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Working hours: Get a life (economist.com)
98 points by deusclovis on Sept 25, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 160 comments



Related: Bring back the 40-hour work week. 150 years of research proves that long hours at work kill profits, productivity and employees: http://www.salon.com/2012/03/14/bring_back_the_40_hour_work_...



http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/worktime/

"An average worker needs to work a mere 11 hours per week to produce as much as one working 40 hours per week in 1950. (The data here is from the US, but productivity increases in Europe and Japan have been of the same magnitude.) The conclusion is inescapable: if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week. "


Cool. How much does the average worker need to spend on health care to achieve the life expectancy of 1950? And how much to watch TVs of 1950s quality, play computer games equivalent to the pinball machines of 1950, etc.?

I am not endorsing our lust for consumption here, but "standard of living" needs some definition.


The issue he skips is that most people won't accept a 1950s lifestyle.

Far too many people live beyond their retirement means, if not just their week to week means. Image is everything to many people, the appearance of having wealth has become more important than a comfortable retirement, let alone a sustainable lifestyle. The number of people I work with in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s, with no real retirement planned is frightening.


That's not relevant to the fact that actual wages have gone down.


It's very relevant to the question of whether real wages actually did go down. If people live better than they did in 1950, and they do it on 2013 wages, then real wages did not actually go down.

There must instead be some mistake in the way real wages are calculated. (Hint: there are many, mostly in the computation of CPI.)


Notionally, this is already accounted for in the CPI, which, where the exact same product is no longer available, uses a similar currently available product and applies a "hedonic quality adjustment" to account for the qualitative changes.

http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpihqaqanda.htm


Very importantly, CPI does not hedonically adjust health care or housing (two of the major drivers of inflation). The main categories that are hedonically adjusted are clothing and appliances.

http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpihqaitem.htm

This is a major omission. To see how glaring this is, consider a back injury I suffered in 2012. I paid a pretty penny for surgery/scans which didn't exist in 1980 [1], and it was worth every penny and more. If the injury happened in 1962 I'd be disabled in 1963, and probably 1973. In 2013 I deadlifted 1.5x bodyweight. Without a hedonic adjustment this looks like inflation.

[1] It was actually pretty cheap since I was in India, but in the US it would have cost a lot.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870489360457619...

The former Goldman Sachs chief economist gave a speech explaining the economy's progress and the Fed's successes, but come question time the main thing the crowd wanted to know was why they're paying so much more for food and gas. Keep in mind the Fed doesn't think food and gas prices matter to its policy calculations because they aren't part of "core" inflation.

So Mr. Dudley tried to explain that other prices are falling. "Today you can buy an iPad 2 that costs the same as an iPad 1 that is twice as powerful," he said. "You have to look at the prices of all things."

Reuters reports that this "prompted guffaws and widespread murmuring from the audience," with someone quipping, "I can't eat an iPad." Another attendee asked, "When was the last time, sir, that you went grocery shopping?"


Food and gas make inflation volatile, but they don't much change the long term trend. Inflation in food and gas is actually lower than inflation in core CPI.

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CPIAUCSL http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CPILFESL

http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr236.pdf

The big issues with CPI over the long term are the lack of hedonic adjustments in medical care and the change in the composition of the basket of goods being measured. These tend to bias CPI up, not down.


You sure you want the same standard of living as 1950? No A/C, high-maintenance car (1, if any), fast-perishing food, data bandwidth orders of magnitude of orders of magnitude (not a typo) lower, half the living space, health care by which I'd be dead four times over by now, 45RPM records, etc.

Methinks you're getting your 4x standard of living's worth.


There's only a connection between the two if it's our 4x productivity plus same/increased effort that's actually giving us these things.

Personally, though, I might well take give up a car & A/C, live on fresher/less processed food, sleep in a smaller space but spend more time outside, spend more time with paper and less with electronics, and listen to/play live music vs digital recordings. Particularly if I was only working 11 hours a week.


You're assuming costs have remained the same for goods and services consumers demand. The cost of electricity is plummeting due to renewables, digital services and IP have zero marginal cost, Moore's Law, etc. People are eschewing cars, and in the next 5-10 years cars will be a service, not something you own.

The issue is there are still inelastic demand services that need their costs driven down drastically: Education and healthcare. I'd also suggest petroleum being displaced for transportation as well. Reducing the cost of these services reduces the amount of work needed to consume said services.

I argue an 11-15 hour work week is still possible as technology and innovation continue to move forward.


