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Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the enjoy-your-friday dept.

Businesses 969

Barbara, not Barbie writes with this quote from an article at AlterNet about how the average work week is becoming longer, and why that's not a good thing: "... overtime is only effective over very short sprints. This is because (as Sidney Chapman showed in 1909) daily productivity starts falling off in the second week, and declines rapidly with every successive week as burnout sets in. Without adequate rest, recreation, nutrition, and time off to just be, people get dull and stupid. They can't focus. They spend more time answering e-mail and goofing off than they do working. They make mistakes that they'd never make if they were rested; and fixing those mistakes takes longer because they're fried. Robinson writes that he's seen overworked software teams descend into a negative-progress mode, where they are actually losing ground week over week because they're so mentally exhausted that they're making more errors than they can fix. 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. We will not turn this situation around until we do what our 19th-century ancestors did: confront our bosses, present them with the data, and make them understand that what they are doing amounts to employee abuse — and that abuse is based on assumptions that are directly costing them untold potential profits."

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That's what America needs to be competitive! (-1, Flamebait)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376943)

Less work! Let's adopt the Greek model! 30-hour weeks and 50-yr-old retirements!

I swear, all you Slashdotters had better start learning Mandarin with this attitude.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39376989)

On the contrary, it would be more work, more efficiently. If you honestly believe hours working correlate to product you have no idea how knowledge work works.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377055)

It depends. What if you're billing customers by the hour?

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377313)

Only if I am working overtime. At which point my rates are negotiated as a percentage of the offending country's GDP.

Spoken like someone who's never owned a business (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377173)

Go back to your cubicle, little drone, and let the big boys run the world.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377001)

That's not what the article is saying (it's not talking about the Greek welfare state model). It's pointing out that if you work too much overtime, you get burned out, less productive, and more prone to error.

Well, duh.

This doesn't apply to everyone, of course, some people are wired to handle it.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377141)

This doesn't apply to everyone, of course, some people are wired to handle it.

Ah, now you're talking! Manservant! My eugenics rifle! We shall see to it that the workingman of tomorrow is fit for a 50-hour week, and his offspring capable of 60! In time, perhaps even 80 or 100 shall not be beyond the glorious reach of Science!

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377221)

In time, perhaps even 80 or 100 shall not be beyond the glorious reach of Science!

169 hours however...

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377335)

Seriously? Any time someone mentions that some people are better at certain things than others we immediately jump to eugenics? That's a bit disingenuous to say the least. I've been working 50 hour weeks for pretty much my entire adult life, and it's never really bothered me. If I cross 60 hours for a couple consecutive weeks, I get pretty shot and need a day or two off. My brother works 60 hour weeks almost every week, and it doesn't seem to affect him, but if he crosses into 65-70, he becomes an intolerable prick. Meanwhile, if my ex girlfriend worked a single 50 hour week, she was an incoherent bitch by the end of it. Now, I wouldn't argue that the average person's productivity drops off after a 40 hour work week, but only a fool would actually draw the conclusion that every single human being on earth is somehow hardwired to be unable to work more than 40 hours in a week.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377389)

I worked betwenn 100 to 120 hours a week for three years back in the late '80s. The first two years were awesome, as what I was doing was playing with lasers, electronics, sound gear, alanlog systhesis and computers to my hearts content. I eventually got burnt out and dropped my hours way down. Then I quit.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377035)

women yijing hui zhongwen

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (0)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377131)

yo mayo pee-jyo? Danshi, bu Mei Gua pee-jyo. Mei Gua pee-jyo shi huai. Mayo pee-joy? Wo shang ar-gaw-toe.

I'd like to say I do fine in China, but honestly, I can't remember much after the first two days anyways. Don't drink the water!

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (-1, Flamebait)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377049)

After all, it worked so well for Greece.
---
Hey!
Speaking of dull and stupid my boss must be working overtime, somewhere.
I'll be here all week, tip your waitress and, what's that?
Time for my review?

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377107)

Greek people work more hours per year than anyone in the world (other than Korea)... it's just that they are less productive...

http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS&utm_source=weibolife

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377153)

Don't worry. Our financial chicanery skills are way better polished than Greece's.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (4, Interesting)

Terrasque (796014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377147)

Actually, as a norwegian, my first thought was "Why would you want to increase work time?" - As our laws are very strict on those things, and is set to 37.5 hours a week (lunch is calculated as half an hour off each day).

The rules allow working overtime, but only in short periods, and only to a maximum amount over a certain period (don't recall exactly now).

