranking comment ? Proof that hacker new is seriously loosing its shit. (Mayb we should call it startup news ?)

Come one, go learn some history. At least the article's writer did know some (a lot)

>The 40-hour week is forever gone in the startup world, and that is simply one of the trade-offs in having moved from a world where big enterprises emphasized long-term relationships with defined pension benefits and health coverage for life to a new world in which such enterprises have faltered and sunk only to be displaced by the startups that disrupted them through technical and other innovations. One can howl at the moon over these developments but is it really desirable to revert to an older day where a faithful employee's reward for long-term service was getting a gold watch on retirement or a $10K bonus for having invented the thing that made the employer hundreds of millions?

No, today's reality of burning out and getting the short end of the stick when the startup you worked for folds (as statistically most of them do) is much better.

You write as if startups have replaced big corporations. In fact, startups employ an insignificant number of people compared to big corporations -- and most startups just crash and burn instead of being bought for a nice sum or turning into a regular company. So the payoff is there only for a tiny minority of startup employees (and mostly, founders).

So, to rephrase your question: "is it really desirable to revert to an older day where a faithful employee's reward for long-term service was getting a gold watch on retirement or a $10K bonus, compared to the current startup reality, in which employees are worked to the bone while rarely seeing anything for it in the vast majority of cases when the company crashes or even get shafted if the company makes it big?"

Hell, yeah.

Perhaps this is a good thread to pose this question.

I am a front-end engineer in my early twenties. Right now, 40+ hours a week is doable and I am paid well, but I don't need all of the money I'm earning. I would gladly take a 50% salary cut and work ~20 hours a week.

The only problem with this is that I feel like this is a risky thing to bring up with an employer. Has anyone ever had any success getting a good part-time job or downsizing your position at a company? Every listing for part-time I see seems to be for someone with a lesser skillset.

Even if your company offers it, you should be careful about taking it. There are a few downsides:

- Your advancement and promotion chances are basically zero in such a position. Not due to some conspiracy, but just because you're not around for half of the conversations people are having about the direction of the product/team.

- If it isn't standard practice for the whole team, they all start to slightly hate you, no matter the pay difference. Need drewb's input? Oh, it's Tuesday; that will have to wait until Thursday when special-boy is back in the office. I've seen this over and over (including on my own teams) with people who had been granted special work accommodations, and there's nothing you can really do about it, even as a manager.

If you want more time to yourself, I would much more highly recommend attempting to negotiate regular unpaid leaves of absence for a couple of months. Travel the world; really unplug from work; etc. It's both easier to fit into your career and your company's plans.

Or just go into consulting and only take n-month contracts that fit your lifestyle needs.

This is one of those annoying problems of working remotely.

Unfortunately if you are working from home, you might be building mountains. But no one is seeing you do it, what that generally means is unless you announce explicitly what you are doing people think you are doing nothing.

Contrary to whatever one thinks and the truth is. Perceptions matter a lot more than the reality.

> Unfortunately if you are working from home, you might be building mountains. But no one is seeing you do it, what that generally means is unless you announce explicitly what you are doing people think you are doing nothing.

I don't announce anything unless you count commits and issue tracker updates. I am being paid for my work. Those who pay me give me the requirements and know it very well what is being done. Well, since they are paying for it and want it done, how can they not know what is being done?

>>how can they not know what is being done?

If only the world worked on facts, and not perceptions...

Again, I have to disagree with you 100%. :)

I posit that "this" is one of those annoying problems of working. If you don't make sure you communicate your success, you won't be successful. People who don't celebrate, share and broadcast their success usually aren't successful. Even when they are in the office 100% of the time.

Software is generally a winner-take-all market. Software has zero marginal cost, so the company with the most revenue can invest the most upfront into making a better product, giving it even more revenue. Furthermore, in most cases there is little incentive for customers to ever use the second best product in a segment. So when building software, you not only have to meet the customers needs, you have to meet the customer needs better than any competitor. If you produce a product that is half as good or improve the product half as quickly, you do not lose just half your revenue, you could lose all of it.

The second aspect of software development is that a developer working 40 hours a week is more productive than two developers working 20 hours a week. With the sole developer, there less communication overhead, less management overhead, and the ratio of productive time to time learning the system and understanding the interlocking parts is higher. This is the classic mythical man month problem.

The third aspect of software development is that directly measuring output and effort of an engineer is very difficult. So as a proxy, managers look for signs of passion and engagement. If you are passionate and smart, but are slow to implement some feature, management will believe the feature was simply more difficult than anticipated. If you generally are not passionate about your work, and are slow to implement some feature, management will think you are slacking and fire you. Creating an effective company requires creating a culture of passion and hardwork, and having one person only work part-time can decrease the morale of those putting in 40+ hours. Asking to only work half-time betrays a lack of passion, and could be a bad career move.

So the net result of these factors is that a company must work at maximum efficiency, and maximum efficiency comes when all developers are working 40+ hours a week. It is not in the company's interest to let you work only 20 hours a week, and it could indeed be risky if you bring the idea up with management.

I should also note that the above dynamic is not just the case in software, but in virtually all high paying jobs, from professional athlete to corporate lawyer to corporate executive. Virtually all high paying jobs have some sort of competitive, winner take all dynamic in the market at large (the winners being the ones who get paid well), and within the company, the high paid people are the ones with specialized, hard to replace skills, that have a large ramp up time to learn effectively (learning a large code base, learning a set of legal traditions, learning how to hit a curveball, etc, etc). Thus in order to earn the high pay you must work long hours, and you must work many productive hours on top of a base of ramping-up hours.

One way around this, if you want work/life balance, is to timeslice on much longer increments, like a couple of years instead of a couple of days. Put in the long hours at the demanding job for a few years until you have a shippable product and demonstrable, tangible successes. Then take a year off to travel, found a startup, work on an open-source project, volunteer, or otherwise decompress, using the savings you got from the high-paying job before.

For some reason, taking a year off to travel, volunteer, or experience the world isn't looked at in the same negative career light that wanting to only work part-time is, particularly if you have demonstrable successes at your last employer. It shows passion, engagement, and the ability to take responsibility for your own life, and many employers assume that will transfer over to your job performance at your next job. You're at a slight disadvantage in salary negotiations because they don't have to lure you away from your existing job, but you can make up for this by applying to many jobs (ideally through connections) at once.

I've heard it's also better on the "life" side of things as well, as you can throw your whole being into whatever you experience in your free time, and not just settle for the scraps you can fit around your job.

I've know a couple of people who did this, at even smaller increments that this... Worked 6-9 months, then took a similar amount of time off (to travel, pursue acting or some other endeavor, etc). If I had my twenties back, I'd give this a shot.. though I suspect I'd end up spending the 'off' time accidentally building a software company. Whoops.

I can vouch for this.

I took about a year off to explore alternative careers and personal pursuits after working at a tech firm for 3 years. I returned to the industry and was recruited within a few months back into a spinoff from my original firm.

Of course, this presupposes that you maintain your skills, and that you don't burn any bridges when you leave.

This is exactly what a lot of companies and managers will try to tell you.. But it is a bunch of nonsense.

An actual 40 hour a week programmer is an awful asset, if we do more than ~20 hours of work a week the rest is bad code and the shit we are to tired of thinking about to fix/automate. The ones who work 50+ hours have forgotten that things can be automated or even pondered before diving in, or that are powerless to fix the accumulating breakage of their group/project/company.

That being said, a 20 hour a week engineer who is partying the remainder probably isn't great either.

I currently work 3 days a week, but I spend about half of the remainder studying things that interest me, mostly in CS or physical sciences. A few years back, I worked 2.5 days in tech support, while finishing up my BS.

I would say live and breathe it while you are there, you should be senior/mature enough that you don't require mentoring/sponsoring to do your job, be a bit humble about your immediate "importance" and handle those longer term pains, and have a nice (but unapologetic) explanation for how you spend your other time.

If overall I spend less than 25-30 hours a week thinking about the field then expect to gradually feel rusty. But then CS is not a good field to mentally slow down in.

Its true that if you make it rain by working 20 hours, you get to be the superstar of the team. But that's not possible, at least not in 90% of the scenarios.

Office as we know it, is more than a workplace for an individual. Its a place where people meet together to collaborate with each other. Its also a social network where people eat lunch, drink coffee and talk about life, and such stuff together. If you are not there 50% of the time, unfortunately I don't see how you will fit in with everybody else. Nobody likes calling and discussing things over phone/chat/email what could easily be discussed by meeting at ones cubicle and talking over it for 5 minutes.

