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Your 60-Hour Work Week Is Not a Badge of Honor 717

Posted by Soulskill
from the unless-you're-part-of-a-really-terrible-branch-of-the-boy-scouts dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We've all had to deal with long, tough work weeks, whether it's coming in on the weekend to meet a project deadline, pulling all-nighters to resolve a crisis, or the steady accretion of overtime in a death march. It's fairly common in the tech sector for employees to hold these tough weeks up as points of pride; something good they achieved or survived. But Jeff Archibald writes that this is the wrong way to think of it. 'If you're working 60 hours a week, something has broken down organizationally. You are doing two people's jobs. You aren't telling your boss you're overworked (or maybe he/she doesn't care). You are probably a pinch point, a bottleneck. You are far less productive. You are frantically swimming against the current, just trying to keep your head above water. ... We need to stop being proud of overworking ourselves.'"
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Your 60-Hour Work Week Is Not a Badge of Honor

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  • American poor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @03:58PM (#46256003)

    Or you are poor in America, working 3 part-time minimum jobs 60+h a week just to pay for food and housing with nothing left over at end of the week.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm from Eastern Europe, and I can't believe that 40-hours a week jobs in America can't feed and house you. I guess it really depends on your expectations about the house and the food.

      But since everyone around you has a nice house and car, it would be shameful if you don't - especially if you're married, because then it would be shameful for your wife and children, too. So you're overworking yourself for status in society, so that people don't look down upon you and your family.

      • by sjames (1099) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @05:13PM (#46256461) Homepage

        Believe it! That's why Walmart and McDonald's HR include people to help you get food stamps. They know they don't pay well enough to actually live. The expectations are food that is legal to buy for human consumption and housing that hasn't been condemned as uninhabitable.

        The car thing is seriously variable. Housing where public transportation is available tends to cost more than housing without it, but then you need a car.

        • by Tom (822) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @06:22PM (#46256805) Homepage Journal

          Unfortunately, it's not a USA thing anymore, you've successfully exported it to at least Europe.

          Here in Germany, more than one million employees are receiving a special form of unemployment benefits, because without it they would actually earn less than the unemployment benefits are. That's just insane, and the solution to compensate for the difference with tax money is so psychotic that it is my honest believe each and every one of the politicians who came up with that should be put into a closed mental institution and kept there for life.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            There's an Swedish radical socialist song about this from 1972, by a band called Blå Tåget: "Each hand knows what the other does" (which of course, is a clever title in Swedish). Below is a somewhat crappy translation (the original fits a rhyme scheme, and a metre).

            "The capital raises the rents, and the state the rent benefits
            In this way one fiddle with the Iron Law of Wages
            and even pay less wages than the price of food and rent,
            for the state merrily pitches in should the living expens
        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          Believe it! That's why Walmart and McDonald's HR include people to help you get food stamps. They know they don't pay well enough to actually live. The expectations are food that is legal to buy for human consumption and housing that hasn't been condemned as uninhabitable.

          The car thing is seriously variable. Housing where public transportation is available tends to cost more than housing without it, but then you need a car.

          A severe manifestation of how the wealthiest have passed along tax burden to the rest of us. This allows them to have most of us subsidize their profits. And pay a higher percentage of our salaries as taxes.

          Sweet deal if you can get it.

          • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @02:18AM (#46258357)

            Our policies could learn something from the military (at least the Canadian army where I served): shareholders shouldn't get profits until the people generating the profits have a livelihood. When I served the troops eat first. Then the sergeants, then the officers. If the food ran out or you ran out of time etc. too bad for the higher ups. A similar pecking order can be seen in a lot of religious groups, leaders are meant to be the first of the servants not the reason why the whole thing exists.

        • by schlachter (862210) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @10:34PM (#46257789)

          Well, that's all of us subsidising these corporations to pay lower wages through our taxes and gov services through our social services. People shouldn't put up with that. I'm in favor of needed social services, but not so that companies can pass the buck.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Indeed it can. the Bureau of Labor reports that the percentage of people that are poor in the US AND working at least 1000 hours per year is just 4%. Considering a full time year is 2000 hours, the % of those that are poor and working full time is practically 0.

        Also, the average hours worked a week for a poor person in the US is 16.

        So, being poor in the US is largely because you can't find work.