People aren't eschewing cars, outside of a few specific urban areas. SOME people in NYC, SanFran, and a few other cities are eschewing cars. This has always been the case. Renting cars is now just getting a bit easier. But most people in the developed world will continue to buy cars and own them.


http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/08/dot-vehicle-miles-...

"As we've discussed, gasoline prices are just part of the story. The lack of growth in miles driven over the last 5+ years is probably also due to the lingering effects of the great recession (high unemployment rate and lack of wage growth), the aging of the overall population (over 55 drivers drive fewer miles) and changing driving habits of young drivers."

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/nhts.cfm

Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/transportation-and-new-gen...


The Great Recession will hopefully stop eventually, and then you can expect to see the unemployed 18-35 year-olds get jobs, buy cars (among other things), and drive again.


It won't end, and we don't see people driving in a big way again.

Data has shown that between 55+ retiring and younger potential drivers preferring not to drive, vehicle sales have plateaued. If self-driving cars take off in the next ~5 years, that'll be the death of a large part of the auto industry.


I'm optimistic. Economies go up and down, sometimes in long cycles, but I think this is bound to turn for the better eventually. I'm doing fine financially and have a good job even in this economy, software development still seeming to be a growing field, but I have some friends with other degrees (or no degrees) in a lot worse shape than me. So I hope for them my optimism isn't wrong.


You are missing the point: it's not about recession (which is behind us by now), but about change in habbits/needs. People rely more on digital communications and less on driving.

End result - car sales stagnate.


Yes, I'd very happily take the 1950s standard of living along with a stable 11 hour workweek. Where do I sign up?


If you want it, you can make it happen. You're basically asking for a part-time contract programming gig (or whatever your specialty equates to); I've done those at times for tidy sums. Smaller '50s-ish homes exist and are quite affordable; you could also save up the cash and build your own (I just found a nice half-acre rural lot in driving distance of work for $1700, and a workable 2-story small-frame "house" is available from Home Depot for about $8000 (you add amenities over time)). Cars can be had cheap, downgrade to a cheap prepaid dumphone no-data plan, rediscover frugal living, and you'll work it out. I very nearly did the same, until I got married and she had pricier standards.

And once Obamacare kicks in, there might suddenly be a lot of companies looking for "part time" workers interested in 1950s-level health care plans (to wit: none). You asked at just the right time!


>there might suddenly be a lot of companies looking for "part time" workers interested in 1950s-level health care plans (to wit: none)

You are aware that employer-sponsored plans came about in the 40's as a way to get around wage freezes (wage freezes enacted because of World War 2), correct?


Actually I'm all for 45RPM vinyls.


Well... "the median male income is now worse on a gross, inflation adjusted basis, than he was in... 1968. While back then, the median income of male workers was $32,844, it has since declined to $32,137 as of 2010.

Source: Table P-5 from http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/people...


What good or service do you believe the median male has less of today than he had in 1968?

If your claim is correct, it shouldn't be hard to answer this question.


Job security, and a defined-benefit pension. That's worth a lot.


Would you drive a 1950's car, live in a house half the normal size, and give up all medical treatments invented since 1950 to get those things?


Back in the 1950's you has cars much less reliable than today, but you did not have bedroom communities two hours away from your workplace. You had smaller houses without air conditioning, but you also had smaller energy bills.

What I'm saying is that the technological advances have a way of changing the playing field, in such a way that they gains are much smaller than one would have thought.


Homemaking services.


If working fewer hours is better and increasing minimum wage is better, I don't see why we take stupid baby-steps? Why don't we just have a five hour work-week with a minimum of $500/hr?


40 hours? I'm guessing that's a US thing. I'd have to be really, really desperate before I did that many hours a week.


Yeah, it's one of those "evil US exceptionalism" things, where Americans work a heck of a lot. If you're working less than 40hrs/wk, you're working part-time. In most professional/knowledge type industries (tech of all kinds, at the least) 40hrs is a day-dream that people would love to work, rather than the 50-100 they actually work.

Of course, this is presuming you hate work. I spend more than a third of my life doing it and it's something I really enjoy. A man is defined by his hard/smart work.

The typical work-day in the US starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. Throw in at least an hour or two for commute in the morning and an hour or two for commute in the evening. Possibly throw in some work-from-home after you kick off your shoes and walk through the door at home, too.


> In most professional/knowledge type industries (tech of all kinds, at the least) 40hrs is a day-dream that people would love to work, rather than the 50-100 they actually work.

When's the last time you held a "professional/knowledge type" job? Because from my experience, 40 hours is the norm. By far. At least 90%. I work with about two dozen other developers doing both web and mobile, for internal projects as well as client work. I can only think of one person who works more than 40 hours a week and it's definitely because he chooses to. We work 8 to 5 with an hour for lunch and most people live within 15-20 minutes of the office.