In fact, I know people who were forced to take two weeks paid vacation because they've worked too much, and had to stop working a period to not break the law. The companies usually puts this in quiet periods when needed, so they have the option of overtime when they need it.

Seems to work well for us, at least :) You know, as a civilized country and all that.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (-1, Flamebait)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377337)

You mean as a country rich in oil and other natural resources. Not every country has that luxury, you smug son of a bitch.

This (1)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377387)

Wait 'till the oil runs out, just like the Saudis. Then what?

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377169)

I don't understand why such a naive question should be asked. The real caveat is that the person who works 50 hours per week is not paid at the level of 50-hour. At best he is paid at 45 hour. Most people who are putting 50 hours per week are white collar workers, not hourly workers. So the businesses are getting away from paying less. (Remember all the news about worker productivity?) I remember a few years ago I visited a friend in Silicon Valley. He told me he has to work half a day during the weekend. Why? because everybody showed up at least once on weekends. If you didn't want to do it, you were more than welcome to find another job. How sweet!

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377185)

Why? I'm from the UK.
I work a 37 hour week, we're all very much enjoying the rich western lifestyle.
All the money is in design, licensing and marketing. What use it a 60 hour week there?

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (4, Interesting)

darjen (879890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377441)

I am an American and I also work 37.5 hours a week. I work in the IT department of a large well known manufacturing company, and our hours are typically 8:30-5. And people here are almost always gone at 5. However, before this place I worked at a few different small consulting shops, and they worked tons of overtime. That is probably why I didn't last long in those places and ended up here.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377273)

Enough with the propaganda. I am 31 yo Greek in the IT industry and the last time i worked a 40 hour week was more than 4 years ago. Last month i worked 44 hours more than the (normal ?) 160 hour month. Right now (2012) my retirement will be when i turn 65, that is with the latest measures adopted 3 years ago. This age gets increased every couple of years. And even if i get to that age, the state will not be able to give me my pention because they gambled all the money the taxpayers have been paying for the last 20 years in stock markets and bonds around the world and lost. And surprise-surprise, most of the taxpayers in Greece do pay taxes because the tax ammount is being kept straight from our paychecks.
Educate yourself before opening your mouth and stop reciting what you hear from the news, guess what, most of it is lies.
And yeah, having time for yourself does increase your productivity in whatever business you are in to. Not so long ago and i do thin it was on slashdot, there were reports of VW blocking emails being forwarded to their emplyees blackberry because the thought that this did not allow for personal time and resulted in exausted and unhappy employees.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (3, Funny)

madhatter256 (443326) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377311)

No, no... America needs to work harder for lower pay!!! I mean it's working in all other countries, such as in southeast Asia and all other poor countries.. why no here??

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377319)

In Germany they don't retire at a Greek age (~50) but they do work shorter weeks. That's why their unemployment is low because the workers get just ~32 hours per week, forcing companies to hire more people. (Or so I've heard on RT's Capital Account.) Once the economy improves then the hours will rise again.

As for overtime here in the U.S. it might suck for employers but it works GREAT for my paycheck. I love the extra money overtime gives me (although it's actually straight time it still is nice to have the extra cash).

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377327)

If we're worked to death, does it really matter whether it's by people who speak English or Chinese? The only allegiance that really matters is worker solidarity.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377379)

If you adopt what you claim is the Greek model you might not like the result....
i.e working harder and more than any other European and getting paid less and still end up the joke of every foreigner who can't piece together information about what is really happening.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/44944435/Greeks_Work_Hard_So_Why_Is_There_a_Debt_Crisis

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (2)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377397)

Yes, we'd never compete with those other industrialized countries ... most of which mandate 40 hours a week or less.

If you're competing for jobs with unskilled Chinese farmers, you're doing it wrong.

-GiH

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377399)

Talk's cheap, go for it.

Re:That's what America needs to be competitive! (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377409)

Both good ideas. But it'd be hard to correlate them causally.

almighty dollar (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39376947)

1. It costs more to have two employees who work 40 hours each than one who works 80 hours.
2. The public has been convinced that it is more important to protect consumers by lowering prices than it is to protect workers by hiring more people.
3. ???
4. Profit!

Re:almighty dollar (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377103)

1 is untrue. The 80 hour employee is going to cost you much more. Paying for negative productivity is very expensive in the long run.

Re:almighty dollar (3, Insightful)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377271)

That's just not correct. The employer is not paying for negative productivity. The employee is welcome to burn himself out and the employer can just hire a new one. Employees are easy to get these days. Even ones with hard to get qualifications. There's more population than there is demand for labor. Expect this trend to continue and wealth to continue to concentrate in the hands of the capital holders.