Coding might be your 20 hour job, but the other 20 hours is many other things apart from coding. And trust me that is equally important for your career progression.

I respectfully submit that you are 100% wrong.

At least, you're wrong in stating your opinion so forcefully in the second two paragraphs after a (to me) flippant caveat in the first.

The important question isn't whether there're 10% scenarios where company cultures are actually meritocratic, but how much the proportion changes over time.

I'll submit my anecdotal evidence that it is growing. And my career continues to grow. In fact, I would say that the work culture at my company is why my career progression has grown. I'm invested and happy with my situation and therefore work smarter by not overextending myself in the ambition of being there at least 50% of the time just to be there so I can fit in.

In fact, I work remote most of the time and so do I good portion of my colleagues.

>>I work remote most of the time and so do I good portion of my colleagues.

That is the reason why working remote is helping you. Since most of your colleagues are working remotely too.

In Rome, behave like a Roman.

When I say a good proportion, I should clarify that I mean anyone can work remote any time that they feel like but most people still show up at the office because they enjoy being at the office working with their coworkers. 99% of the time our clients are remote too.

I'd submit that remote work is neither helping me nor hurting me. Because the company culture recognizes the value of intrinsically motivated employees, we ensure that employees are happy. Working remote is one of the manifestations of that focus.

Specifically, working remote is orthogonal to my success in my career specifically but fundamental to my happiness and willingness to work towards a successful career in the first place. Does that clarify where I'm coming from?

> If you are not there 50% of the time, unfortunately I don't see how you will fit in with everybody else.

I am not there 100% of the time and I fit just fine.

> Nobody likes calling and discussing things over phone/chat/email what could easily be discussed by meeting at ones cubicle and talking over it for 5 minutes.

I like email, wiki, IM and issue trackers. Gather your damn thoughts and put then in writing. Dropping by in-person or skype calls are for stage setting. And what makes you think I like being interrupted by someone for something that can be said in the IM?

Oh, and it wasn't any different when I was holding a day job.

I checked your profile and you are the founder of a start up :)

Of course since you are a hacker yourself so you are likely to be open to such a environment which you yourself like working in. But I'm talking of a general corporate job kind of a scenario where a lot of people work together in collaboration. Things go a lot smoothly when every one works together, of course they can go smooth either way too. Provided everyone co operates, especially the managers.

The second aspect of software development is that a developer working 40 hours a week is more productive than two developers working 20 hours a week.

I am unsure that this is true in all circumstances.

So the net result of these factors is that a company must work at maximum efficiency, and maximum efficiency comes when all developers are working 40+ hours a week.

I know for a fact that this isn't always true - since I've repeatedly seen teams of developers doing 45+ hour weeks become more productive by every metric we had to hand by dropping their working week to 40 hours (with only about 6 hours a day of that being coding).

I talk about this in a little bit more over here before (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3883362)... copy/paste below.


There is something deeply broken about equating hours to productivity.

It's been my experience that folk are very good at deceiving themselves about their productivity (myself included :-)

One team I worked with had a serious problem with overtime. They were putting in stupid hours and it was showing in the quality of work going out. So I ran an experiment where we all agreed to work "normal" hours for six weeks.

I was "only" working about 45 hours a week at this point, when other people on the team were regularly working 50-60. I was relatively young, didn't have any family pressure, enjoyed my work and felt very productive doing those hours. I wasn't one of the people with a "problem" as I saw it. We were running the experiment for the other folk on the team.

In the experiment we dropped to a 40 hours week (6 hours coding per day, 2 hours for breaks, meetings & lunch). After a couple of weeks adjustment my productivity went way up. I also felt a lot better in myself - generally sharper and more on the ball.

People seem to have quite a wide bad of "this feels okay" that subsumes the much narrower "I'm performing at my best".

Also people don't jump from a 35 hour week to 60 hours a week. It creeps up a few minutes at a time as pressure increases on the team. People have enough time to adjust to it being "normal" and don't notice the drop in productivity that goes with it.

Currently I work roughly 25-30 hours a week and am just as productive by all metrics that I have available to me as when I worked 40-50.

I would strongly urge people to experiment. Pick some metrics, try working shorter hours for a month, see what happens.

(The only caveat I would add is that with folks doing silly hours - anything over 50 I would say - there is often a couple of weeks where things go to hell as the body adjusts. On the team from the story practically everybody caught a bug and felt crap for the first week or so before productivity rose again).

Agreed - when I started doing contracts solo, I found that I had around six hours of code in me, pretty much all in the morning and early afternoon. The last 2 or 3 hours I spent on "business" issues or writing scripts to help the business stuff or studying. In the middle of work, I'd take a 90 minute talk break or lunch break. My day was basically around 8:30 to 6:00. It was a long day, but not tiring or stressful, and things got done really quickly.

The real productivity killer, for me, is driving a lot. That really sucks it out of me. Face-time too. I could do a few meetings a day, but that's it.

I'm from India , wanted to ask how this logic applies to companies supplying IT Services instead developing original products.

This is a very well thought out and reasoned response. Thank you.

I did at a previous job. It was a small web development shop owned by a husband and wife, and around 7 employees. I was the lead developer there and getting bored with the work. I proposed that I work 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and be paid 60% of my salary. I spent Tuesday and Thursday working on my side projects.

Eventually the company went out of business, but I had great success with working part time.

Were you actually only 60 % as productive? Otherwise it seems like a bad deal.

there is actually e-book with similar topic: Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week http://jailfreebook.com/

I'm an engineering student right now but I know exactly how you feel. I like the content but the thought of working full time terrifies me. I spent a couple of months as an intern/observer in a company and I can't imagine devoting my life to work. It would almost certainly make me burn out in a year or two.

I've been looking into jobs that work few hours but are highly qualified and they're usually outside consultants that get called in a couple of days a week. Apart from them there was one person who worked in a refinery that only had to be at work 20ish hours a week. She spent most of the rest at home on call or simply working from home. I recall that she enjoyed it.

To me, making a 40 hour work week is not the same as "devoting my life to work". Obviously there is a relationship there, but even if you have two hours of travel time each workday, and you work 8 hours a day (add a half hour break), there is time to do other things than work on a workday.

Well I'd argue that it's definitely devoting your life to work. It's an activity that you spent a massive amount of daytime doing for most of your life. It may not be the only thing you devote your life to but it is definitely one of them and probably the largest one.

I've never been able to get up after a day of work and do something. I'm just done after working for 8 hours. I'd just sit and do nothing wait to recover "energy" and as soon as I recover back to normal work starts again.

That sense of exhaustion eventually goes away after a few months working full-time. That said, even now I feel the amount of interesting stuff I can do on a week day after work is pretty limited -- not just because of time, but because of brainpower. And you can't really use every weekend either, or you'll burn out fast. So a) make peace with getting a lot less done, or b) find a way not to work full time.

The break is part of your working hours. And if you live an hour from work, research shows you will be much happier if you move to within 20 minutes (even if this means you get "less" for your money.)

6 hours without reddit, hacker news, meetings, and other distractions, beats 9 hours with those things (as long as you're working on the right thing and not throwing away ALL your time :-)

IMO you should take a step back and evaluate what you're doing. If you're not passionate enough about engineering that you'd hate to do it 40 hours a week then you should reconsider your field.

Why not become a contractor and you are in control of how much you work because you really work for yourself? You might not control when you are on a project, but work hard for 3-4 months build up income, then when its done take some time off an live off what you built up. No need to leave money on the table because you don't think you need it now. Go travel, tour with your band, sit on your couch and eat cheesy poofs and pot pie, whatever. You can work as much or as little as you like.

Before you brush this off what you're talking about is a very tenuous relationship with your employer that isn't providing you any stability, AND more than likely you'll loose your benefits. Those are the same things you'd be giving up if you went freelance so there is little downside to freelance vs part time.

It depends on the company. The company I work for right now had a software architect that worked 3 days a week only for a couple of months or so before going full-time (I think he was building a multi-monitor helicopter flight sim setup if I remember it right). From my talks with our CEO it seemed like he was open to that idea.

I'm definitely going to do something like this in the future though, but I'm still contemplating whether the 20-hour, 50% salary cut idea is better than working full time and taking a sabbatical afterwards.