    • Re:American poor (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AmazingRuss (555076) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @05:22PM (#46256521)

      Or you are middle class, and can't quit your job because you took out a huge loan to pay 3 times too much for a house.

  • Your Boss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:01PM (#46256015)

    Doesn't want to hear it. Its his fault you are working 60 hour weeks instead of the business hiring another worker. He approved it, he is aware of it, and he could give half a shit as long as you keep working. You get sick? Not his fault. You get burned out, well you should have taken steps to prevent that but still stayed and worked to get things done.

    You will never win. If you are working 60 hour weeks and want to stop doing so, just stop. Take a day and do some interviews, find another job. Cause the second you stop giving 150%, they are going to fire you anyways.

    The corporation has no loyalty to its employees. You can all be replaced. What YOU need to start doing, is to think of the corporation as being replaceable. Shop around, find a better deal, and take it for a couple years, then shop around again, find a better deal, and take it. You owe them nothing, they need you, not the other way around. You can leave all this and buy land and subsistence farm and sell produce to city-dwellers for the rest of your life if you want. The corporation cannot, it dies without workers.

    Never forget, they need you. To work for them. To buy from them. Stop doing both and they die. Its that simple.

    • Re:Your Boss (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:19PM (#46256113)

      In addition to the above, as overhead per worker goes up, the pressure to not hire a second worker will go up. Until overtime costs more than overhead, the company has a strong incentive to not hire another worker. This is especially true for salaried professionals who get the same pay no matter how long they work each week. A lot more programmers and developers on salaries should be demanding hourly wages, with overtime pay based on best estimates of a companies per-worker, per-hour overhead costs, and should be greater than that cost.

    • The corporation has no loyalty to its employees. You can all be replaced. What YOU need to start doing, is to think of the corporation as being replaceable. Shop around, find a better deal, and take it for a couple years, then shop around again, find a better deal, and take it. You owe them nothing, they need you, not the other way around.

      The way I say it, be loyal to people, not to corporations. The corporation will fire you in an instant, but people are real.

      I've stuck around at companies longer than I needed to, just so my coworkers wouldn't have so much trouble picking up after me. I don't regret it.

    • Re:Your Boss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:49PM (#46256305)

      Whenever my boss demands I work more than 40 hours per week I do so, but I spend 50% of the time just sitting around doing nothing* and taking 1 hour lunches.
      Like I give a fuck. Don't like it? Fire me.
      I work so I can afford to do other stuff. If I don't have time to do that stuff what the fuck is the point of working so hard?

      * Note that here I'm assuming regular demands of working more than 8 hours per day. Not a week long rush to get things ready for release.

      • by houghi (78078)

        Wherever my boss asks me to do overtime, I do so and get payed 150%. So my boss sees to it that overtime is not needed.
        If I do not take all my holidays, I will loose almost all the money that I would get as payed holiday, so I don't do that. This means he needs to hire 3 people if he wants to get 120 hours of work in instead of 2.

        The people who do overtime (managers, directors) are compensated for it.

        Oh yeah, I have three unions I can choose from (that I know of) and my boss doesn't care if I am in a union,

    • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @09:43PM (#46257631)
      Long hours make sense during maintainance shutdowns, tight change windows or when things go seriously wrong. It's only making a habit of it that's the problem.
      However it's not something you should do for free.
    • Sounds great but people get stuck. You move to a medium sized town with what you think will be a great job. For a couple years it is. You get married have kids, buy a house etc. Now it is hell. You can piss away half a years salary on relocation expenses, get your wife to leave her job and hope she can find something wherever your going that is comparible, relocate kids etc. Or you are tied down geographically because of family reasons (parents getting older etc). Either way "just get another job" only work

  • by sottitron (923868) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:02PM (#46256021)
    ...is the type that is always *talking* about how much they work, but they are out the door at 4:00 and are never online or responding to emails in the evenings.
  • Umm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:03PM (#46256027) Journal
    I'm amazed that he managed to get through that entire essay without mentioning the proverbial elephant in the room: Unless you are working on a project you own, or being paid as befits your schedule (in which case it still may be a bad idea for the reasons the essay does mention) your 60-hour workweek isn't merely 'not a badge of honor' it's a sign that you are doing two jobs for one salary because haha, what the fuck are you going to do about it, sucker?