Re:almighty dollar (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377421)

You've not looked at all of the local,state and federal laws pertaining to insurance and employment and how much of a hassle it is to fire the incompetent.

So true (4, Insightful)

onyx00 (145532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376959)

Mandatory overtime for like the last 3 years - it was fun until they stopped paying for any overtime. Only way I escaped was to work remote to pursue an MBA. And now what do I have to look forward to? Management Consulting or Investment Banking careers that have 60+ hour weeks as the norm.

Keep the 80 Hour Work week. For my Sake. (5, Funny)

sheehaje (240093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376961)

Please... Don't listen to this drivel. I have kids and an angry wife at home. I want to be at work 80 hours a week.

That's what corner bars were for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377043)

So you could hide out from your wife and get stupid with your friends.

Re:That's what corner bars were for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377309)

And that's what overtime is for -- so you can afford booze after your wife takes your regular pay.

Re:Keep the 80 Hour Work week. For my Sake. (3, Funny)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377089)

You can always work the 40 hours, then spend the other 40 somewhere else.

Re:Keep the 80 Hour Work week. For my Sake. (4, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377353)

Please... Don't listen to this drivel. I have kids and an angry wife at home. I want to be at work 80 hours a week.

Have you tried golf? You can swear all you want, and young, pretty women drive around the courses offering you beer. It's a win-win, and a lot better than being at work.

Re:Keep the 80 Hour Work week. For my Sake. (1)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377365)

May I suggest:

Hobbies
Charity work
Exercise!
Go back to school for an extra degree
Or, if you really want 80 hours, a second job.

-GiH

Meh (5, Insightful)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376965)

We can whine all we want about the 40 hour work week, but no one is willing to unionize in order to get back to it. Can you imagine a white collar middle-management union? People would rather put in 80 hours as an "assistant manager" at McBurger Queen rather than be classified in their own minds as a worker.

As for IT, goodness no. It would require a reshaping of the laws that have been created. There are many laws in place that keep IT workers down. The luddites couldn't dare have an intellectual revolution on their plates, after all.

Re:Meh (5, Informative)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377019)

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377257)

Examples of what? White collar middle-management unions? The laws that have been created? The luddites who wouldn't dare have an intellectual revolution on their plates?

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377037)

We don't need a union. All you have to do to work a 40 hour week is stop working overtime. And tell your boss you won't do it anymore. I know plenty of IT/software developers who work 40 hours weeks. The job market is great in IT right now. Seriously. If they did fire you (which they won't), you'll have no trouble finding another job.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377215)

I would love to tell this to my boss. However, she has her boot firmly on my neck and the job market sucks.

Re:Meh (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377299)

You can get PAID?!?! D8

Re:Meh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377109)

Unionize? What? I make it clear when I start a job that I will not work over 40 hours a week unless it's a once or twice a year occurrence. If an employer doesn't like that then they're free not to hire me. Considering I just landed a new job after noting this in each of my 5 interviews with the company (and all of the other interviews I went on elsewhere which netted me 4 other job offers) it doesn't seem to be much of a problem in my industry.

There is also the point of getting your work done. I'm efficient and good at what I do. I worked over 300 projects last year and got them done on an average of -3 days of projected deadline. I missed one deadline in the entire year and that was due to external forces. If I can handle that kind of work and push out 99.9% error free stuff, who the fuck cares if I don't work 40+?

I have worked with plenty of inefficient people who spend a good chunk of their day socializing, taking 1+ hour lunches daily, or who simply aren't all that great at what they do. These are the people who seem to end up "just having to work 40+ hours to get it all done".

Stop fucking around and do your job and go home. Coupled with clear expectations at the outset we won't need to have articles like this one written.

Re:Meh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377381)

Over 300 projects last year?
How do you call a one or two day task a project?

What do you work with? I'm just curious to know.

Re:Meh (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377281)

willing to unionize

Fox News told me that's Socialism!

Re:Meh (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377427)

willing to unionize

Fox News told me that's Socialism!

It is.

What Faux News failed to tell you is that socialism isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Healthcare (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39376971)

Until we have a health care system that is not tied to employment, this will never happen. It is MUCH cheaper for an employer to squeeze more hours out of several workers than to higher an additional worker.

Should Have Stopped at Productivity (4, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376987)

The argument in the summary should have stopped at using the argument based on productivity. If your worker will make less mistakes and be more productive by working less, you want your worker to work about 40 hours.