Seems like a good time to build a hefty savings and begin investing. I think if you were to go part-time, you'd lose some of your benefits. And if your employer is used to you working 40-hours, you might end up working more than 20-hours due to a higher workload.

Depends on your situation, and it can't hurt to bring it up. Maybe try winding down your hours progressively.

I think he _does_ want to invest, but in experiences during his early 20s, rather than by building his finances.

I have to agree with this. There's time and there's money. After graduating from college, I've taken a lot of time to re-learn math slowly. I've also studied a lot of neuroscience and machine learning on my own time. I also quit computers and taught English for two years and moved to a foreign country and spent some time working on my people skills. (Sadly, I'm back to computers now, with a "normal" job...)

For me, I'm happy that I invested my time into myself, rather than investing money into some mutual funds or something. Very happy.


I think many of the HN crowd has a slightly different mindset, since a lot of us are entrepreneurs. I'm in my early 20s, and am about to start working 40+ hour weeks for an early-stage startup. To me, this work _is_ a great experience. There's also the very small chance that we'll make it big and I'll be able to 'retire' and focus on my other passions. Even if we crash and burn, I won't consider that time wasted. The lessons learned will be invaluable, but I also hope to save enough to travel the world for a while, no matter what happens.

20 hour work weeks don't usually lead to more life experiences, in my experience. You just have more time to focus on side-projects or hobbies. You'll still be 'working' 40+ hour weeks, but dividing your time between different projects.

As someone commented before, if he wanted experiences, then he should take a few months of unpaid leave of absence, and go exploring the world.

> 20 hour work weeks don't usually lead to more life experiences, in my experience. You just have more time to focus on side-projects or hobbies.

Um, right, by focusing on side-projects and hobbies, you get more life experiences is the idea. Certainly you get more diverse life experiences.

I've seen a couple companies looking for exactly that recently (I'll see if I can find them), but I think you might have to adjust your numbers a bit... 50% cut in salary != hours/2 as it won't cover their fixed costs (like healthcare and G&A costs).

Or you can bank the excess cash and "retire" as soon as 4% of your savings equals your annual expenses. (Work hard to maximize your salary and minimize your expenses)

Between now and achieving that 4%, focus on excelling at the things you find the most interesting and building relationships in your industry so that once you cross the freedom line you can take on the occasional consulting gig to keep things interesting.

(I'm pushing 40 now and sincerely wish I had done the above when starting out in my twenties)

If I knew where to get a risk free, consistent 4% return these days ...

You won't get risk-free 4% return after inflation, but you can (probably) expect a 4% annual return on average if you put your money in the stock market. At least this is the assumption that the Norwegian Pension Fund, the world's largest stock market fund, operates with. Although it has been discussed to reduce this number to 3%.

The Norwegian fund also has a investment horizon better measured in centuries, not years, so it can afford to to wait out the huge stock market fluctuations in the expectation of that average return. A mere human, on the other hand...

Indeed. Tell me again why people say it's better to save for retirement as an individual...

Wow... I didn't know anything about the Norwegian Pension Fund. That's really cool. At a 2012 net worth of $654 Billion, it's greater than the country's debt ($548 Billion) and represents >$130k for each of Norway's 4.9 million people...

The "external debt" number quoted on Wikipedia is the total debt of all Norwegian companies to external debtors. And note that this is the gross number; I have no idea what the net number is but it is a lot smaller and might be negative.

The national debt is only 100 billion dollars, and is there primarily to ensure smooth trading with our trading partners. (It was roughly doubled due to liquidity measures in 2008, but supposedly some smart bond trading ensures that this won't have any dramatic effect with regards to making or losing money).

Thx for the pointer. I have to look into them. The issue I have is that history prior to 2000 is not valid going forward. You can say that I'm a disciple of Nasib Taleb's Fooled by Randomness.

Why isn't any history prior to 2000 still valid? We've had 10+ year secular bear markets before. I'm not arguing by authority here, but by Taleb's own arguments, it's just as likely that the pre-2000 history is still valid - there is just no way of knowing yet.

My personal thesis is that financial market history prior to 2K isn't valid. The world prior to widespread adoption of the the Internet was a different place. The Y2K cut off is a useful demarkation point ... that's when the tech euphoria went away :) I think this has something to do with the speed of information flow in a post-PC, connected world. That's the short of it anyways.

Half high yield bond funds, half blue chip stock funds, bank all earnings, re-balance once a year, and take out 4% a year from total. On average you will do just fine! (Check against history if you want to verify)

>"On average you will do just fine! (Check against history if you want to verify)"

Famous last words...

Besides the fact that the past does not predict the future, especially with something to do with human nature and economics, if everyone did the same thing, then there would be no return left (after inflation).

Also, some historical data from the S&P 500:


The 4% figure you hear about (usually in the "early retirement" circles) includes drawing down your principal gradually over time. Don't remember the numbers exactly, but drawing 4% of your initial nest-egg each year is supposed to give a 95% chance that your savings will last 40 years. Add in Social Security benefits kicking in at age 67 and that percentage goes up to 100% in most cases (unless you have an insanely large nest egg).

More like 7%, because that should be 4% after inflation...

Shouldn't the percentage of savings go down if you adjust for inflation (i.e., larger savings)?

Inflation is always bad for capital and good for debt.

Australian Government bonds will give you that. But you have to adopt the currency risk, so you'd have to forgo some return in order to hedge that away.

On the opposite side you wouldn't say that your job is risk free either.

Tax-wise it would be better to work less hours (20hr weeks for 2 years puts you in a lower bracket than 40hr weeks for one year).

Focus-wise maybe not.

> Has anyone ever had any success getting a good part-time job or downsizing your position at a company?

Once, at a contract gig, I was offered to work "flexible hours" which meant 16-32 hours a week. That was after putting in 12 months of 40-45 hours a week, essentially proving that I was good, reliable, etc. So it could happen, by switching to hourly pay, and/or becoming a contractor, working for people who already know you. And as theabraham notes, this may result in losing benefits.

As part of my negotiations for my current job, I negotiated a 4-day (32 hour) work week. I take Fridays off and do my own projects and volunteer work.

I've had a couple jobs where I've done 32 or 36 hour weeks in the past as well.

But I also have a strong reputation in my field so I'm able to leverage a bit of personal branding ("I'll get more done in 32 hours than anyone else you can hire for 40.")

That may be a tough sell for you at this point. But as others have pointed out, contracting may be a good fit for you if you want to work less. My advice if you go this route is to come up with the highest hourly rate you think you can ask for, then ask for at least 25% more (in the US I'd suggest asking for at least $75 per hour even if you don't have much experience).

I agree with your advice re: consulting 100%.

My case is not exactly as yours, but no one's really is so...

I made a project for an eCommerce company a few years ago and then left but always kept in touch with people there. I changed jobs and took a remote position working for a US based company here from Brazil so my working hours were 12-9PM due to the timezone difference so I had free mornings.

After a couple of months the first company (eCommerce) made me a proposal for a full time job that I didn't take because it was good working from home at the time. However I said that I could work part time 2-3 hours everyday for them. They took it and it was very good for both of us since I had an extra paycheck (I was earning as much as a full time employee) and they had me working on important stuff with no interruptions since I was there just a little bit everyday and could not be held accountable to day to day things.

I stayed like that for the past 3 years when I went working for them full time because I got tired of working remotely for a company that wasn't really in a remote-work-culture.

Developers are easy to find. Good developers are not. Bottom line is, if your value proposition to the company is good I cannot see why they wouldn't accept you working part time there. If it's good from the business perspective and you can demonstrate that to them it's pretty much a cost-benefit decision and not an emotionally one.

If you are really into it and wanna give it a try (obviously with some risks) you could say: "Shall we try for a month and see what happens?". After the first month there is not going back ;)

I was working 20 hours, 16 hours at home + 4 in office in the last two jobs.

Imho a coder is more productive if he focus 4 hours a day, then if he procrastinates 10 hours.

We lost an engineer recently because of a desire to change careers. I still see him once a week - as he still works one full day a week for us as a contractor. It has worked out very well in that the knowledge has not been lost and provided continuity in that area. I wish I could work him more time - but he likes things they way they are.

This is probably a fringe case - and I do not recommend you pursue it unless you are in excellent standing with your manager and are not currently overloaded with responsibility. This type of transition doesn't work if many people are solely dependent on you - which may give you something to work towards - others cross trained directly in your task - so you can have time away without impact to the company.