    The merely pragmatic considerations of fatigue degrading certain cognitive functions of various important sorts aren't false, and may even be the primary concern in the cases of self-employed contractors and startup jockeys with equity stakes(that they might even keep after the VCs are finished with them...); but if you are working for a paycheck and reporting to a boss, your bigger problem isn't whether working those additional hours makes you a less visionary creative or whatever. It's the fact that your effective pay, per hour, is plummeting (and in the way that annihilates your life outside of work, and sucks you dry, rather than just making you feel poorer, as working 40 hours for a stagnant or declining salary would).

    Probably good practice for the bold future!
  • GDP (Score:4, Informative)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:04PM (#46256033)

    US Per Capita GDP is 51,704. French per capita GDP is 35,392. Americans work about 200 hours more per year.

    • Re:GDP (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:12PM (#46256077)

      Average American monthly wage is $3769. Average French monthly wage is $3698. Even though they're working about 15 hours less per month.

      • Average American monthly wage is $3769. Average French monthly wage is $3698. Even though they're working about 15 hours less per month.

        This sort of thing is so difficult to measure, because it's hard to separate all the variables. Any time you see a raw number like this, you know the person telling you is either an idiot or spreading propaganda.

        Consider some of the issues:
        *) It should really be measured by hour of work, not month of work, although you took that into consideration, most people don't.
        *) Make sure you somehow are aware of the people who can't find a job, making $0 a month. Should they be counted?
        *) It shouldn't be measu

    • Re:GDP (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:25PM (#46256139)

      More intersting countries to investigate:

      Luxembourg and Denmark; Much greater per capita GDP than the USA / shorter working week.

      Greece and Mexico; Some of the longest working hours. Much less GDP than the USA.

    • Re:GDP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:29PM (#46256169)

      ...and the french have a longer and healthier life, as W.H.O.'s data prove. And they are also far slimmer and better looking.

      Working 60 hrs a week is just stupid, stupid, stupid. It causes heart diseases, fast aging, stomach problems, etc...

      People who work so much should be mocked and laughed at, rather than respected for it.

    • Re:GDP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ElementOfDestruction (2024308) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:46PM (#46256277)
      Complete bollocks. Americans get 0 weeks of vacation, French have mandated 6. There's your difference, ignoring the differences in hours per week.

      Also take into account the fact that the US Per Capita GDP is extremely bloated; median income is near equal.
    • by Guppy06 (410832)

      That might mean something if the US and France had similar wealth distribution. The average American may produce more but certainly doesn't get to keep it.

  • by Old VMS Junkie (739626) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:09PM (#46256053)
    ... my BS meter begins to go off the scale. While I've done my fair share of brutal weeks (I'm an IT guy), it's been my experience that 99% of people who claim that they regularly work 60 hrs a week are full of crap. If you work an extra hour a day, and then put in five more over the weekend, you're still only at 50. You need to work five ten hour days and then STILL put in ten more hours over the weekend. Humans just aren't built for that. When people have boasted that in interviews, I've drilled into them and I'll get excuses like, "I was on call, so even though I wasn't actually working, I was still working..." or "Technically I have a home office so when I drive every day, I count my commute..." or "Well, it was 60 hours for the last three weeks before go live, but before that it was 45-50!" Yes, there are legitimate workaholics that do 60 hours a week. Average Joes doing it? Rarely.
    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:25PM (#46256135) Homepage Journal

      Twice I've put in 3 consecutive 80 hour weeks. And both times, as soon as the deadline was passed and everything signed off, I basically collapsed and slept for most of the next 2 days.

      I certainly couldn't do anything close to that on an ongoing basis, not even when I was younger, fitter, and considerably dafter.

    • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:25PM (#46256141)

      Yes, there are legitimate workaholics that do 60 hours a week. Average Joes doing it? Rarely.

      Maybe true in IT. But other fields like law, medicine, finance? The common perception is that when you're starting out as an intern or assistant, the way you get ahead is working 12 hours days or weekends or whatnot.

      There have been recent stories [nytimes.com] of Wall Street firms trying to get people to stay home on Sundays. (The assumption being, of course, that everyone has to work on Saturdays.)

      Thankfully, some physicians have finally started speaking out about the grueling hazing done on residents and young doctors at hospitals, where insanely long hours actually put lives at risk. [dailymail.co.uk]

      Maybe other professions can finally start catching on....

    • Yes, there are legitimate workaholics that do 60 hours a week.

      But they aren't going to stick around to leisurely tell you about it.