"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."

This, however, doesn't follow. If a 40 hour a week worker is more productive I might not need the extra worker if I'm getting more from my team. However, that may mean I can put my capital to better use in a different area, not necessarily software development.

Re:Should Have Stopped at Productivity (-1, Troll)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377123)

Not to mention that much of the unemployment situation's not due to the article author's supposition (nor would doing what he claims FIX the problem...) but more due to many illegals taking positions and companies offshoring work.

Re:Should Have Stopped at Productivity (1, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377385)

Not to mention that much of the unemployment situation's not due to the article author's supposition (nor would doing what he claims FIX the problem...) but more due to many illegals taking positions and companies offshoring work.

And THAT has been demonstrated to be patently false.

The unemployment rate is because of a skills mismatch, not outsourcing, or people working over time or any of the other BS. Its very simple, really: too many underqualified people, too many people thinking they're more qualified than they are, and too few qualified people. The jobs that tend to have a lot of illegal workers are jobs that the business owners typically can't get Americans to do, because people seem to have some sense that society owes them something for nothing.

Re:Should Have Stopped at Productivity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377255)

You kind of missed it in your second paragraph.. You're NOT getting more from your 50 hour/week team of 4.. the books may say 50 per person, but the quality may be something like 30 - 40. The article is saying 40 hours of quality work is worth way more than 50 hours of crappy work.

Re:Should Have Stopped at Productivity (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377363)

The author also assumes that all man-hours are interchangeable. Someone with experience working an extra two hours on a project he's been tending all day is apparently only as productive as a new kid just starting his shift, groggy from sleep and unaware of the project's current state.

Then of course there's the issues of which industry you're working in, attitude, office politics, and so forth. Articles such as this one often consider all the many unemployed able people as interchangeable, but they really aren't. While so many people are looking for work, there are also many companies looking for employees already - the requirements of the two sets just don't overlap often enough to eliminate unemployment.

Re:Should Have Stopped at Productivity (1)

sureshot007 (1406703) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377403)

"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."

This, however, doesn't follow. If a 40 hour a week worker is more productive I might not need the extra worker if I'm getting more from my team. However, that may mean I can put my capital to better use in a different area, not necessarily software development.

Think of it this way:

2 employees working 50 hours = 20 hours of overtime, paid at 1.5x = 1 guy getting paid for 30 hours of time.
Let's also assume that the 2 employees are 90% as efficient for the overtime, so they only produce 18 hours worth of work during that period.

So, essentially, you could pay 2 people for 18 hours of work, or you could pay an extra guy the same rate for 30 hours of work.

The only viable argument against this is the idea of employee costs concerning taxes and benefits. In that case, I could see a government tax break for companies that don't pay any overtime, given the idea that they would then hire more people to fill in, and then their income tax would actually be more - not to mention the fact that they'd be off unemployment and such.

Re:Should Have Stopped at Productivity (2)

IcyHando'Death (239387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377429)

Good catch. In fact, depending on how much more productive your 4 workers are at 40 hours per week, maybe you can even let one of them go.

no (5, Insightful)

ronpaulisanidiot (2529418) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376995)

we will let the market decide what the proper work week is for our workers. it solves all that ails. workers who cannot keep up will die and be replaced by those who can.

Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39376999)

France made the work week 35 hours long, with the expected (advertised ?) benefit of creating jobs.
People just have more free time, but do in 35h what they did in 39 before. Often meaning less coffee breaks, etc. But overall, employment did not move a bit.

But this is also a particular situation, and not simply transferable to other countries/economies as the cost for employers in France is much higher in France than it is in the US, I think, and the Work Law (and all social benefits that came in in periods of economic growth) is probably hindering the process of reducing unemployment.

Re:Well... (3, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377095)

In the UK it wasn't far off that.

It wasn't statutory, but the average working week for a software guy was around 37 hours. Sure, we were paid less than in the US, but we weren't expected to be there all hours, we got five weeks of holiday a year which we were expected to take, and well, life was good.

Not quite as good as Australia. Australia is currently swimming in mining money, so the salaries are as good as the US but the hours are European.

Falls for the "Mythical Man-Month" trap (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377003)

This facile analysis falls for the trap, so brilliantly outlined in The Mythical Man-Month [wikipedia.org] , that throwing more people at the same software problem will result in increased productivity. Because of networking and communication problems, the reverse is often true. While I don't doubt the problems of overtime are a serious issue (and should be minimized), the reality also is that his "cure" isn't. It continues to amaze me how people know so little of our own history in this realm.

You! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377017)

Come down here and talk to my boss, he thinks that working 12 hours shifts, 4 days on 4 days off and rotating between 07:00-19:00 two weeks days and then 19:00-07:00 two weeks nights will increase productivity!

You think they don't know? they know. They don't care.

Mandates are the issue (5, Interesting)

DEFFENDER (469046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377023)

Lets move away from an hour based work schedule to a task and accomplishment based work/pay system. Base salary and flexible hours. Penalties for work not completed or as a corrective measure. We don't measure lives in hours, why should our job's measure what we do for them in hours?

Mandating an "hours per week" for employee's is the problem, not the solution.

Re:Mandates are the issue (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377157)

We don't measure lives in hours? I'll remember not to celebrate my next birthday.

Re:Mandates are the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377211)

Lets move away from an hour based work schedule to a task and accomplishment based work/pay system. Base salary and flexible hours. Penalties for work not completed or as a corrective measure. We don't measure lives in hours, why should our job's measure what we do for them in hours?

Mandating an "hours per week" for employee's is the problem, not the solution.

We are basically already there; the expectation isn't that you will simply be present for 10 hours of overtime every week, it's that you will get x project done by y date no matter how much you have to work to do it (thus justifying the salary from now to y as compensation for x project). And honestly, I have witnessed way too many "workers" kill hours a week on Slashdot, or other even more inane news sites, or programming stupid microblogs, or yakking with their buddies, to ever think that the majority of jobs involving OT do indeed *require* 50 hours of work a week; it's merely what happens when poor management collides with inefficient workers.

Do your job effectively, work for a manager who realizes what that really means, and profit. Otherwise, just get used to the OT.

Re:Mandates are the issue (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377277)

Easy to abuse. There'd be a lot of arguing over what 'completed' means. Plenty of employers would assign a task, get back a perfectly good result, then declare it substandard and unuseable anyway just to avoid paying. What is the employee going to so, spend more than they'd have earned in legal fees to sue for breach of contract? If they quit, plenty more to hire.

Less work, more life (5, Insightful)

MrDiablerie (533142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377027)

In European counties such as Denmark where on the whole the standard of living and quality of life are better than the US, people work less than we do. They have more time with their families enjoying life instead of killing themselves at the office. Americans are trained to feel like they have to overwork in order to get ahead, we should really strive towards following the European model.

there is X-hour week, there is Y-projects job (5, Interesting)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377033)

I worked in IT since 1986 and I have never had any fixed hours or overtime. It has always been about performance - how much you do.

Fixating on one factor that affects productivity is stupid. Let people decided themselves. If someone can do more in 40 hours than in 80 hours - fine. Let him do it. If someone wants to work 80 hours, fine let him doing. Ask about project progress, not how many hours he was logged in or occupied the chair.

Unless you are talking about Chrysler shop in Detroit.

Re:there is X-hour week, there is Y-projects job (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377199)

At many places (Google for example) your performance rating will be about 90% hours, 10% what you got done in those hours. It's a perception game, created by the lack of effective metrics for productivity other than hours.

Re:there is X-hour week, there is Y-projects job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377439)

Really? When I interned at Google two summers ago the full timers in my cube were popping out constantly to go out or whatever. They still got an amazing amount done, mind you. Now I wasn't reading their performance reviews, but even so it sounds like we had very different experiences. I had just graduated from undergrad and was amazed how much less work the real world was than college.

One small problem... (2)

whysanity (231556) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377041)

I don't expect many people would disagree with the assessment, except those pesky "people" called corporations. For many companies, their workforce is paid a flat salary and any concept of "overtime" doesn't mean more money paid out, let alone time and a half.

To hire an extra worker for those extra hours means spending more money, something that does not align with the capitalistic goal of earning as much as possible.

Re:One small problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377239)

That's why the productivity angle is important. If you are paying 3 people $50,000 a year (example only) to work, and they are at X productivity/hour working 70 hours a week, but would be at 2x productivity/hour (however you want to define *that* messy concept) working 40 hours a week, then you need to reduce their hours. Remember, its an efficiency equation. Now in reality, I don't know that it's that simple. But think about it.
for a 70 hour week, at x productivity, 3 people end up with a total of 210 production.
but if the 40 hour week makes them produces 2x, then they would actually end up producing 2x*3*40=240 production.

The company wouldn't need to hire an extra person, and they would end up ahead. Now I don't know that it's ever this simple. There are probably some situations where productivity per hour is doubled by cutting back to 40 (or perhaps 35) hours a week, but generally I'd guess not unless things are really bad. But what if cutting back only gave you 1.5x?