It depends on the company. I have done this, and quite successfully. I don't think I'll be going back to the 40-hour week any time soon.

I think you'll have better luck with tiny companies that can be more flexible, and also tend to be more starved for engineering skill. But YMMV.

Few employers are open to ideas like this. At the end of the day, they might make a concession to keep you happy if you're valuable, but few businesses want to structure themselves to operate in this fashion.

However, you can accomplish something similar. If you only want half your salary, work full time for a year while saving half your salary, then fund a year long sabbatical for yourself. If at the end of that sabbatical you've done something interesting (created a new open source project, bootstrapped a business), then applying for a job at the end of that year will be easy. Rinse/repeat as desired.

Better to do six months/six months (stupid income tax).

Make it happen! You'll be buying back your time, which is the most valuable thing you have. I wish that I'd done this when I was young and single. Now I have a family, and am the only income earner, so I have to work 40 hours (for now). A friend of mine works part time, and spends the rest of the time in discovering and finding himself. I've been having to do this while raising my family, so that I don't screw them up. Full-time work can easily become an obsessive-compulsive escape from finding oneself. But work isn't what makes us happy in life (it is part of it, but not all of it).

I'm middle aged and just median income, because I did things like retire a while in my 20s to just live and learn. I have some regrets, but not many.

I did the sub-40 hour thing for a while at an old job. I was starting to go to grad school full time, so I asked my company if I could could move from being on salary to being an hourly employee and work about 20+ hours a week. Because it was better for them to keep me on in a limited capacity rather than spend the money hiring and training someone new they were really cooperative. The extra time flexibility was great, I got to keep my insurance with them, and got out of grad school debt free!

If you can find yourself a good non-standard situation that works well for you (and your future) take it!

I've done it, though not to such a big extent. I work four days a week instead of five, due to a combination of less technical work available and wanting to explore other opportunities. Having a day off mid-week is also incredibly useful if you want to get things done like visiting the bank, which is always packed at the weekend.

Even on five days a week though, I was working less than 40 hours. Most people I know work 37.5 hours (if you exclude lunch), and the Working Time Directive places restrictions on the number of hours you can be asked to work if you're in the EU.

The trick is not to seek 'part time' but rather seek a contract and let them know you can only do three days a week. It's working very well for me. Despite what everyone is saying its a marketplace and the demand for good devs/designers is big.

I have ("Hey, how about you pay me 80% of my salary for 80% time?"), but I work at a university. And 80% is the lowest one can go in HR rules here and still get health insurance.

(If the US acted like EVERY other non-poor country and had nationalized health insurance, this would be a LOT easier).

And they actually probably end up getting quite a bit more out of me than actual 80% time, I end up working longer hours on the days I do work than I used to, but not so long that I'm working as much as I used to, and it's worth it to me to get a 3 day weekend every week.

I had success doing something similar at a previous company. I was able to switch to part-time at an equivalent hourly rate. My reason was that I was finish to go to graduate school simultaneously. I wasn't able to keep most benefits, but it wasn't a huge concern since I was young and still in grad school. The company got a good deal (without benefits, they got more work per dollar), and I got a good deal (in finding a part-time job at a higher rate than I would have anywhere else.)

I currently work 4 days a week on a barebones salary in Tokyo of all places .. If your priorities are aligned with the lifestyle I recommended it! Good luck.

I have same question, but about management position.

I did. I've been working 36 hours a week for design agency for the past few years. Having a good planning and team is key. The law here in the Netherlands was changed so a boss couldn't say 'no' when you asked to work (a bit) less. Now it's my afternoon to arrange all sorts of stuff and to go out and play with my kid.

I did this before when I went back to school to focus on CS classes. I already had a degree, but made it clear to my employer that these CS classes would benefit him later on. Irony is that the classes weren't applicable but the friendships made paid off dividends.

Easy fix: Become a freelancer :-)

You should consider bringing your talents to a mission based non-profit. In many non-profits, half time employees are more common, and the pay will absolutely be less. You might also just find the work that much more meaningful.

40 hours?

No. Average worker productivity has skyrocketed since 1980 with the introduction of computers and automation technology. Salaries have remained flat. A 20 hour work week with the same salary would be far more reasonable (though still very far off the mark of paying employees according to the value that they produce).

How are you measuring productivity? Dollar value? If as you say that productivity has increased because of automation and computers then how are employees justified in wanting more?

Simply because a tool makes you more productive does not make the job more valuable. What it does is make it so whom you work for is more competitive. This is usually reflected in price drops. This in turn means more people have access to the products and services.

So, people are benefiting from their increased productivity, whether by their own hands or automation and computers. Look back thirty years ago, how many people have big screen televisions and powerful computers at home? See, its not a one sided equation as your view implies.

The rewards of this increase in productivity can be as simple as once were outlandish luxury items now being found in every household. Look back a generation and see what they had. Would you live like that and give up what you have now? I remember not having air conditioning until my parents built a new home in the late seventies. Having one TV because they were damn expensive. I remember our first PC. The fact these are everywhere are as a result of the increases in productivity which pushes down prices and increases choice.

Don't measure only one side.

though still very far off the mark of paying employees according to the value that they produce

Employees aren't really compensated for increases in output that are achieved through standard business practices, technology, automation, etc.

That's because their relative input remains the same.

Same input, same salaries.

If I'm starting a business mass-producing widgets and I fund the machinery, process development, and software to produce that -- why should I pay extra for the employee who really only has to push the big red button to start the machines going every morning?

Just because a lot of value is produced when he pushes that red button doesn't mean that he should be highly compensated.

>f I'm starting a business mass-producing widgets and I fund the machinery, process development, and software to produce that

Its rare for there to be some kind of CEO mastermind that builds everything from scratch on day one. More than likely you started small and your staff built these systems. They came up with the ideas, managed the projects, etc. Their input and ideas created that efficiency.

> he pushes that red button

I think you're taking your manufacturing analogy too far. We're talking skilled labor here, even then you could just have wrote "when my nerd programmers type on their keyboards" and been just as wrong.

In that case, you will be forced to drop prices, because your competitor's are probably doing the same (otherwise you'll run out of employees rsn). If prices are falling across the board, people don't need to earn wages as high as before since they can reproduce themselves at the same level with less income.

I'm not sure there's any value to this kind of armchair economics.

As I said, the machines and the software and the automation produce value. That's a given in this scenario and in lots of businesses currently in existence.

If we're going to have any value in a forum at all, we need to at least make an effort to read and understand the arguments of posters before posting straw men.

You shouldn't.

You should push that button yourself in the morning, and save the salary entirely.

Consequences are left as an exercise for the student.

I'd assume you apply the same policy to the fact that the cost/productivity of machinery, process development, software means that for the same input share holders should be getting the value of a similar business of equivalent market share back in the day as well. If the money is not staying in the business you have a few choices if productivity increases, spread it around, funnel it up, or funnel it down. Since I buy into the idea that extreme wealth inequality negatively impacts society I pick spreading it around.

Funneling it up and funneling it down rewards the people who created the productivity increases.

Spreading it around rewards an orthogonal group that did nothing to create the productive output and will siphon off it like a parasite.

Spreading it around is inherently a worse way to decide where value should flow through a society; especially one as culturally diverse (ie, filled with many self-interested constituencies) as here in the US.

[edit: So sad that on a site dedicated to the entrepreneur, arguments that promote entrepreneurship and rewarding good choices and hard work are moderated into the dirt..]

I guess I mainly think it produces worse societies that are worse to live in, without correspondingly incentivizing innovation appreciably. I've lived in both the US and Scandinavia, and the US feels barely teetering on the edge of "advanced first-world country" in comparison: poor infrastructure, bureaucratic healthcare that causes angst when switching jobs, large numbers of homeless people, huge prison systems, swathes of poverty-stricken ghettoes, visible class demarcations, etc., etc. It felt like such a weird place after I'd spent a few years away and went back, and I realized how it just didn't seem like a nice place to live, but I never realized it could be better than that (I had previously only compared the U.S. to clearly worse-off countries, like Mexico or India). Not just that I thought it was unethical that there were so many poorer people (which I did), but that it was also worse for me, as a middle-class professional, because of the existence of all these social problems. I guess I could've retreated to a gated community and attempted to create my own bubble, but I've had enough of the suburbs.