Is it normal for folks in the Bay area to have a 1-2 hour commute? The longest I've ever had was 45 minutes and that only lasted 6 months until I got a new apartment (granted I own my home now so that's less of an option).


A man is defined by his hard/smart work.

If that's all you do, then it must. What a waste of a human.


The 8-hour workweek is pretty standard everywhere, where are you?


(assuming you mean "workday")

9 to 5 with an hour off for lunch is 7 hours of work, or 35 hour workweek. This is pretty common in mainland Europe. The UK standard is probably 9 to 5.30, for a 37.5 hour week.


The 8-hour workweek is pretty standard everywhere

8 hour workweek! And here's me accepting 37.5 like a sucker!


In Made-up City, Smuglandia, obviously.



A big distinction for me is "programming as work" and "programming as play". I can spend eight hours at work and be absolutely drained when I get home, but still leap at the chance to say, take a bite out of my functional programming course (https://www.coursera.org/course/progfun -- it's awesome, and taught by the guy who designed Scala, so he knows a thing or two) because its a completely different context for me, or scroll idly through GitHub issues as I eat dinner.


Taking that class now. As a professional developer, it pains me to say: That class is fucking hard. I haven't managed a perfect score on an assignment yet, though I'm still working on Week 2. Good luck to you! It should be a great adventure regardless.


I would love to see a mandatory scheme whereby employees are free to work more than forty hours per week should they wish to do so, or are required to do so, but overtime payments are guaranteed, on an increasing scale, so by the time the employer has their staff working 100 hours per week they have had to pay more than say 6 weeks salary, possibly 8. This would quickly shake out the bulk of big corps who simply encourage presenteeism and other negative cultures.


overtime payments are guaranteed, on an increasing scale

Shades of Dilbert's "I'm gonna write me a new minivan!" http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1995-11-13/

You're encouraging workers to slack their 40 hours to compel the employer to require overtime. National productivity would crash.


I disagree... it would take much more than money to persuade me to spend more than 40 hours a week at the office. And I like my job.


Reality has a better scheme: you can quit any time and work somewhere preferable.


As an employer in the tech industry, I would never hire someone that complained that more than 40 hours/week was too much, and I don't own a Fortune 500 company.


As an employee in the tech industry I would never work for a company that thought more than 40 hours a week was reasonable.

Oh, and I hate clocking in/out, I wouldn't work for a company that time-tracked like that either. Trust me to get the work done, don't worry about my hours.

I won't be an ass and leave at 5pm while there's something that needs to be finished today because "it's my hours" and you don't be an ass if I turn up after 10am.

My current company is great, flexible working hours and a lot of trust around working hours and working conditions. You on the other hand sound like you run a terrible place to be employed.

Edit: "My" as in the company for which I work, I just re-read this and it sounded like I run a company which isn't the case.


Depending on your job, your employer may be legally required to track your time. Any "non-exempt" employee has to be hourly, and has to be time tracked, per FLSA.

Whether programmers fit in the "exempt" category (administrative, executive, and professional) is questionable, though the consensus seems to be that they do. Other jobs that are less "creative" may not qualify, and thus would have to be hourly and thus tracked.

Unless the employer were ignoring the law, which happens.


I disagree with you on the first line, but the rest is reasonable. No manager (at least not me) wants to measure hours, but when an employee's production is waning, that's one of the things you CAN measure to see if that's part of the problem.

But if I find someone constantly looking at the clock when the hand strikes 5, I know they've already checked out, and that's not the kind of person I want on my team.


I'm constantly looking at the clock when the hand strikes 5 because I've got to pick up the kids from daycare. Sometimes if I finish whatever I was working on 10 minutes early, yeah, I'm checked out. What does it matter? You either do good work in the time you're at work or you don't. There are definitely places that want people to put in an appearance of slaving away as they don't know any other way to gauge productivity. The other thing I've seen (and done, in the past) is working 80+ hour weeks because everything's out of control, no one has a solid pulse on the business, and the job is a constant putting out of fires. Granted, some of this is endemic to start-up life, but if the shit is constantly flowing downhill, not a good sign.


But that's a completely different scenario, and one that I'm sure you would discuss with your hiring manager before accepting the position.


"No manager (at least not me) wants to measure hours, but when an employee's production is waning, that's one of the things you CAN measure to see if that's part of the problem."

