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Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week 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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Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week

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  • Re:Meh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stargoat ( 658863 ) * <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:23AM (#39377019) Journal
  • by thepainguy ( 1436453 ) <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:32AM (#39377165) Homepage
    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.
  • by haplo21112 ( 184264 ) <haplo@epi t h n a .com> on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:43AM (#39377369) Homepage

    "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, allow for the fifth" arguement. Personally not interested in socialism.

  • Re:This (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:01AM (#39377647)

    Ever heard of The Government Pension Fund of Norway? Wikipedia it.

    Norway hasn't been pi**ing it away like us in the US. It should hit a trillion dollars by 2019, before the oil runs out; that for a population of only about 4 million, comes to a quarter million dollars per person, in a country with a low population growth.

    Maybe a smug son of a bitch, but a smart one. I'd hate to be in Saudi Arabia in 20 years. Norway will be just fine, barring an Atlantic current shutdown.

  • by abarrow ( 117740 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:01AM (#39377655) Homepage

    You'll be comforted to know that a good deal of the worlds oil production in is done by thousands people who are contracted to work 12 hour days, 6.5 days per week, for 4 to 6 weeks per hitch. This is usually after killer jet lag, since the majority of them fly 8-20 hours to get to work. I know, I did it for a couple of years.

    All that explosive, environmentally dangerous stuff managed by people who are impaired due to continuous overtime and lack of sleep? How could that be a problem?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:02AM (#39377669)

    Well, 32 hours per week in Germany? That would be exaggerated I think..

    but, a lot of other stuff is true: Germans usually have a minimum of ~25 days of paid vacation a year, the average is more close to 30 (the minimum by law is 20 if you are on a 5 day workweek, or 24 if you are on a 6 day workweek). We also have a crapload of public holidays, which are always off (or you get paid mandatory bonuses above 100% plus)

    The typical worktime in Germany I would say is still the 40hr/week.. with a lot of businesses doing 37 or 38, and in seldom cases, 42, so let's say it's around 40.
    Also, the regulations on overtime are a lot stricter here than in the US, like a guy above said about Norway.. and, at least for me as an IT guy, I can say that I never had to work an unpaid hour of overtime in my life (even though I'm not paid by the hour, I'm on a flex time model where I'm supposed and encouraged to take off any hour I worked overtime as soon as it is convienient for me. It is even prohibited by law to offer me a payout of my vacation days in the case that I couldn't take it all because I have so many overtime hours to get rid of - they have to give me the whole thing in days off (but for special cases like switching jobs))

    Add that to the local social security, healthcare etc. and you have a compelling case of a decent work environment (as long as you are doing qualified work of course, unqualified labor sucks over here about as much as anywhere else..)

  • Re:Healthcare (Score:5, Informative)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:05AM (#39377731) Homepage

    This is actually the strongest argument for completely socialized medicine: If everybody gets health care, always, from the same source, then it's more expensive (in hourly positions) to hire 1 person to work 60 hours per week than it is to hire 2 people to work 30 hours per week. And it's the sort of thing that every industry that isn't health care ought to be pushing for, because the benefits far outweigh the added taxes.

    You're still going to have a problem with workers that are considered 'exempt', which includes almost every American on /. with a job, as well as doctors, lawyers, and many other professionals. My understanding is that in Europe, professionals who don't work for themselves are not considered exempt from limits on how long they can be required to work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:10AM (#39377821)

    Oh and further down I read a lot of people talking about better salaries in the us etc.. so let me just break that down by my job, just for the fun of it..:

    I'm 28, have a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science and work as an IT Systems Engineer - Exchange, Unix, VMWare, this kind of stuff.

    This is how I get compensated:

    40 hrs/week, 30 days of paid leave a year
    A salary of $65.000 a Year (before taxes, after taxes I still keep about $40.000 a year,
    but note this is Germany - after taxes, I already paid my healthcare, my pension fund, etc)

    I also get a $2000 bonus based on how the company performed at the end of the year.
    (We also have subsidized meals at the company cafeteria)

    Also, every hour I work over my 40hrs/Week is getting billed to one of two time accounts:
    one for "necessary, but incentive" overtime, the other one for "ordered" overtime, which get handled like this: For the incentive overtime, I can take absence hours if business is low, for the ordered ones, I HAVE to take absence hours as soon as possible to get my compensation in free time.