And I don't think you have to give up business or innovation to get it. If your Scandinavian startup becomes the next Mojang, you're still going to be fabulously wealthy, so I don't feel at all disincentivized by the distant possibility that I'll have to fork over a percentage of my hypothetical future millions (I'm certainly not going to move back to Texas just for that). There are more successful companies per capita than you'd expect (certainly more than most American states), and the economy generally still runs on a market basis, there's just a little more sharing of the wealth.

US and Scandinavia

Notice that I mentioned cultural diversity. There is a reason that Scandanavia can manage with a more socialistic government. The gene/meme pool is far less diverse and evolutionarily created reinforcement of good communal practices are already present. A thousand years ago and beyond, if you didn't grok cooperation and thoughtful planning, you starved and died come winter.

Scandanavia is like a petri dish with a thriving germ culture that has had very little exposure to many other competing germ cultures. It's easy to point to that little petri dish and say, "See how well this culture thrives?"

We don't have that luxury in the USA. Here, we deal with many self-interested gene/meme contributors who are more self-interested than community-interested. If we implemented the government and laws of Norway here in the US tomorrow, we would collapse. Too many here would take the free government support as a right and live off of it until the whole system failed.

> Here, we deal with many self-interested gene/meme contributors who are more self-interested than community-interested.

And you Sir are a prime example. In fact, you do everything you can to spread such memes in the society. The irony of that sentence amuses me.

Sure, I do well in an environment where individuality, motivation, and creativity are rewarded. Then again, I'm also a rule follower who would enjoy living in Scandanavia in communities with a strong social conscience, even though it does lead to "lowest common denominator" solutions to problems it faces. In Scandanavia, the lowest common denominator isn't far below the mean, since the society is so homogenous. In the USA, the standard deviation is much greater.

In the end, though, those little petri dish cultures are not where the action is in the world. One merely needs to look at the last 200 years of innovation and invention to have the overwhelming impression that the USA method for technological and economic progress is to be admired and pursued. It's a damned shame that so many people here are hell bent on taking us backward to a one-size-fits-all European style socialistic government.

Or, for the sake of discussion, why wouldn't your big red button pusher take home a majority of the profits? Without them, what do you have?

As I understand it, your scenario is how unions justify their continued existence.

(If you're not already an American Republican, you really should look into it. trollolol...)

Without them, what do you have?

You just hire another shlep who can wake up on time to hit the red button. If you can't find a reliable person to hit the button for you, you do the R&D to automate it.

As I understand it, your scenario is how unions justify their continued existence.

You're reading an argument that I didn't make.

If you're not already an American Republican

I'm a libertarian. I believe that if all you can do is hit a button then you shouldn't be surprised that no one wants to pay you very much. You also shouldn't be offended when your job is truthfully characterized as "just hitting a big red button in the morning".

Admittedly, my second two statements are largely digressions. But as to the first...

My basis was that the button pusher was critical to your business and automation was not feasible, since you would have done that from the beginning. I don't know which economic concept this describes, but the idea is that you are compensating the button pusher based on their absolute, objective value (no pushing, no profit) rather than subjectively (skill-less "schlep").

     (though still very far off the mark of paying 
     employees according to the value that they produce).
That's not how capitalism works.

I guess we oughta demonstrate how unions work, then.

We already know how cartels work.

A thing is worth only what another is willing to give for it.

Salaries are the minimum figure that allows companies to hire the talent they need. If they go too low, people just start looking at other options (i.e. starting up, freelancing...). If you're easy to replace, someone will do the same for less, if you're difficult to replace, it'll be expensive to do so. Etc.

The employment cost index only goes back to 2000, but employee compensation has certainly gone up since then.


this, 1000x this.

I've been on death march projects before; these projects simply burnt people out and quality was atrocious. There's a point where you don't care much about the job, all you want to do is go home and perform $favorite_mindless_relaxation. It's deleterious to your health, your relationships, and your mental life.

I get concerned when I see people celebrate things like weekly hackathons running into the early morning hours, working 60+ hour weeks, etc. Of course it can be needful, but it's also not a sustainable work pace doable for 30-40 years without massive personal issues for the vast majority of people.

> It's deleterious to your health, your relationships, and your mental life.

And your mental hygiene, there's no way you're going to think about (let alone implement) that idea of yours when you're mentally exhausted.

The article is self-contradictory.

It argues at length that working more than 40 hours a week reduces your output, then states: "And it hurts the country, too. For every four Americans working a 50-hour week, every week, there’s one American who should have a full-time job, but doesn’t. Our rampant unemployment problem would vanish overnight if we simply worked the way we’re supposed to by law."

The math they're using there 50 hours x 4 employees = 40 hours x 5 employees is either wrong, or the rest of the article is.

I think the point there is actually about money, not productivity. If you're paying by the hour, they're both the same to the employer, but you'll get more from the 5 40hr employees.

There's a bunch of simplifying that's going on there (overhead per person, etc.), but the basic message is that if companies can only afford so many people-hours, it's hurting the people they don't hire in addition to their own employees.

I think it was referring to the earlier-mentioned practice of companies firing someone and then splitting their work between two people.

agreed. and it seems to use some fuzzy math where working less hours makes proportional space for an extra employee to fill in those hours. in fact, the value of extra employees ranges from marginal to non existent depending on the size of team/company due to the overhead. Unless we're talking about a coffee shop where not much collaboration is needed to get projects done, just pure clocking in and out and performing isolated tasks.

I once saw a tv documentary about the CEO of a big danish company. She worked 40 hours per week, and to that she commented: "If I couldn't get done what is expected of me in the allotted time frame, I wouldn't have the competence required for my position."

I once saw a janitor who always had more work to do. She worked 40 hours a week and then did the extra that the boss asked her about on any given day. She could've told him that cleaning desks wasn't in the contract. Or she could've reported the overtime. But not everyone has those kinds of luxuries if they want to keep their jobs.

Some jobs always have more shit to shovel, be it actual shit or feature creep. And some people will always expect you to shovel more next quarter/year.

I think the point is that people should have the luxury to only work 40 hours, and/or properly report overtime and keep their jobs.

Over here if an employer forced one employee to work more than 38 hours a single week, they could be fined up to $6,600. Firing a worker for not working more than that would be unfair dismissal and attract more fines, prosecution etc...

There are provisions for reasonable overtime, but cleaning desks wouldn't fall into that unless it was some kind of emergency... And the employee can work overtime if they want (and are paid for it or get time-in-leiu) but they can't be expected to.

They can get this luxury, if they unionize. But Americans won't tolerate any such thing, nor will they strive for it. The culture in America is all about slaving away as much as you can, either out of fear of losing your job or desire to be promoted up the ranks (with the reward of even more work). They make very few demands of their employers because they are told by our society that they should just be happy they have a job.

The best ways to gain leverage over employers that I can think of, short of unionizing or passing broad regulation: free basic healthcare coverage provided by the government to all, and a strong economy. An ability to leave your job without fear that if you get sick you will die/bankrupt will do wonders. An ability to leave your job because the demand for labor outstrips supply will make employers compete by offering better perks, compensation, benefits, work environments, etc (already the case in high tech).

Presumably because she would have been able to recruit support staff to delegate work to. Not all of us have that luxury.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating, since few people seem to know it. If you are a software engineer or IT professional working in California, and are paid less than about 81K a year or $35/hr, you are legally entitled to extra overtime pay. Definitely something to talk to a manager (or a lawyer) about. See http://www.california-labor-law-attorney.com/it-professional... .


>If you work in the computer industry and do not fall into any of the exemption categories: administrative, professional, executive or the computer software exemption, you may be entitled to overtime pay.

Generally non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime and exempt are not. I believe most software/IT professionals hired full time in CA are exempt employees.

I'm pretty sure most "Software Engineer" positions are non-exempt, unless paid above the threshold. I'm not a lawyer, though, so here's the list of exemptions in the law itself (CA Labor Code s. 515.5(b))

    (b) The exemption provided in subdivision (a) does not apply to an
        employee if any of the following apply:
    (1) The employee is a trainee or employee in an entry-level
        position who is learning to become proficient in the theoretical and
        practical application of highly specialized information to computer
        systems analysis, programming, and software engineering.
    (2) The employee is in a computer-related occupation but has not
        attained the level of skill and expertise necessary to work
        independently and without close supervision.
    (3) The employee is engaged in the operation of computers or in
        the manufacture, repair, or maintenance of computer hardware and
        related equipment.
    (4) The employee is an engineer, drafter, machinist, or other
        professional whose work is highly dependent upon or facilitated by
        the use of computers and computer software programs and who is
        skilled in computer-aided design software, including CAD/CAM, but who
        is not engaged in computer systems analysis, programming, or any
        other similarly skilled computer-related occupation.
    (5) The employee is a writer engaged in writing material,
        including box labels, product descriptions, documentation,
        promotional material, setup and installation instructions, and other
        similar written information, either for print or for onscreen media
        or who writes or provides content material intended to be read by
        customers, subscribers, or visitors to computer-related media such as
        the World Wide Web or CD-ROMs.
    (6) The employee is engaged in any of the activities set forth in
        subdivision (a) for the purpose of creating imagery for effects used
        in the motion picture, television, or theatrical industry.