How is that working for you? (Genuinely curious) I worked at a place that kept telling me they needed more hours out of me. I was already working 45 hours a week (5 more than I wanted to) and wasn't happy. I did put in more hours but they were spent surfing the internet, not working. I only stayed there for 8 months before moving on to where I am now, which is much more flexible. I get more done now in less time because I'm not feeling like I'm in a forced labor camp.


First and foremost, I don't worry about someone's hours at all if they are producing according to their role. During this time, I am clear on what I expect them to achieve, and I'm always open to discussion as it relates to pushing/rearranging deadlines.

If I find that they aren't producing or getting things done, obviously I need to find out why. One of the things I look at is hours, which I find works well.

I learn that a) this person is not only watching the clock, but being creative with ways they can avoid actually doing work while pretending to be busy, b)they need better training/help in order to do their job and productivity has nothing to do with hours, c) we're being unfair with our expectations.

The topic of culture is one that often arises here on HN, and I'd argue that there is nothing more damning to a culture than having one person on a team that checks out at 5 without realizing he/she has a team member struggling.

A little 'hey, I'm about to head out, can I help you with anything?' goes a long way.

In a past life I managed an interactive department, so I'm not just talking about developers here.


> I'm an idea guy learning how to code and build better products. I'm the co-founder of Virtuous Giant, where we make WordPress plugins like Ignition Deck, and iPhone apps like Santa Strike.

My passion to work overtime for you is absolutely overflowing! What a visionary! What Ideas! WordPress and Santa Strike!?!? Who wouldn't want to put in 60hrs/wk to be part of something so glorious?


And hence the need for labor laws to rein in employers.

EDIT: If you don't like the rules, go open a company in another country. The ability to employ people is a privilege, governed by labor laws. You don't make the rules, you simply have to play by them.


You act as if employment is a right. It's not. As I always say, if you don't like the rules, build your own company.

Edit: 'The ability to employ people is a privilege.' I don't believe that, but as an exercise, remove that 'privilege' and tell me how many people would be able to survive long enough to have a hobby?


You act as if employment is a right. It's not.

And we can say in return: you act as if employing someone is a right; it's not. Employment is a contract. It lays obligations like "come to work, follow orders, and don't steal your boss's secrets" on the employee, just as it sets obligations like "pay wages and don't overwork people" on employers. Those obligations, on both sides, are enforceable via the legal system, which is a service provided by the State under such conditions as the State wants to provide it.

If you want to operate without obeying reasonable labor laws, why shouldn't your employees operate without obeying rules against industrial espionage?


As a business owner, you would employ workers at the lowest wage possible for as many hours as possible. This is why labor laws exist.


Your competitor might find it advantageous to compete with you on employee wages and poach your good employees leaving you unable to compete. Supply and demand works for salaries as much as it does for physical goods.


Which is what history proves happens all of the time, and is the reason that we don't have any labour laws, right?


And what about the poor bastards who are judged to be "average" employees by whatever metric?



I never said anything about that. I believe in rewarding good value, and I often fight for employee raises more than most of my colleagues.


A business owner that engages in that practice is not going to keep his/her employees long.


Like Walmart?


>You act as if employment is a right

No, he acts like companies can not be expected to even work in their own best interests. And he's right.


The notion of a job/employment is a new one for the vast majority of the world's population, Americans included. Most people were peasants/subsistence farmers, or small time commercial farmers, or tradespeople (carpenter, blacksmith, furrier, etc.) who operated more like freelancers today than anything else. More recently, pre-WWI, many people were domestic servants, which is employment of course but not the same as working for a company today. Merchants are relatively new to human history. The legal construct of a company is much much newer than merchants.

The company-employment boom is clearly ending. When you look at human history -- even limited to "civilized" history -- it's pretty clear that mass employment was the exception, not the rule, and now it's going away.


Uuuh... actually... there were merchant and wage-worker classes all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia's very first civilizations. What's new is to have almost all of society basically split into merchants, wage-workers, and holders of political office.


That's why I said "new… for a vast majority of people."


Looking at BLS participation rate data (which, unfortunately, only goes back to 1948), I have to agree with you:

http://data.bls.gov/generated_files/graphics/latest_numbers_...

http://archive.is/Cdwzp

We have boomers exiting the workforce while unskilled/less-skilled workers are unable to find a job, and discouraged, they exit the workforce. This is compounded by rapid technological advancements that are slowly eating their way up the skills ladder ("software eating the world").

I know your comment has a much longer time scale in mind, and my data is of a much smaller and recent time period, but I believe the argument still stands: Mass employment is ending.

I don't know what the solution is, but we need to find one.


This is a very interesting perspective. I never thought of it that way.

One might add the fact that pre-WW1, most women were not a part of the workforce/merchant class/trader class(sad but true). So yes, employment is a relatively new thing.