Then remember the 70 hour week ended up with 210 production, but now the 40 hour week becomes: 1.5x * 3 * 40= 180 production.

Given that scenario, the 40 hour week isn't quite as good, so you'd need to figure out the optimal number of hours to hit the ideal productivity per hour based on your employees situation. The problem is that this isn't a static or even linear number in all likelihood. So if we are at 1.5x for 40 hours, are we only at 1.2x for 45? How about 35? or 50? hard to say, and without actually changing the hours and seeing what happens, there's no way to be certain.

50% overheads suggest working employees harder (4, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377071)

rather than hiring new employees. Why incur the cost of more overhead then? The largest overhead is medical benefits, about $10K a family. then comes other benefits, office space, computers, etc.

35 hour week here (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377077)

I'm on a 35 hour week and I make sure I stick to it, partly because I don't know when I'll ever be on one again but also because I'm of the opinion that after 7 or so hours in front of a screen your ability think logically diminishes and no amount of over-time is going to fix the bug.

Leave the office, the chances are that you'll figure out the problem on your commute home, during dinner or on the john and you can fix it the following day.

Understanding the reasons (5, Insightful)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377079)

I've found there are three main reasons why people may end up working beyond their contracted hours:

1) The work that they have to do cannot be done during the hours they are contracted to work.

2) The work that they have to do can be done during the hours they are contracted to work, but the organisational or office culture puts pressure on people to be seen to be in the office outside those hours.

3) They have their own reasons for wanting to be working, which may range from a genuine passion for their work through to problems at home they would rather get away from.

Of these, 3) is generally not something the employer/manager should get involved in (unless home problems are starting to bleed over into the office).

I think that in most non-militant workplaces, people accept that 1) will occur from time to time and that, if it's for short periods, it's not a huge problem (particularly if the employer takes steps to recognise it and reward employees accordingly, be it financially, via time-in-lieu, or some other method). If it's not for short periods, then it absolutely will lead to morale and productivity problems and the employer/manager needs to think again about resourcing, or accept high staff turnover and problems with the quality of their outputs. This seems to be an endemic problem in certain industries (such as video games development) which are seen by outsiders as desirable places to work - meaning that there are always lots of eager young things waiting in the wings to replace burn-outs.

I suspect that the most common cause, however, is 2). Certainly, in the decade or so that I've been in full-time employment, I've come across quite a few offices where the work could be handled within contracted hours, but where the nature of the workplace culture meant that people were "padding" their working day; making tasks take longer than needed, or spending lots of time browsing the web in the afternoon. It's particularly noticable that workplaces like this seem to prize "being at your desk late in an evening" over "being there early in the morning". In part, I blame the shift to open-plan offices for this - there can be a "walk of shame" factor to leaving the office when your colleagues are still at their desks.

In one of my early management posts, I did try to tackle a culture like this in the office I was managing. I made a big thing about tracking how heavily loaded each team-member was and getting people to report when their workload reached the point where it would require them to work out of hours. I also made it gently but firmly clear that if your workload wasn't at that point, I expected you to get it done during normal office hours (happily, there was a wider organisational push at the time to reduce our power/lighting bills, which I could hook that onto).

For a while, it worked reasonably well. There was a bit of grumbling from a couple of people who, I suspect, thought that being seen in the office doing very long hours was a substitute for being any good at their job, but most people were happy to go along with it - and the quality of the office's work (which was mostly casework, requiring little creativity, but a lot of attention to detail) actually rose.

Then word got out (falsely, as it happened) that there may be redundancies headed in - and despite reassurances to the contrary, everybody assumed that they way to avoid being singled out was to be seen in the office every hour of the day - so all the work I'd done went to waste anyway. Overnight, things went back to being as bad as ever - and productivity fell off again.

Managament can be a pita at times.

Ugh (1)

evann (667628) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377117)

Reading about economics and business on slashdot is an exercise in face palming.

Untold profits? Hiring someone new will cost money and when business slows you can just fire that person? That is not how you profit . It is not that easy.

You can hire temps perhaps but for most operations they will not be up to speed quickly enough. But wait....You could outsource to a place that does not have restrictions on the work environment and then you could keep up the low prices for Mr and Mrs while complying with some new work hour regulation!