So, it didn't used to be this way (in recent history). IT industry people making less than $75k/yr used to be able to invoke this law. This was iirc in the early 2000s.

FWIW, exempt/non-exempt status has everything to do with what you do and not what you were "hired as" or if you're salaried or not (salaried non-exempt is possible).

In Japan, working yourself to death is common enough that they have a word for it: karoshi


Seriously man. God bless the Japanese. Their work hours are horrible.

This is why any competent computer worker should never accept a salaried position. Sure, it's cool to say "I make 100k/yr!", but it's much cooler to say "I make 65/hr, but I got paid for that 4-hour conference call last night to troubleshoot production"

Obviously, one's mileage may vary. As a developer in the country I live in, the only positions are salaried positions.

In countries with good overtime laws, you get overtime even in salaried positions. Where I live, there are _very_ strict laws about what constitutes overtime, and the limit is at 40 hours per week. For any work beyond that, you must get paid by the hour and get at least a 40% bonus above what you would normally make. If you do not get this, you can sue your employer and will win.

It is possible to get exceptions to this law, but no exceptions are possible on an individual basis - they must be negotiated across whole groups of employees by a labor organization. Such agreements allow certain groups of workers to 80 and 90-hour weeks, but the conditions and payment are very strictly negotiated. Another exception is for owners and founders.

Consequently, overtime is only used where strictly necessary. I think this is an excellent system to protect the rights of laborers.

Wanting to work fewer hours is something I think we all hope for, but it also depends on what we're after in life. I was reminded of this essay from Paul Graham: http://paulgraham.com/wealth.html

I disagree with this sentence from that article: "You could probably work twice as many hours as a corporate employee, and if you focus you can probably get three times as much done in an hour.". You cannot work double the hours and be more productive. If you work 80 hours on a continual basis, you will get less done than if you worked 40 hours. I have seen smart people reduced to blubbering idiots by the hours they put in through misguided passion.

The true productivity benefit from going into business for yourself is not that you can put in more effort. The human capacity for productive work is not that flexible, because we are not machines. The real multiplier is that you can direct your effort at that which truly matters. Most businesses spend 10% of their budget on 90% of their value. If you can work smarter you can get dramatically more done because you are building that which truly matters. That is where the PG article is right.

But, here's the problem with what I'm saying: people working crazy hours succeed. Everyone can see that. How can that be explained? In my opinion, those people succeed despite those hours, not because of them. It is their laser-like focus on reaching a goal that makes them succeed, but it is also this focus which makes them put in more hours thinking it brings success home sooner. It don't think it does, but it's almost impossible to prove it doesn't because there just aren't many places where highly passionate and focused people stick religiously to a 40 hour work schedule.

You cannot work double the hours and be more productive

You can't simply put typical workers on a schedule that's twice as long and expect more productivity, that's true. Individually, though, you can normally become extraordinarily more productive if you have the right motivation.

people working crazy hours succeed.

Why is this such a mystery? Haven't you ever thrown yourselves into a new startup or idea and spent every waking hour on it for long periods of time because you were excited by what you were doing and it didn't feel like you were working? Haven't you ever gone to sleep thinking about your ideas, and jumped out of bed right away the next morning like a kid on Christmas and then worked on those ideas, barely wanting to take time to eat, at last breaking away from what you're working on late at night because you know you need to get some sleep? Maybe it's a gene that allows some people to go into that mode. Maybe it's just a matter of finding the right motivation. Regardless, it appears that people who don't experience it can't understand it any more than blind people can really appreciate colors.

Get off the high horse. I am sure most people here experienced the "passionate" phase you mentioned. The problem arises when the passion fades, and you look back at the code with a clear head and realized how shitty they are.

Passion leaves a nasty hangover of bugs. I've gotten jazzed on Vietnamese coffee and hacked my compiler all through the night and into the morning on a Friday night.

I then had to spend the next several days fixing all the damn bugs I'd put in because I wasn't thinking straight.

Maybe getting into the kind of rhythm I'm talking about isn't for everyone. Hard to say. All I know is that when I've been able to "turn it on" in my career, I've had productivity that went on for months. Social life at the time sucked, but that's the tradeoff I was willing to make at the time.

I can crunch, but once I start losing sleep it's just damaging.

I honestly thought it would be arguing to go up to 40 hours.

That kind of article would feature a *.fr TLD.

As someone who has worked 60+ hour weeks as well as 20 hour weeks for longer periods I've always felt that working longer was doing me well. If I'm working about 40 hours or more I'm more focused during work and generally more relaxed when I'm not working. But then again that's just me. Working less than 20 hours a week makes me incredibly lazy by the way.

I'm the exact same type of person.


But this doesn't mean I push what works for me onto the people I work with. It works for me, so I do it. What also works for me is when I feel like not working I leave. When you put in lots of hours, you tend to get those types of freedoms; which I enjoy greatly.

We could do quite a bit better than that.


Interestingly enough, in Australia the standard full-time work week was 40 hours, but Fair Work Australia recently changed it so the maximum an employer can ask a full-time employee to work in a week is 38 hours.

Some people at the company I work at do work quite a bit more, but this is actually discouraged by the company (it counts as time in-leiu so they can take that time off later). This seems a massive contrast to the US where articles like this make it seem like people work far longer hours to make it look like they're a harder worker. Does that really happen?

Some places it does, some places it doesn't. Much depends upon the local labor market, industry, etc.

"It depends."

I think we need to stop counting hours worked and start measuring results instead.

There's this almost cult-like obsession with measurement among the hacker crowd where everything must be measured and optimized. Unfortunately, people don't work this way. Telling people that they haven't measured up to some arbitrary standard is a significant demotivator. If you are measuring your workers on some chart, they'll begin either gaming the chart or comparing against each other, neither of which will motivate them to do better work - it will motivate them to optimize whatever you're measuring. I saw this at my last job and it was blindingly, painfully obvious how bad of an idea it was but management kept it up.

Take a support staff for example. What do you measure? How many calls they make? That incentivizes making lots of short calls. How many notes about clients calls they made? That incentivizes leaving lots of minimum length notes. Am I a worse support staff member if I leave longer notes and make longer calls? How do you accurately measure the "results" of a support staff? By customer retention? Good luck correlating individual client retention to specific support staff when customers talk to many different employees during a sales or support process.

Once you get past people who create objective value for the company, measurements are difficult to impossible. Measuring against an arbitrary standard is worse than doing nothing because it demotivates employees who aren't as high up on your arbitrary standard. Not everyone at a company has a direct impact on revenue - janitor, accountant, sysadmin, chef, etc.

>>There's this almost cult-like obsession with measurement among the hacker crowd where everything must be measured and optimized.

Yes. One of the pioneers of business, H. James Harrington, said, "“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

Unfortunately, that argument is flawed for several reasons.

Firstly, in practice, measurement is not free. It incurs overheads of various kinds, and there is no guarantee that any benefits ultimately obtained will outweigh those overheads.

Secondly, the series of negatives doesn't logically imply the initial positives.

Thirdly, it is not self-evident that all of those negative implications are actually true, particularly the first.

I suspect many of us have at some point heard the word "This needs to be managed!", but they always seem to come from middle managers whose own contributions are of debatable value and who never seem to have a good answer when the return question is "Why?".

This is spot on. It's exactly what happened at HubSpot with their support team.

People will try to game whatever metric you use to evaluate them by. This does not mean metrics are bad or useless. It just means you need mechanisms to detect and account for gaming attempts.

A lack of measurement is not any better either, why do a better job or go the extra mile for this customer if it's not going to impact you in any way?

Its a somewhat foreign concept called intrinsic motivation that involves synergistic goals and happy employees. :P

Sure, it's just that in many cases reliable, fair, and accurate result meters are not invented yet.