Or form a labor union.


I suggest you examine why they are complaining. Are they being forced to work that many hours because of your process? Might want to rethink that.

Do you have so much work that it can't be done with your current staff in 40 hours/week? Hire more.

Is your management so inept that your employees are forced to work more to keep up? Training will help.

Many people will willingly work extra when they need to (trying to squash that one last bug or trying to squeeze in that new feature) but rail when it's expected and demanded for no legitimate reason.


I agree, most of the time being in a situation where working >40 hours in a week is due to a failure in planning or estimation. Not to mention the fact that, at a certain point, putting in extra hours has seriously diminishing returns. It can do more harm than good (been there before, in crunch weeks/months).


My point is that if you are counting hours every week, then you're already doing it wrong.


You do see the irony in your statement right?


I see what you're getting at, but if you re-read my original statement you'll see that I'm targeting people that complain about working more than 40 hours.

I don't count hours, but I do notice people that clock in/out, and I definitely notice people that complain about having to work more than 40.


Why would anyone be hurt/surprised that people don't necessarily like donating hundreds of hours of their time to their employer for no additional pay?


If you are the owner, then it totally makes sense to not count your hours since you reap what you sow. If you're nothing but an employee (without any incentives such as stocks), I don't see why you would continuously do overtime.

And as another user said, if your employees need to continuously do some overtime, there's a bigger issue underlying.


I agree, I wrote this comment on another thread before:

One thing to remember in all these discussions about working hours is that its one thing to work for yourself and another to work for someone else. I've done both. When you work for yourself you don't take much time off until things are going well, and its not a problem. I think the problem arises when people who own the business genuinely can't understand why everybody else doesn't want to put in the same hours that they do. It's about ownership. Doesn't mean that employees can't be very productive for 8 hours and then go home and do their own thing. e.g. take their kids to sport or music, contribute to voluntary organisations, work on a side project.

Each to his own.


You know, this:

"As an employer in the tech industry, I would never hire someone that complained that more than 40 hours/week was too much"

...may be the cause of this...

"and I don't own a Fortune 500 company."


As a rational person, I would never (again) work for an employer that regularly insisted on more than 40 hours a week of my time.

Then again, I like to do things other than make money for someone else.


What if that person paid you a premium for it?


How much is "a premium" exactly?


You're not paying that much making santa apps and wordpress themes, get real.


money != time.

I can always get more money. I can't live any longer.


Please let us know what company you work for so I can avoid interviewing there.


It's in his profile.


It's gone now, could you (or anyone that remembers) name it?


Quoted in a (currently higher) comment " I'm the co-founder of Virtuous Giant, where we make WordPress plugins like Ignition Deck, and iPhone apps like Santa Strike."


I'm not that hard to find.


Would you mind explaining why? I have no problem working overtime if the conditions necessitate, but an employeer with these sorts of opinions is something that I would try hard to avoid.


Because I want to hire people that are invested, not wage slaves. If you're counting every hour, then you're already clocking in and out, and you're probably either a) always looking for a better opportunity or b) the kind of person that wants to be comfortable and taken care of. I find that in the case of either, I get burned.


If you want people to act like they're invested, the most straightforward solution is to make them actually invested: include equity, options, or profit-sharing as a portion of the compensation.

If I'm being compensated straight salary, I'm not invested, and I'm not going to be working heroic hours or making sacrifices, no matter what my employer might wish for.


See, even if I had that, I wouldn't be working more than 40 hours per week. I have a wife and kid, and I value my home life greatly. I wouldn't put in a 50+ hour work week because that takes away time from the rest of my life. I would make sure I get everything that needs to be done in those 40 hours. If you have good estimates then there should be no need to work more than 40 hours a week. If you are making estimates based on more than 40 hours a week, then you're doing it wrong.


Well then, you should probably incentivize them with generous equity in the company, right? Without it, why should they work so hard just to make you richer?

And here is a truism: Even people who are 'invested' in their jobs are looking for something better, with 'better' being defined as more pay/equity, flexible hours, meaningful work, etc.

If you want to employ someone who is just as invested in the company as you are, then you should compensate them just as well as you are.


The only way I would ever be "invested" rather than a wage slave is if I own the business, or it's work that I truly cared passionately about - saving lives, saving the world. Most paying work isn't like that at all.


You don't want employees who are interested in better opportunities?

What kind of employees do you want, then? Loyal ones? In my experience, the most loyal employees are also the least productive.


This threw up a bit of a red flag for me: "the kind of person that wants to be comfortable and taken care of". Wouldn't that person be more productive?