    • K-12 teachers do it all the time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Penguinisto (415985)

        K-12 teachers do it all the time.

        As a former teacher, I can tell you right now that the claim is bullshit. For three months of the year, they're not working at all (unless they volunteer for summer school or suchlike, for which they get extra pay). Then we get to remove the snow days, weekends, holidays, the occasional bi-annual NEA-goaded strike, etc. On the adding portion, there are PTA meetings, and suchlike, but they don't really make up for much.

        By the time you're done removing all that, it comes down to 32 weeks a year or so of actua

        • by dbIII (701233)

          For three months of the year, they're not working at all

          In my state a lot of them were fired before the holidays and reappointed after them to avoid the countries four weeks paid annual leave rule for full time employees. Of course some of them didn't come back. Nothing to worry the people in power though - they still getting to keep those that have no chance getting a job elsewhere and those are the ones that won't rock the boat.

    • I don't doubt there are people (young, single, apartment renters) who spend 60 hours a week at work, but I suspect that all those 60 hours aren't spent actually producing a work product.

      There's a lot of time spent in IT waiting. Waiting for builds. Waiting for downloads. Waiting for installs, updates, restores, data transfer from box A to box B. And waiting is just one category -- there's yakking with co-workers, Google searches for work-related information that end up in some Wikipedia page 6 times rem

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "I don't doubt there are people (young, single, apartment renters) who spend 60 hours a week at work, but I suspect that all those 60 hours aren't spent actually producing a work product."

        So you argument says 'You don't believe it, and if people say it is happening, it's not happening"

        Well done, sharp thinker!

        "There's a lot of time spent in IT waiting. Waiting for builds. Waiting for downloads. Waiting for installs, updates, restores, data transfer from box A to box B. And waiting is just one category -- th

    • by hey! (33014)

      Oh, it's not that hard to put in a sixty hour week at work, it's just not the same thing as working 60 hours per week, which is admittedly very, very difficult. People confuse the two, in part because it's so much easier to measure hours with butt in chair than hours working.

  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:10PM (#46256059)

    As I said then [slashdot.org].

    We just have a generally messed-up attitude toward work and "getting ahead" in the U.S. There may be many proximate causes, but nothing's going to change until you fix the overall cultural attitude.

    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      Yes, the biggest problem with the culture is including time spent in meetings as counting as "work". let's face it, it isn't. Sitting in a room with a bunch of other people, bored out of your skull and having to listen to a bunch of agenda items until it's your "5 minutes of fame" to recite your status report (probably the same as the last one - or as everybody elses') and having all the other participants paying you as little attention as you did to them.

      That's not work: it's not even as constructive as t

  • by jmd (14060) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:11PM (#46256065)

    Neoliberalism

    I'm glad I'm out of the race to the bottom.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:12PM (#46256071)

    When I was reading his blog post I was wondering to myself, what planet is this guy from? Then I noticed the .ca and it made sense. I'm from the US and have relatives in around Toronto. They make fun of the labor practices in the US. Most of them have 40 hour work weeks and 6+ weeks of paid vacation a year. It always makes me laugh when I hear US corporations lament the high cost of labor. If labor were free these same corporations would complain that people don't pay to work for them. It's all about maximizing shareholder value and you lower you can drive labor costs the better.

    • Uh, 6 weeks of paid vacation per year is not the norm. 2 weeks is mandatory, but most people I know usually have 3-4 weeks. The only people who get 6+ are generally in union jobs. But yes, 40 hours weeks are the norm. Some places do 44. By law you cant do more then 48 unless it is agreed to in writing. Any by law you cannot work more than 60 hours unless the company gets approval by some labour board. Of course there are some jobs that are exempt for this such as truckers, miners.. as well as exceptional ci
  • Remember the famous mathematics prof told his colleagues (an engineering prof and a physics prof), "Should have both the mistress and the wife. The wife thinks I'm with the mistress and the mistress thinks I'm with the wife, and I can go the department to get some work done"?