Never gonna happen. It would expose the lazy and require management to have to think.

More than half the population would take a serious pay cut. In reality, I think they would if you could measure results easily without gaming.

True, except that defining "results" has not been easy with software.

I really don't see how anyone (assuming intellectual, creative jobs) could work more than 10 hours a week, every week -- if we count as 'work' only the time spent to produce something useful.

If you have a marketable skill and there's little competition - I'm pretty sure you can negotiate whatever hours you want. If you have a competition, your options are decreased. If it happens so that your skills are not very marketable you either be prepared to put up with more constraints and worse conditions or improve your skills. What people who favor unions assume is that workers are not ever willing to improve and raise their market price, and that they are hopelessly exploited by the employer.

The intentions of bringing more comfort into people's stressful lives are understandable, but by just wishing it and possibly legislating it we are not making anyone richer. The overall effect will be less jobs for low-skilled workers who do not have enough skills to compete on the job market.

I read this title and thought it was a demand to increase the working work. Work 40 hours per week? Is that some kind of joke? Then I read the comments and was quietly horrified. I'm guessing a long long working week is a U.S. thing.

I think they include lunch hours in the 40 hour count, so it's really just a nine to five monday to friday.

Nope, 8-5 M-F is standard.

I have the same experience as abracadaniel above: the hour count excludes lunches.

I feel that the four day work week is the sweet spot for productivity and I will institute this when I start hiring. 28-32 hours of work a week is better than 15-20 hours of work and 20 hours of facebook and lolcats.

The claim that working past 40 hours is unproductive is pretty weak empirically.



The most current data suggests the optimum is actually 60 hours (in construction), and there is little info on knowledge work.

Indeed, I have heard from a few friends who worked in consulting that hourly productivity held steady up to around 60 hours/week. Over 80/hours per week, it dropped off rapidly. Between those two figures was an ambiguous zone.

Ambiguous because it would be different per person, and different per person over different time periods.

The thought that 40 hours is the local maxima for all persons on the planet in all jobs is frankly ridiculous. There are organisational benefits for averaging this when co-ordination is needed (ie assembly line, construction site) - but this isn't as important when so-called 'knowledge workers' are able to individually work on projects and come together at set points for the vital co-ordination.

Productivity discussions should be about flexibility and the ability for workers to set their own times (both total hours and start/finish times). Not about some type of 20th century union negotiating point.

Actually, 2013 will bring the 29-hour work week because if you work more than that, by law your employer has to pay half of your health-insurance which can be a few thousand dollars on their part.

So expect two shifts of people working 20-29 hours a week. At least unemployment numbers should go down in theory but this is a heck of a loophole.

I never quite believed in the 40-hour week. It kills every possibility of doing anything else other than work in your life. I prefer the 36 hour week. Work 6 days a week instead of 5, but get 2 extra hours a day to dedicate to whatever you want.

Why on Earth would I want to go back to the 40-hour work week?


The "reasonable additional hours" factors leave things wide open. You could easily argue any white collar job can require over 38 hours reasonably with those factors.

My wife works in an office in Australia where most people work over 60/hrs a week and she's pressured to work more than 50. If some enthusiastically work over 50hrs, everyone else basically has to stick around as well or they will be evaluated poorly and lose out on advancement.

If some enthusiastically work over 50hrs, everyone else basically has to stick around as well or they will be evaluated poorly and lose out on advancement.

Do you mean in that particular company? In general, I think that's a myth.

Again I love my country (Sweden). There are multiple laws in place that forbid companies to force people to work more then X hours per week/month/year.

There's several different averages across days, weeks and months that control how much "overtime" you're allowed to work. The max is 200 hours per year though.

It obviously varies, and not everyone follows these laws, especially in (game) development, etc. As long as you the employee agrees to working over time (often uncompensated) none is going to bat an eye. The important thing is that you have a law that will back you up incase your company is trying to force you.

I've actually gone back to a 40 hour work week (as a consultant) after working six months doing 80+ hour work weeks (as a salaried W2, Employee).

I'm happier, and healthier (I've dropped 30 pounds since moving into the role).

To each their own.

Reducing commute and other wasted time is probably still the low hanging fruit for most people. If your work is sufficiently varied, I don't see how 60-80h/wk is unsustainable at at least 1.5x the work you'd accomplish in 40h, if (and only if) the other hassles of life are taken care of for you -- no cleaning, commute time, etc.

I don't think I could do a single task for 80h/wk productively, but I could certainly do my primary job for 40-60h/wk productively and then spend 20h/wk doing meetings with users, conferences, etc.

Without belaboring the obvious: 80h/wk is over 13 hours each day of a 6-day workweek. Assuming 0.3h/day exercise (across the week) and 6h/day of sleep, you're left with 4-5h/day for everything else in your life. This is obviously a tradeoff you'd want to make iff everything else in your life is not something you want to allot any time.

Edit: This reminds me of a discussion a friend had with the partner at the white shoe firm where she worked at the time. The partner said "...friends, family, and outside interests are all important. But you have to decide between them and success here." Obviously a paraphrase; this was ~10 years ago.

That "everything else" includes eating, commuting, grocery shopping, and all the other non-fun stuff we must get done. And that's considering 6h/day of sleep, which is insufficient for most people.

Setting aside whether 60-80 hours per week is sustainable (and I think it's not for most pople, except perhaps for 20-somethings and people with hypomania), the research this article references says that there isn't a 1-to-1 correlation between hours and output. That's the whole point.

"... increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output (as Henry Ford could have told them). Most modern-day managers assume there will be a direct one-to-one correlation between extra hours and extra output, but they’re almost always wrong about this. In fact, the numbers may typically be something closer to 25-30 percent more work in 50 percent more time."

From about 1/3 down in the "The Overtime Exception" section.

Yes, but the study seemed fairly focused on single task performance. I don't think I can do a single task for even 40h/wk (maybe 20-30, tops), but running a startup or being dev/devops at a fast growing startup involves a lot of varied tasks. Performance on these doesn't really draw from the same pool.

But again the results this article cites point in the opposite direction:

"... research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do — on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight."

"Knowledge worker" in a study cited from Alternet is probably "programmer at a large soul-sucking corporation." Startup founder is fundamentally different.

Why? What is different?


Motivation to build what you really want to build is completely different from being motivated to work for a salary to avoid starvation and keep your family going.

Motivation, and particularly knowing exactly how the work you will do will benefit (yourself, your friends, your company, the industry, society).

I imagine it's a lot easier being a doctor who is actually helping individual people squeeze in one more patient, vs. spend overtime filling in paperwork. Same difference between working on an awesome product where you have total visibility into the whole process, vs. beng a cog in a much larger wheel.

Not only does overtime not give you a linear increase in performance, but in my personal experience overtime it decreases overall performance.

I work at a small programming company where gratuitous overtime is the norm as a project closes. By the time things calm down again, we're so stressed out that our productivity probably falls by 50% or more for weeks to come. And the cumulative effect after years of this is even worse. I don't think the boss (also an overworked programmer) has yet to come to appreciate this daunting reality.

Please tell me you're arguing to convince them of the error of their ways or looking for a new job if you've already failed to convince them?

But should you? Your employer will not reward you for it with anything that could be considered reasonable when compared to the value you are creating for them.

What people can do, and what employers are willing to pay for, are two very different things. Employers, by and large, have adopted a strategy of paying employees as little as possible, divorcing their compensation from the value of their work. Capitalism says that employers should receive as little work of as little value as possible in return.

I'm not sure where your definition of Capitalism is coming from, but nothing about capitalism or free markets requires (or even predicts) that workers will be paid commensurate to the value they create.

Workers are paid based on supply and demand. If moving a pile of manure from one side of a parking lot to the other will net me $100,000,000, that doesn't mean the laborer I hire to move the manure will share in the value created by moving the manure. This is because the pool of laborers willing and able to do the job is roughly 4 billion people (or more accurately, tens of thousands of people in the immediate vicinity). Competition ensures that a laborer will be willing to move the manure for (roughly $15/hour here in Southern California), regardless of the ultimate value the work produces for me.

On the other hand, if a Steve Jobsian/Jony Ive figure creates a series of industry dominating products from whole cloth, he may get to share in a huge percentage of the value created by those products, simply because there are only a handful of people on the planet capable of creating those products, and thus the employer is willing to pay his $100,000,000 salary.