Likewise, I tend to think that the ass-in-the-seat 40+ hour workers tend to correlate with the "always looking for a better opportunity" workers.


I'm talking about the kind of person that wants to work 9/5 and retire with a watch. The baby boomers that are now struggling to find jobs and the millenials that are more concerned with self-discovery than in making a contribution and earning their wages.


You want someone you can easily cheat, in other words. Someone who isn't looking after their own interests, and will gladly sacrifice their own time for no additional reward? Someone with no personal sense of identity, whom you can manipulate like a puppet on a string?


Would you expect your HR or finance people to not work only 9-5?


So people with occupational aspirations and a desire to be happy are somehow unworthy of working for your company?


What about the sort of person that needs to make sure their child is picked up from day care?


I don't care about little things like that as long as they aren't abused (you aren't really picking up your child from day care). I don't care when a person works as long as they contribute according to their role.


... and as long as it's more than 40 hours a week?


No. As long as they don't expect to clock an exact 40 every week. If we just finished a sprint and things are going well, I'm happy to tell people to go home or take a break.

If we're in a sprint, or shit hits the fan, or revenue is down, or anything else that requires hands on deck, I expect people to complete the task, even if it means more than 40 hours.


...even if it means leaving their kids at daycare.


A sprint with "hands on deck" to finish wordpress themes?


There are plenty of businesses making things that, if they stopped making them, would not stop the world from turning. The point is, it's a business, who is likely competing against many other businesses that would be all-to-happy to scoop up their market share. I don't agree that employees should be expected to consistently work more than 40 hours week after week. I do agree that when situations arise in business that requires full and focused effort of entire departments or the whole company, the managers/owners first better come to the employees, with hat-in-hand, and discuss why this is important for the company and the team before issuing their mandatory overtime decree.


I assume that your employees have worked at least one week with over 60 hours. Would you accept them working only 20 hours another week? Why should employees donate extra time to a for profit project if you can't do the same.

If a situation arise because of bad planning an employe are expected to donate their time, but if an employee finish the sprint early the company will find something extra for them to do.


Can you elaborate about "you aren't really picking up your child from day care"? I believe that if you aren't age- and gender-discriminating, then it should be that a noticeable percentage of your workforce do leave every single day at no later than exactly X'o clock to pick up their kids from daycare, and that is how it should be.


If I'm comfortable and taken care of, that also means I'm LESS likely to look elsewhere. But it doesn't mean I'm just gonna slack off and take advantage.


Aren't you worried about missing out on the best performing hires then? Why would a person who can pick and choose work at a place where ass-in-seat time is used as a metric?


Not really. I'd be more worried about hiring the wrong person and wasting valuable cash on someone that lacks the necessary work ethic to keep pace.

The same person that complains about 41 hours is the same person that wants to clock in and clock out. I want people that think about the product even when they aren't in the office. They are rare breeds sure, but IMO anything else is a waste.


Have you ever considered that maybe the product you're making is just not that world-changing for any sane developer to work consecutive overtime for? If you asked me to work 80+ hours to cure cancer sure, but to sacrifice my life to build cute iPhone apps? Nope.


Totally. But I would never ask someone to work 80 hours unless it was very short term and/or a critical situation.


I was conflicted about what you were saying because on one hand you seem to be moderating yourself after making an extreme statement, but then this statement clarified it for me.

Not sure if you realize it, but as an employer if YOU have to ask someone to work extra for you, there are all kinds of problems here. It probably means - you treat maybe unknowingly your reports one level below you and you demand they work for you and not with you. It also probably points to a lack of leading by example. If people see you sweating, reasonable people who are interested and feel valued and believe in your goal and mission will help you out and not leave you out in the cold.

So under no healthy situation you should be asking anyone to work for 80 hours. Hire the right people and then get out of their way.


Yeah, how dare people think about their family. There's work to be done.


I've personally found that it is much easier to think about the product outside of the office when you aren't wearing yourself down with a 40-hour work week. When you hit the 40 hour mark, work dwarfs freetime (excluding sleep, of course), which I believe causes people to throw up the work / life boundary walls.

For me, when I was working 20-30 hours / week freelancing, things seemed to invert a bit -- my freetime now dwarfed my work, and I no longer felt that I wasn't taking advantage of my free time if I was thinking about work.

Also, how long do your engineers spend on non-work activities during their 8+ hour work day (including lunch and breaks)?

Edit: missing word


I think that's great. So you pay them overtime as well for this extra work? Or are you exploiting them? You can't have it both ways.


