"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. "
I am not endorsing our lust for consumption here, but "standard of living" needs some definition.
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.
There must instead be some mistake in the way real wages are calculated. (Hint: there are many, mostly in the computation of CPI.)
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 , 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.
 It was actually pretty cheap since I was in India, but in the US it would have cost a lot.
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?"
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.
Methinks you're getting your 4x standard of living's worth.
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.
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.
"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."
Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy
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.
End result - car sales stagnate.
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!
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?
Source: Table P-5 from http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/people...
If your claim is correct, it shouldn't be hard to answer this question.
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.
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.
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).
If that's all you do, then it must. What a waste of a human.
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.
8 hour workweek! And here's me accepting 37.5 like a sucker!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
No, he acts like companies can not be expected to even work in their own best interests. And he's right.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
And as another user said, if your employees need to continuously do some overtime, there's a bigger issue underlying.
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.
"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."
Then again, I like to do things other than make money for someone else.
I can always get more money. I can't live any longer.
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.
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.
What kind of employees do you want, then? Loyal ones? In my experience, the most loyal employees are also the least 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'd debate you on the definition, but something tells me you aren't interested in a conversation about it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you do have hobbies outside of programming, why wouldn't you like to spend some more time on those?
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.
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.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I get home, I stay away from computers. I even contemplated not having a PC at home.