I think both of your examples highlight exactly what the OP was talking about, that employees are not paid based on the value they produce. In both examples, some employer stands to make much more value off of someone's labor than what they will pay that employee. Businesses and capitalists are looking to gain more profit and value than what is reflected in someone's salary -- this is the way they accumulate more resources than those workers. This accumulation of wealth is typically backed by hierarchy and authority structures that maintain that the employer continues to get more value out of someone's work than the employee(s) participating in that work.

Like you said, there's nothing about capitalism that says it should do otherwise, but I think for me that shows how unethical capitalism is in how it treats the output of others.

Ah. Perhaps my point was too subtle then. More bluntly, I was trying to say that there is no ethical duty to pay employees solely based on the value they produce. If there were, markets could not function. There is no conspiracy to "divorce employee's compensation from the value they create" as otakucode states.

By definition, free trade happens because each side believes they are receiving more value than they are paying. In my example, the manure owner who pays his laborer $15 an hour and the board of directors who pays the Steve Jobsian figure $500,000 an hour both believe that what they get in return is worth more than the money they pay. This is why they enter into the transaction.

>This accumulation of wealth is typically backed by hierarchy and authority structures that maintain that the employer continues to get more value out of someone's work than the employee(s) participating in that work.<

And from the other side, the laborer who exchanges his time for $15 per hour and the Steve Jobsian figure who exchanges his time for $500,000 an hour both "continue to get more value out of" the money the employer is paying them than they would otherwise get out of their other options. Again, this is why they agree to exchange their time for money.

Again, this all boils down to supply and demand (plus value). If there are millions of laborers that can perform any task, the price to perform that task will always be low, no matter how much value the task ultimately generates. (I say plus value because, even if you're the only person in the world that can do something, if nobody wants that thing done (i.e. no value is created) then no one will agree to transact.)

smh... that doesn't jibe with reality. Reality is that there are different people, with varied skills, and the economy demands different people and skills at different times, in different places. There are barriers of culture, race, language, gender, national border, laws, family, and so forth.

In a sufficiently supply-constrained field, assuming performance can be measured, your reward can be fairly closely correlated with the value you contribute.

The lack of correlation is primarily due to inability to measure contributions vs. an effort by employers to selectively screw high achieving employees. If you had perfect visibility into the current and future contributions of employees, it actually would make sense to pay the 10x employee 10x more than the 1x employee (and arguably being able to make a team of 5 x 10x employees would be worth way more than the equivalent salaries of 50 regular employees, since a 50 person team would be so large as to have 2-3 layers of management, much higher support costs, etc., so just paying the smaller team 10x as much would be a bargain.)

For a variety of reasons this isn't really done directly with cash compensation (taxes, measurement, supply shortage, envy of other employees, politics with managers, etc.), but rather by the 10x teams being startups which may get purchased.

If everyone had your attitude, then employers would be justified in paying as little as possible. Thankfully my experience has been that most co-workers don't try to provide as little value as possible, and most employers actively try to reward value (with varying success at evaluating it).

> If your work is sufficiently varied, I don't see how 60-80h/wk is unsustainable at at least 1.5x the work you'd accomplish in 40h, if (and only if) the other hassles of life are taken care of for you -- no cleaning, commute time, etc.

Although driving may also tap into it, the issue is mental burnout. Cleaning or eating doesn't take mental capacity, thinking does and that is in short supply (as the article notes, study show there's about 6h of good thinking per day in an average individual). Yeah might be able to "productively" work 80h/week if half that was cleaning the toilet... why?

> I could certainly do my primary job for 40-60h/wk productively and then spend 20h/wk doing meetings with users, conferences, etc.

No, you might think you do.

"I don't think I could do a single task for 80h/wk productively, but I could certainly do my primary job for 40-60h/wk productively and then spend 20h/wk doing meetings with users, conferences, etc."

What experiments have you performed to validate this hypothesis?

If you can kill commute time, doing 50h is not much different than a normal person doing 40h. Figure another 10 for being sufficiently senior (founder at a startup).

The recreational activities I seem to seek out in the remaining time, even without any external pressure, are all startup related. I don't know which are considered in scope as "work" vs. "recreation". If I had a choice of watching TV or talking to people about their YC applications, I'd probably do the latter. If I had the choice of reading The Economist or a great startup post-mortem, the latter. Play Battlefield 3 vs. take apart a competitor's product.. Talk to someone about sporting events of the local team vs. talk to someone about what I'm working on...

I've never been able to do 80h/wk on a single task for more than 3 weeks without dramatically worse productivity and burnout, but the mixed time use works fine, at least for me.

I guess I could try working (in the most inclusive definition) for only 40h/wk. I did that for a while when living in a diving location, spending the rest of my time diving, and it didn't feel better; I missed having enough time to do things, but maybe I got more work done per hour.

Great article. Discussed previously at HN: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3707101

Forget about "any-number-hour week" - each one has his own work regime and in startups especially you work not for counting hours, I guess.

The point of the article is that you should be counting hours. Even if the hours themselves are not your goal or measure, there are still physiological reasons that too many hours are non-optimal. Even and in some respects, especially for, knowledge workers. Too few hours and not much gets done. Too many hours and you're wasting money and effort while harming quality.

This may work among programmers, software developers, etc. But in other more structured environments [management consulting, public accounting, I-banking, etc] a 40 hour work week will almost never be the norm. Sure, more resources could be added to the project, but the budget doesn't support that, so... you're hosed.

The point is that more resources are not needed. Just going back to 40 hours a week will increase total productivity.

I enjoy working 80 hours weeks once in while, when I get stoked on creating something new. What I can't stand is daily 10:30am daily scrums when I've been up until 4am coding. If you want to kill-off your employees' passion, I recommend agile methodology.

Sounds like a shitty version of agile. agile is people over processes. I'd investigate changing the process or changing jobs. Why do you have to be at the stand up?

Because my boss, my boss' boss, and his boss' boss are all micro managers.

I've sacrificed too much just to walk away now. Once my code ships though, I'll likely set sail as well.

As a soon to be first time job hunter (beyond internships): how do I find jobs that aren't 50 hr+/wk death marches? Should I consider government? I say this because the internships I've already done I've been encouraged to work weekends.

Talk to folks that work there currently (LinkedIn helps with this) and ask questions when you interview about work/life and whether or not overtime is compensated. As a developer, you have the luxury (that most workers don't these days) of being highly in demand so you can afford to be particular about this if it's a concern.

Startups and the game dev industry are probably a bad choice if you're looking to avoid 40hr+ weeks. Boring SMB software product companies have been bad on this for me (anecdotal, I know) due to misaligned incentives (mainly sales selling product that didn't exist yet.) Consulting has been great on this for me, assuming the folks running the place care about lasting client relationships & quality more than maximizing billable hours.

In the course of a day of interviews with a company I always try to ask one person how many hours they work. Also, look for hourly jobs. That's the surest way to not overwork. Government would be good. And probably most mega corp jobs. Watch out for any job requiring on-call rotation.

No thanks, I like my 35 hour work week just fine. Maybe you suckers should try Canada?

How about this? "Productivity experts estimate that we’d have probably had the Mac a year sooner if they’d worked half as many hours per week instead"

Do you guys know if this is somewhere documented ...? It would be interesting ...

Hours don't linearly scale with accomplishment in software. Measure accomplishment, set goals, pay based on salary not hours.

At first, I thought this was a french post complaining about the 35-hour work week ... looks like nobody will ever agree.

One more reason for me to enjoy living in Europe.

As long as you have startup founders glorifying their >100h average work weeks this is not going to happen.

"Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest." That's me now.

I guess this headline would have different implication in France.

40 hours of metered work, for a programmer, is a ridiculous and onerous expectation.

Let me explain, because I'm not averse to people working hard. I work quite hard as well. By "metered work", I mean the stuff that's requested by bosses and that you're supposed to dedicate your "working time" toward with a singular focus. I include availability (pager duty) as metered work, even if some of that's "down time". Any time you are worrying about bosses or metrics or pagers or status meetings, you're at work.

Metered work obligations should be closer to 20, with the other 20-30+ invested in the stuff we have to do in order to stay relevant: keeping up with new technologies, exploratory side projects, self-directed coding, open source contribution, attending conferences. All of this stuff pays off and is useful work: it just doesn't pay off in the short term or appease a typical manager. 40+ hour metered-work commitments should be reserved for very rare occasions: existential threats to the company, not high-strung middle management.

This would make programming more a real profession, which is what it should be.

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