That's not really the way it works. Most people who are slaves and work those crazy hours do so because they are avoiding their home life or have low self esteem and don't realize the value of the work they're doing. I used to be that way. Now I make a lot more money and work a lot less hours.


The most passionate about your products are not by definition also the most competent. For one thing, someone that has a "cold" look at what you're doing has an intrinsic value; "love's blind" also applies when at work. You may be generalizing from your introspective view of yourself here, which may trick you one day or another.


work ethic, n: A word used by those trying to guilt others into doing what the selfish person wants.


Nice try Amy, and thanks for calling me selfish.

I'd debate you on the definition, but something tells me you aren't interested in a conversation about it.


If we put aside all of the valid concerns about burn-out, work-place satisfaction, work-life balance, buy-in\equity, and flexibility that have been raised here by others, it looks like there is another problem:

It sounds like the effort you require does not match what you can\are happy to spend.

If you need more effort-hours against your development, you need to hire more developers. If you can't afford to hire additional developers, other considerations are necessary. One of which you've explored, and that is to require everyone to work 40+ hour weeks. But as you're seeing here, that's not always desirable.

Its a old-school concept, but the Iron Triangle is always relevant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_triangle.


It must be terribly expensive to pay overtime every week!


There is more to a person than the hours they spend at work. A whole person has taken the time to consider the grander things in life, they plan ahead and are considerate. They take care of their family and friends, and they participate in the community.

There are companies out there like 37signals that feel that working too many hours a week actually injures productivity. For years I worked at startups working 50-60 hours a week, but recently I started working at a consulting company where I might have 35-40 billable hours a week of work and I have never felt more productive. I think there are ways management can increase productivity without asking people in the information age to work more hours. The truth is, if you are a programmer and you love to solve problems those challenges sit with you after you 'clock-out' you think about them on your commute home and while you prepare dinner while you relax and unwind.

Archenemies even invented volumetric math while in a bath tub, and many people claim to have brilliant ideas in the shower. I think the notion of confining someone to an office or a chair to work is the least productive thing you can do.

Give your team the space to let their mind expand into and inspire them to solve good problems. Focus your efforts on the right tasks and you will see your productivity increase. Provide people with good tools and you can see their craftsmanship improve. Acting as a manager, your job is to tackle the challenges that are holding back your team.

I think a lot of the stagnation of this nation is based on Americans overworking themselves, and in exchange we have sold short our family, friends, and community. We have sacrificed short term gains for the long term security of our culture. Imagine if we had more time to spend in our communities articulating our needs to our peers, working out our differences and solving problems. We would have stronger communities and greater accord with our neighbors. We could become a united nation again that was empathetic with our local needs. We would have the margin and freedom to explore big things as a nation and we could take ownership in what our nation sets out to achieve.


It's a good thing not all employers have this stereotypical exploitative attitude, or socialism would have won a long time ago.


I would if they worked well, but they will be paid for only the time they worked. I'm kinda not a fan of salary, people slack off, and companies think they can get more productivity by making them work more. However, if you paid them hourly and micromanaged them to hell. You can get more out if you only hire them for 10-20hours a week.


> I'm kinda not a fan of salary, people slack off

Salaried workers are not paid for their time, they're paid for what they do, so this makes no sense.

> if you paid them hourly and micromanaged them to hell. You can get more out if you only hire them for 10-20hours a week.

Have you ever been in a management position? Because this is exactly what no competent manager ever does.

You frighten me.


Are you paying by the hour?


In some cases yes.


In SOME cases? Major red flag there. Why would you NOT pay your developers hourly wages?


Working 40 hours per week would kill me. For me, work IS learning, and writing code is no different than a paintbrush on canvas.

The only thing that will turn my brain off is some sort of lean back entertainment, such as TV or video games. Otherwise, why read about how to do something when I can practice it?

It's a fallacy to believe that work and play can't be the same thing.


> Work IS learning [...] it's a fallacy to believe that work and play can't be the same thing.

Come on. There's a big difference between being able to decide what to learn and at what pace, and being told by someone else to learn something as soon as possible so as to get work done.


Agreed. Anyone that doesn't believe that either is doing his own gig, has financial independence, or is drinking the Kool-Aid.


Well, you write code working on your thing? Then it might be that you enjoy it and you classify it as "play" time. But what if you, like most software engineers, are working on a 20 year-old piece of spaghetti code where your 50 lines function needs to be inserted between pages and pages of complex code written by your grandpa's peers? That is not play, that's not even work, that's a straining effort in futility.


The best part is when the project you're working on is of absolutely zero interest to any of your friends or family so you can't really show anybody your hard work! My current situation is somewhat interesting to the general public, but in the past I've worked on back end system for insurance and health care. Try showing that off to your friends!


It sometimes feels a bit like a exploring a cave with a small flashlight. It's also fun when you start referring to the codebase as a patient. "Well, we can try this approach and see how she responds to it!"


Have you ever thought about getting a hobby or two outside of programming? Hobbies are good, they let you learn more about the world and lets you see things through new perspectives.

If you do have hobbies outside of programming, why wouldn't you like to spend some more time on those?


I have a variety of hobbies. I hit the gym 3-4 days/week. I run 2/3 days/week. I coach 2 soccer teams, have tickets to local NFL team, read books, go out with friends, etc.

That said, the reason I spend more time programming than anything else is because there is no feeling of achievement like the feeling of having built something.


I may agree with you. But that feeling of achievement is hard to come by in a regular job, for most people, unfortunately. We have bosses, deadlines, angry clients, red-tape, etc, etc.


It's a fallacy to believe that work and play can't be the same thing.

It's also a fallacy to believe that the majority of workers are lucky enough to get paid for something they truly think is fun.


Exactly. When people shout it online "Get a life", they really don't understand for some people the work we do might really be fun, as horse riding, gambling, or drinking and dancing in pubs is for them.


Just beware blurring the line - it's sometimes first step towards burnout. I wanted to give a reference, here's an article from forbes, http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/04/01/10-signs-yo...

There are studies that show that work preoccupation outside working ours can be a sign of burnout (incoming or undergoing). I know it's great to love your job, that's what flow state is all about, but there can be a darker side to it as well.


Yeah, I understand that. And I do other things to just take a break, even though I find them less interesting then my programming. Also, just to clarify, I spend less time (even lesser than the official time) on the 'official' job that I do. I mostly work on other open source scripts in the free time, which are also helpful for people besides being fun.


lucky you. what about those that flip hamburgers, janitors, there are lots of work out there that people perform to keep "the system/society" in order, and there is no learning/fun in those jobs. work can be fun, but it's not guaranteed to be fun, that's why it's good to have hobbies and life outside of work. working 40 hours per week will not kill you. people have done so for thousands of years and survived.


For those people (I used to be one), I agree that 40+ hours is probably not productive unless they want to get ahead and escape that grind. But escaping and having hobbies are generally not compatible.


>> Working 40 hours per week would kill me. For me, work IS learning

I thought the same when I was in school (a year ago) and was completely into programming and computers. I took all the hard classes and spent 60-70 hours a week studying and doing projects.

But that came at the expense of a social life. Now, I'm in the workforce doing a cool programming job. But, I have exactly no cool friends and no social life to speak of. I had exactly 3 dates in the last year, all leading to nowhere. The loss of social skills and exposure to diverse people (most of my friends are programmers), seems to be quite narrow-minded way to live.

As the old adage goes "Work-life balance: Live to work or work to live"


Do you have a wife / kids?

When your with the right women & have some kids, I find it is difficult not to want to get out of work to spend more time with them.


I have a wife and 3 kids.


“There is no real difference between work and play – it's all living.” -Richard Branson


I'd be really interested to know what kind of work this analysis is done on. Is it manual labor? Or repetitive data entry? Or writing code? I'd be interested to see a breakdown between these different categories.

On this note, does anyone know the original paper where those graphs came from? I clicked through to the linked paper at the end, but no such graphs appeared.


Why must I stop working because other people don't like their jobs? The title tells me to "get a life", but maybe I like working 50 hours a week.

I'm getting incredibly sick of people defensively justifying their own perceived laziness and then trying to tell me to work less. No, I fucking like my job, work is play for me.


One takeaway from the article is the importance of proper scaling on your graphs. The chart does not convey the real difference between the countries in any meaningful way except pointing out that Korea is an outlier. It should be scaled between 1000 and 2000 (with the caveat that Korea is off the scale) to convey the real difference between the countries. Otherwise it doesn't look at a glance like we work a whole lot more in America.


As someone who loves his job and loves to work, these articles always strike me as "I'm lazy and want to whine about it, because I would rather be sitting by the side of a pool somewhere, doing nothing".

I'm sure it is a justifiable complaint if your job sucks and you hate everything about it, but the solution is to do what you can to find a better match between what you enjoy and what you do for a living rather than somehow demonizing "too much work". What almost everyone does who is posting here is not digging ditches or flipping burgers for 40hrs per week and we need to quit acting like it is.


After working in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day, you need to have a good work/life balance.

When I get home, I stay away from computers. I even contemplated not having a PC at home.


I got rid of my TV, but not my computer.




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