I may complain. Actually I complain a lot. But in the end I could settle for less and find a new job. Or I could be a bum. There's a whole lot of options in between. I guess I'm saying I would prefer to have the freedom to choose to be a bum rather than have more and more regulations from the government when it's just not that easy.

on a side note, i did not rtfa, I am not sure if government regulation was mentioned at all in another comment either. That is just the endgame for ideas like this and I just hate reading about business topics on slashdot.

...huh? (0)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377121)

Where in this magical world do you have the problem of too much overtime?
Most everywhere I look, I see people getting shafted with 20- hours, not 40+.

It's not always the bosses (4, Interesting)

a2wflc (705508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377125)

In my current job it is the bosses :)

But I've been in many jobs where it's the workers. Where workers constantly and repeatedly overcommit (I can do this in 4 weeks). Then the customer is waiting and the boss (not unreasonably) expects the date to be met. The boss could do better at limiting this but the workers do usually deliver then commit again.

In other places, a few workers want to "get ahead" or just enjoy what they're doing and work more hours. Many of these people CAN and want to work 60 hours (actually around 50 is the limit I've seen and there's less productivity increase doing more month-after-month). The problem is that other worker start to try this to compete for the next promotion - and they can't do it.

Re:It's not always the bosses (4, Insightful)

Scutter (18425) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377351)

In my current job it is the bosses :)

But I've been in many jobs where it's the workers. Where workers constantly and repeatedly overcommit (I can do this in 4 weeks). Then the customer is waiting and the boss (not unreasonably) expects the date to be met. The boss could do better at limiting this but the workers do usually deliver then commit again.

In other places, a few workers want to "get ahead" or just enjoy what they're doing and work more hours. Many of these people CAN and want to work 60 hours (actually around 50 is the limit I've seen and there's less productivity increase doing more month-after-month). The problem is that other worker start to try this to compete for the next promotion - and they can't do it.

Then it's STILL the boss's fault. The manager's job is to manage his people, and if they're routinely committing to deadlines that require massive overtime to meet, then he's not managing them effectively.

as long as they don't bring back the long turn (1)

vurian (645456) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377139)

Like the steel industry in Pittsburgh had. One week of 10 hour night shifts, 24 hours off, one week of 14 hour day shifts and a 24 hour shift to switch back to the night shift... See http://www.clpgh.org/exhibit/ptpa.html [clpgh.org] -- it was so good for productivitiy!

Um, No (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377145)

If by "bring back", you mean force companies to limit the hours of workers that want overtime, and forcing companies to hire more workers (and the attendant tax and insurance cost increases that would bring), then hell no.

From the article: "Yes, this flies in the face of everything modern management thinks it knows about work"

So, yeah, by all means, let's ignore them and do what someone on AlterNet says instead. Business will be booming, then.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but... (1)

Dishmopo (1582869) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377161)

If overtime truly resulted in negative productivity, wouldn't that spur job growth, rather than depress it?

Right after you tell your boss this.... (1, Interesting)

BLKMGK (34057) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377163)

He will begin talking to you about his ideas for a proposed pay cut for staff so that more can be hired. Still want to do this?

People are not Fungible (3, Informative)

thepainguy (1436453) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377165)

The idea that you could end unemployment by spreading the work around assumes that people are fungible -- that they are completely interchangeable -- which they most certainly aren't. While it may sound like a good idea for Craig and Nate to share the job of coding System X, the fact is that Nate is 10X better at programming than Craig is.

In fact, it's arguable whether Craig can even do the job at all.

Re:People are not Fungible (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377331)

There is that.

There is also the fact that not all industries are equal.

a 5 day or less work week is highly desirable for any field, however anything less than 10 hours a day in construction loses a LOT of productivity unless its a huge project(I.E. Hanging drywall in an apartment building for 20 days straight etc)

If there is any thinking involved, IE carpentry & finishing work, its way worse to have an 8 hour day. The guys will, regardless of the length of the work day, spend approximately 1 hour in the morning figuring out exactly how they're going to do everything for the day, and then about 30 minutes after they've had a lunch break recalling /refiguring everything they were going to do for the afternoon.

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Big Corporations Reply (4, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377229)

I have good news.

The CEOs of the fortune 500 companies have all just met and decided they are going to push for a 40 hour work week. The only slight catch is- they're pushing for a week to be redefined as 3 days long and weekends are being abolished.

How dare! (2, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377231)

How dare these people suggest that the One Percent must hire 20 percent more development staff and cut further into their already meager profits! Just who do they think they are?

Logical fallacy mars othwise interesting argument/ (1)

AxeMurder (1795476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377241)

While the article has some interesting points I find it very hard to take completely seriously due to some fallacious logic. "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." This seems to assume that the cost of another employee working 40 hours a week would be identical to the cost saved by cutting the first four employees down to 40 hours. Here's a few problems with that: Even if you are paying the original employees overtime it's still probably cheaper to keep paying them than hiring/training/providing a desk for/medical etc. Also if you decide you need to cut back a little bit it's much easier to end the overtime than it is to fire somebody (which can be fairly expensive). Finally my previous argument may not even apply since the first four may be salaried and not being paid any extra. All that said the increasingly large number of hours worked by people worries me, I just wish the article didn't stick in little bits like this that don't add up. I at least, find this sort of fallacy incredibly damaging towards the article's credibility.

Contradictory summary (4, Insightful)

N1AK (864906) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377253)

This has got to be one of the most obviously nonsensical submission summaries I have seen. Firstly it talks about how people would get more work done if they didn't do overtime. Then it suggests that overtime is responsible for cutting down number of jobs. The second points very existence relies on the first point being false. If people doing 40 hrs are more effective then less overtime would increase the work done per person and thus decrease the need to employ more people.

More people but no full time classified workers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377289)

This way employeers could eliminate things like health care, 401K, etc.

This is BS... or so ! (1)

fluffythedestroyer (2586259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377293)

That study is over 100 year old. Lots of things changed from 1909 to this year ya know. Second thing is I feel fine after 40 hours and this means I can still work more than 40 hours but this is not for everyone I agree. Personally this depends on your type of jobs as certain jobs are very demanding. Also theres the income tax situation. If you do overhours, in my province anyway, you pay more income tax so in my situation it's not worth it so i don't work more than 42 hours because of that. If it wasn't that case, i would glady work more than 40. But because this article is based on that 1909 text, i don't fully agree with it. But it has some good facts though.

The Irony (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377301)

If workers were extremely efficient, then employers would need fewer of them. You might reply that employers could use the efficiency to grow faster and use more workers. However, you assume that the managers would be as proficient at managing complexity (a larger organization) as the employees were at working. That is another tread and a far more unreachable goal.

35 hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377307)

Meanwhile, from a civilized country, I prefer my 35 hour work week.

In other words, unionize (4, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377323)

We will not turn this situation around until we do what our 19th-century ancestors did: confront our bosses, present them with the data, and make them understand that what they are doing amounts to employee abuse — and that abuse is based on assumptions that are directly costing them untold potential profits."

He left out the actual means used to do this - unionization.

Don't agree with the math (1)

Ollabelle (980205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377325)

Whatever the arguments of this post, the statement that 4 people working 50 hours equals 5 people working 40 hours doesn't work.

Costs of health insurance and other items that are incurred for each employee don't extend to working more hours. Such costs run at least 25 percent and can be as much as 40 percent. And as just one more example, consider the costs of finding and hiring that next employee.

Before you start extrapolating how to spread work across more employees, consider the added costs of hiring that next person. This is why companies are reluctant to incur those costs until they are sure those costs will be recovered over the long term.

This is totaly not my case (0)

KurtisKiesel (905982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377341)

I am in charge of IT at my office; staff under me are paid hourly, this has been dictated down from our human resource department. HR keeps telling me that there are new regulations not allowing IT staff to be exempt from overtime as salary employees because of massive abuse in the IT field. They also are telling me that oversight organizations are heavily monitoring for abuse. Additionally, HR forces me to have my staff get overtime approved 2 weeks in advance. I think HR read some random article somewhere and is turning opinion into fact, but I am not an expert in the salary field. I have great staff, but technically when we have a service fail late at night and my Senior Engineer restarts the service remotely we are breaking all sorts of internal rules. It is my wish to move all non-tier one staff to exempt salaries, but I need information to combat HR’s ‘they have to be hourly’ stance. Anyone out there an expert on these rules that could explain them in a comment?

It doesn't work that way unfortunately (1, Informative)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377369)

"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."

Unfortunately this isn't reality. Its not just the FTE and the Salary for said person, but the benefits package, bonuses, physical space, equipment (blue or white collar), and a host of various other things of the sort that an employeer has to take on the books. Add it all up and its often cheaper for the employeer to expect 4 people to work overtime. Please don't come back with the "well if the other four accept a little less benefits, etc...to allow for the fifth" arguement. Personally not interested in socialism.

What about looking at vacation instead (2)

masteva (996554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377445)

How about instead of focusing on eliminating the 40 hour work week we look at the vacation time given instead. Germany is probably the best example of this, given they get a lot of paid vacation time and are STILL one of the best off countries in Europe!
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