    Many people find refuge in work. Else they endure a constant stream of "load/unload the dishwasher", "take out the garbage", "fold the laundry", "walk the dog", "do the taxes", "get some exercise", ...They fire up the VPN, log in and

  • If this is the norm, then as the OP suggests, something is very very wrong.
    Occasionally though, ridiculous hours are required - and I don't have a problem with gritting my teeth and taking it. Moreover I (in retrospect normally) am quite proud of those moments when we "made it happen"
    What's more interesting to me is how your employer handles these exceptions. Whilst chatting to future employers, I was quite dismayed by the number that point-blank refused to accept these scenarios every occurred, and ther
  • I mean it's not new that the max you can expect out of people is 40 hours.(One of the big reasons we switched to 40 hour weeks in the 20th century, it was pointless to have people work longer than that you don't actually get any more production.)

    (sarcasm on)

    Oh wait, we're talking about IT. The rules don't apply to us. You know, we don't need a business plan. Lets just wing things, it'll work out and sure 60+ hour weeks make sense.

    (sarcasm off)

  • Stop inviting it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Strange Ranger (454494) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @04:36PM (#46256209)

    What I see is way too many people bending over backwards in order to get bent over forwards in return. Just because you have a smart phone and a laptop doesn't mean you have to reply instantly. It doesn't mean you have to give an ETA on a project or task that requires you to get it done with 60 hours in a week or 14 hours in a day.
     
        And once you start doing that everyone starts expecting it. Don't start! If you do work at home wait until the morning to send it out. Don't reply to email at 8pm. When your boss says "Where were you last night?" You say "Did we have an after hours appointment?" and make a show of looking at your calendar. The next time you say "Taking my son to xyz." Say it like it was wonderful and not like it's an excuse. Don't for a second feel guilty. Do this publicly as much as possible. Nobody else there wants to work 14 hour days either.

    It's like an idiotic prisoners' dilemna. We all do it because everybody else is. Even your boss is sick of it, and has wife who is sick of it too.

    The only way to win is not to play. If that means moving on to another job so be it. Keep moving until the tide around you moves with you.

  • We average about 50 hours a week, but there are weeks when it goes up to 60 or more. These aren't too often, however. Plus you know that scene in "Office Space" where we hear that there's a good amount of staring into space? There's some of that too. Take that out of my day and it's a more normal 40 hours of actual work.

    The problem is in finding people. I interviewed over twenty candidates last year but no matter that the resumes read "Linux expert", many couldn't change a password expiration or expand an L

  • When I did contract work, we put in 60+ hour weeks because we wanted to. Rather than trying to find another "star" programmer, our team made do with the resources that we had and worked our butts off because of little issues like having to train any new hires on the techniques we were using. It would have been a good 3-4 months before a new hire would be productive, by which time the project would be almost over.

    After the project, we'd take a month off and just relax, living off our savings.

    Granted,

  • There have been many periods in my career when I worked 60+ per week because I enjoyed it and wanted to. I got a lot accomplished during those times.
  • by sir-gold (949031) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @05:06PM (#46256409)

    The Papa John's Pizza franchise in Minnesota (PJCOMN corp) would pay it's general managers (GMs) a salary based on a 40-hour work week, but required that all GMs schedule themselves for a minimum of 50 hours per week.

    At the store I worked at, 2 of our shift leads quit at the same time, leaving only the GM and one shift lead to run it for over a month. This meant that both of those people were working 60+ hours a week. Because shift leads are paid hourly, and GMs were paid fixed-salary, the shift lead ended up making more than twice as much per week as the GM.

    In other words, people on salary who work more than 40 hours a week are simply being taken advantage of by their employer, and the employer loves it when you work 60 hours for 40 hours worth of pay

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @05:24PM (#46256535)
    60 hours a week, huh? And how many of them are spent goofing around - talking to colleagues (and preventing them from working and getting home on time). Updating your FB page every 5 minutes, checking for new cat photos, tweets, that last-second bid on ebay (that you watch like an eagle for the 10 minutes leading up to it), spending a day or two checking out holiday resorts before booking, or buying christmas gifts at Amazon.

    Then there are the people who really do need to spend 60 hours working - to achieve what everyone else manages to produce in 35. Slow, incompetent, indolent or simply easily distracted? You choose.

    Finally we have the individuals who actually prefer to be at their job - rather than at home, either on their own, getting an earful of "verbal", or simply staring at the wall becuase they have no friends and less imagination about what to do with the empty voids between sleeping and working.

    There are plenty of people who work these long hours for the reasons above. Whether they brag about it, or whether others see them as the pathetic specimens they are would depend. But if you do work tose hours, maybe it's because it's either your own fault or it's your way of escaping.

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