    Also, I get paid 25% extra on every hour I work after 8pm, 40% on every hour I work extra after midnight,
    50% for work on Saturdays and Sundays, and 125% for work on bank holidays - i can choose if I want to have this bonus in money equivalent or time equivalent.

    also, I work on flextime, so I can more or less come and go as I please (there is no clock to punch, you just book the time you did on a tool based on your own recalling) as long as business needs are fulfilled and we have the necessary staff on site at all times.

    Also, if I have to travel on business - all the time I spend traveling, be it at the wheel of a car, on a plane, on a train, waiting for a connecting flight on an airport etc pp - is considered worktime. so if I leave my home at 6am in the morning and arrive at a customer site at noon, I actually "worked" 6 hours going there - minus the time it would usually take me to go to the office, which is substracted by law.

    I guess some people can understand now that we Europeans don't really consider the US to have a good work environment..

    P.S. no cubicles, I share my ~220sqft office with only one colleague. And they allow ICQ and headphones at work officially.

  • by Kidbro ( 80868 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:33PM (#39379121)

    Commonly referred to as Jantelagen [] here in Sweden. And all reports about it are spectacularly exaggerated. Yes, it exists. No, in reality it doesn't actually hold anybody back, except in the minds of the most ultra libertarian conspiracy nutheads that (wrongly) also believe it's also impossible to get rich in the Nordic countries.

    I'm sorry, but I'll take a snide remark about being "lucky" once every six months over 80 hour work weeks.

  • 10 engineers can be 10 times as productive working for a year as 1 engineer.

    No they can't.

    You do gain productivity by adding more people to the project from the beginning, certainly, but the output does not scale linearly. In my experience, 2-3 good engineers may well be a little more than 2-3 times as productive as one good engineer -- at the low end more perspectives leads to better solutions which are easier to implement. But once you get much larger than that, the overhead of communicating and keeping everyone in sync becomes significant.

    When you get up to about five people, at least one of them has to devote a non-trivial percentage of their time to coordinating the work of the others, and doing that sucks time away from the others as well. At 10, you're going to have a hard time if one of them isn't almost fully dedicated to project management, or unless you break into subteams and spread the PM load.

    All in all, given good people, I'd say that 10 engineers are about 8x as productive as one engineer.

  • by unassimilatible ( 225662 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:39PM (#39380119) Journal
    You post is utter, citeless bullshit. The US is one of the few countries, unlike Europe, where social mobility is very possible. Even for worker bees, just putting money in a Roth IRA every month in a good Dow 30 dividend stock will make you a millionaire in 30 years.

    2011's The Forbes 400 of Richest Americans was An all-time high 70% of this year's list are self-made, up from 55% in 1997 []>. And many are college drop-outs.

    If anything, being born wealthy makes kids lazy and entitled and lacking in the drive and ambition that drove their parents. Last time I checked, Paris Hilton wasn't on the Forbes 400.
  • by cretog8 ( 144589 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @02:44PM (#39380917)

    The US is one of the few countries, unlike Europe, where social mobility is very possible.

    You apparently missed the news: Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs []

  • Re:This (Score:5, Informative)

    by billius ( 1188143 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @03:06PM (#39381247)

    Per Capita GDP of...

    Finland: $34,585 Denmark: $37,585 Sweden: $47,934

    Norway: $84,443

    Citation needed. The correct per capita GDP figures are:
    Norway: $53,300 []
    Sweden: $40,600 []
    Denmark: $40,200 []
    Finland: $38,300 []

    How the *hell* did the parent comment get modded "+5 Informative"?!?! It mentions some *very* specific and *very* dramatic figured with absolutely no attribution. At least give it a cursory google for fuck's sake! []

  • All major public accounting firms have 60hour minimum work-weeks for Jan-April ("busy season") every year....

    So what are you doing fucking off reading Slashdot for?

    If you had bothered to read the find article, you would have found that the longer the hours worked, the more time people spend in non-productive activities. You simply can't be "in the zone" continuously, 16 hours a day, day after day, week after week, month after month.

    Do you really believe those FoxConn workers are working at their peak potential during those 12-hour day 6-day shifts? The owners accept lower per-hour productivity in return for the employees not having free time for "distractions", like having a life.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault