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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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  • almighty dollar (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:19AM (#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!

  • So true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyx00 ( 145532 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:20AM (#39376959) Homepage

    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.

  • Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stargoat ( 658863 ) * <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:20AM (#39376965) Journal

    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.

  • Healthcare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:20AM (#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.

  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:22AM (#39376987) Homepage

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:22AM (#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.

  • no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ronpaulisanidiot ( 2529418 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:22AM (#39376995) Journal
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:22AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:22AM (#39377003)

    This facile analysis falls for the trap, so brilliantly outlined in The Mythical Man-Month [], 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.

  • by MrDiablerie ( 533142 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:24AM (#39377027) Homepage
    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.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:26AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:27AM (#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.

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:27AM (#39377079) Journal

    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.

  • by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:37AM (#39377253) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:almighty dollar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stargoat ( 658863 ) * <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:38AM (#39377271) Journal

    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:Meh (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:38AM (#39377281)

    willing to unionize

    Fox News told me that's Socialism!

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:41AM (#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.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:41AM (#39377327) Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:42AM (#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.

  • by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:42AM (#39377351) Journal

    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.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:42AM (#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.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:43AM (#39377363) Homepage

    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:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:44AM (#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.

  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:44AM (#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:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:46AM (#39377427) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Re:Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:49AM (#39377471)

    Globalization tells me that companies will shift the rest of their IT work to India and China if we unionize...

  • Re:This (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alex_podam ( 832096 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:55AM (#39377563)
    Yes, then we'll be poor like Sweden, Denmark and Finland... oh wait...
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:58AM (#39377601) Journal
    I figured that the ridiculous tone of my post would make the fact that I was joking pretty obvious.

    That said, the minimum requirements for jumping to eugenics are 1. Heritable variability in some ability(or, if one is feeling looser, stochastic variability and a willingness to overproduce and cull every generation. Not strictly eugenics; but similar) and 2. An incentive to improve the population level capability in that ability.

    Ability to work long hours does fit, as do a wide variety of other work-related human attributes.
  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:59AM (#39377623)

    I agree completely. Measuring things based on accomplishment is waaaay better.


    That would require that the management of companies be actually capable of measuring accomplishment and they generally are NOT capable of this.

    A great deal of the problems faced by modern society today comes from the fact that the concepts and theories on management (all that MBA crap) for the past 30 years are mostly useless and wrong.

    Measuring hours worked is easy, measuring effectiveness is hard. Managers these days are incapable of doing things that are hard.

  • by alex_podam ( 832096 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:00AM (#39377631)
    All the nordic countries have similar laws regarding overtime.. They don't have much in the way of natural resources. Seems to work out for them as well.
  • DUH DUH DUH (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doston ( 2372830 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:01AM (#39377649)
    When the fake, corporate controlled news this week was saying "how could the unemployment rate possibly be going down and the private sector adding jobs when GDP growth is only 2%???" as if they don't know full well why. It's because the private sector has squeezed every drop of productivity out of every stressed out worker it possibly can and finally HAS to hire (at huge discounts from a few years ago, since you're desperate now). Since there's no labor organization, nobody can go to their boss as a one person union and demand less working hours (they'd laugh in your face), corporations go by different measures of productivity because they know you don't dare. Yeah, that's the reason the hiring doesn't exactly match GDP growth. It's a rotten arrangement and until everyone gets the anti-union sentiment they've had hammered into their brains by *massive* corporate propaganda campaigns for 40 years, this is how it's going to be, so wise up or deal. Luckily the company I work at is privately owned and not subject to the torture of the merciless shareholder whip. That's really the problem with society overall. Corporate charters...and that's what is so confusing to people. They meet their CEO and he's such a nice guy and he cares about the environment and homeless people PERSONALLY, but in his INSTITUTIONAL ROLE, he's subject to INVESTOR LAWSUITS, if he doesn't operate like a psychopath and squeeze every drop of productivity out of everyone and every drop of profit out of anything at ANY COST. All externalities, like people, the environment, morals aside, he is BOUND BY LAW which is clearly spelled out in almost every corporate charter to do anything he can, screw anybody he has to, to get as much money as he can. If you don't get that, you don't understand how things work. Until the structure and mission of corporations are changed, you can whine all you want and nothing is ever going to change. GET IT? Seriously people stop being so pathetically naive. When it's profit first at any cost, problems ensue.
  • by mutube ( 981006 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:04AM (#39377717) Homepage

    Arguably, the USA already has adopted the Greek model. That is to say, excessive overtime combined with low productivity, and resulting higher unemployment [].

    Facts, eh?

  • Re:almighty dollar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:04AM (#39377719) Homepage Journal

    The employer doesn't think they are paying for negative productivity. What they are actually getting is a different story.

  • by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:07AM (#39377779) Homepage Journal
    Yup, national statistics from the OECD are easily countered by anecdotal evidence from your friends. That's the scientific method alright!
  • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HapSlappy_2222 ( 1089149 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:07AM (#39377781)
    Part of the problem is there will always be people willing to work more than 40 hours per week, meaning those who do not will be seen as "less productive" (manager-ese for "lazy"). Whether or not you get fired, there will be incentive to work just a few more hours per day, or skipping lunches (this is where many of my OT hours come into play - that's 5 a week), etc, to keep your *perceived* productivity competitive. Without long-term efficiency data and organization to support a mandated 40 hour work week, it just won't happen as those extra hours start creeping past 50 per week.

    Looking back at my own work week, even *trying* to work only 40 hours, I usually put in 50+, more when you count the things I do from home or on a weekend. While I actually don't mind this (it's often easier to answer an e-mail at home than to waste productive time the following morning), as long as it's on my terms, I loathe knowing that it can be required of me. Forced OT makes me feel less like a team-member and more like a black box; requirements go in, work comes out, who gives a shit if the "equipment" overheats and the work quality suffers, so long as it gets done.

    Maybe that's what needs to change; we need a bigger say in deciding when we work and what incentives - especially when we're salaried - we get for working OT (within reason; there are asshats who hate their jobs and will demand a 5 hour work week with a free Dodge Charger for working 7, screwing everybody in the process).
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:09AM (#39377809) Homepage

    What you need is a change in the "exempt" laws. Here in Norway the only people that are exempt are those in management and particularly independent positions, simply being a white collar worker is not sufficient. As long as you have fixed or semi-fixed working hours, as long as you have no power of delegation or to organize your own work (really free like where, when, how you want as long as you meet your deliverables) you are not exempt. There are also some laws on maximum overtime but in all honestly both employers and employees often ignore that as long as they get their overtime pay.

    That gives the right incentive that employers would rather hire people at full rate than have people work for time and a half. That penalizes inefficient workers and slackers who can't make up for it by working extra time - forcing you to work extra time to stay "even" because employers lose money when you need overtime to finish what others finish in regular hours. As long as the US is full of "exempt" workers whose work is still measured in wall clock hours, you will continue to get screwed because another hour is a free hour. It's like trying to keep the flies away after dipping yourself in honey.

  • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quintus_horatius ( 1119995 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:11AM (#39377831) Homepage
    In the US we're already a socialist country with a managed economy. We just seem to disagree on how socialist we should be and who should enjoy the benefits.
  • by quintus_horatius ( 1119995 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:17AM (#39377921) Homepage

    Lets move away from an hour based work schedule to a task and accomplishment based work/pay system

    I believe the term you're looking for is "piecework []". It has a bad reputation and is frequently linked to sweat shops.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:21AM (#39377967) Journal

    People need a bigger purpose to work for than squeezing out trinkets for the ultra rich, or persuing empty materialism. This is why capitalism is fundamentally inhumane. When people are free from having to work to live, they will be free to live to work.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:22AM (#39377993)

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

    No, they are not. There are a lot of self-assessed "high performers" that think they are, but they are not. What really happens is that these people become so incompetent that they cannot see all the mistakes they are making anymore.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:23AM (#39378005) Homepage

    Americans are trained to feel like they have to overwork in order to get ahead, we should really strive towards following the European model.

    It's tied to one of the great lies of American culture: "If you're smart and you work hard, you will become super-rich."

    American culture is all about this. We want to point to people like Bill Gates and Donald Trump and say, "Look at these men! They came from nothing, and through their own intelligence and hard work, they became rich and famous." Of course, they didn't come from poverty, and they didn't achieve success through intelligence and hard work alone.

    But people believe these things, and they want to make the world a paradise for the super-rich so that one day, when they become rich, the world of opulence will have been preserved for them. Then they look at their own lives and say, "Whoa whoa whoa! Why am I not rich yet? The only two components to success are intelligence and hard work, and it can't be a lack of intelligence because I'm incredibly brilliant. It must be that I haven't been working hard enough." And it's in this way that we convince ourselves that everyone who is poor is lazy and/or stupid, and our problems would be solved by working more and trying harder. It's hardly ever considered that the answer might be a change in strategy.

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:26AM (#39378053) Journal

    I've not worked in Japan myself, but have heard similar stories from colleagues who have. I gather it's particularly bad for younger staff, who have "more to prove" to their employer. Without wanting to get too much into pop-sociology, you have to suspect a link between a work culture like that and Japan's birth-rate problems.

    I do think that open plan offices are a big factor in making the "presentee-ism" problem even worse. I've only worked in one building that was definitively not open plan - it was a historic building subject to so many protection orders that, much to the frustration of senior management, even thinking about knocking an interior wall through would land you in jail. People either had their own offices, or worked in offices shared by 2-4 people.

    By and large, people worked to the demands of the job. Our work there was highly prone to seasonal variations; you'd get months where you'd be doing 12 hour days and months where you'd be done in 6 - and people worked those hours, on the understanding that it all evened out. We took pride in our work and, by all indications, were good at it.

    Shortly after I left, senior management found some open-plan accommodation in a newer building (which was more expensive - but the corporate drive in favour of open plan was so strong that mere cost wasn't allowed to stand as an obstacle) and relocated everybody there. According to my former colleagues, what followed was 2 years of hell and a serious drop in performance.

  • Legally overworked (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Academiphiliac ( 1042282 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:29AM (#39378081)
    For many of us fulltimers, I believe, overtime compensation is exempt under FLSA Section 213 (a)(17) []. This gives our employers no incentive to prevent overworking, especially if we are (and "lucky" enough to be) salaried. Therefore I expect nothing to "vanish overnight if we simply worked the way we're supposed to by law". The law protects these abusive workplace habits, cultures, and practices.
  • by GodInHell ( 258915 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:53AM (#39378483) Homepage
    Not entirely true. There are times when working (for me) is more fun and relaxing than almost anything else I could think of doing with my time. If you've got the right job and the right temperament it can work. That said, I would fall out of love with my job if I was REQUIRED to put in the hours I put in freely. Its a psyche thing.
  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @11:58AM (#39378589) Homepage Journal

    And here I am yet again without mod points when I really need them. I've said for a long, long time that the best societies are a healthy mix of both capitalism and socialism. Socialism for things that private industry cannot or is ill-equipped to handle (for example, major infrastructure projects, things such as health insurance in which free enterprise has a perverse incentive to screw its customers over, and things that are deemed essential for life or meaningful societal progress), capitalism for everything else.

    This doesn't mean that the petty bickering that goes on now wouldn't happen; people would still argue over what private industry cannot handle and what is considered, for example, "meaningful societal progress." Still, the sooner people stop thinking of socialism as a bad word, the sooner we'll actually be able to regain and retain our position as the global superpower. Unfettered capitalism is just as bad for society as unfettered socialism. Look at a place like, say, Somalia, where there is virtually no government to speak of and individual liberty is taken to an extreme--if you want your neighbor's stuff there's absolutely nothing stopping you from simply taking it, provided you have a band of mercenaries that are skillful enough to go get it. Is this really any better than a place like, say, Cuba or China?

    That's what's being lost in today's political discourse. The notion of a happy medium, the idea that both systems have things to offer and lessons to learn.

  • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elsurexiste ( 1758620 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:00PM (#39378627) Journal

    My 2 cents about unions, and why I don't unionise:


    • It's the easiest and most cost-effective way to advance workers' issues. Period.
    • As long as all parties are reasonable, and took Negotiations 101, It Just Works.


    • As soon as someone becomes unreasonable or selfish (either the manager or the union leader), then it's constant conflict time, alienating people.
    • Someone gets power, and power tends to corrupt. No one wants to be a[nother] pawn in someone else's game.
    • This may apply only to Latin America, but unions there usually ally with a political party (for instance, the Socialist Party). That also alienates people.
  • by uniquename72 ( 1169497 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:03PM (#39378687)
    Hmm. I know quite a few rich people, because part of my job is working with donors to my University.
    *Most inherited their wealth.
    *Those who didn't came from well-off families, who got them jobs out of college or funded their businesses.
    *Those who are self-made generally made their fortune selling real estate, or on Wall Street (so they produced nothing).
    *There are a handful (out of hundreds) who started a business (bars, dry cleaners, etc.) and made their fortune by working really, really hard, then buying out the competition, which put all those other small business owners out of work.

    But it's all immaterial; it's very rare for Americans to move out of their parents social class, because the people who surround you make up you safety net. Poor people who fail have nothing to fall back on, and will go from having a little to being destitute. Rich people who fail will still be rich.

    But let's face it, if all it took to be wealthy was hard work, [] you wouldn't be posting on /.
  • by Whatsisname ( 891214 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:15PM (#39378855) Homepage

    The lesson of Mythical Man-month is more that you can't make up for bad scheduling by throwing more people at the project in the middle, that adding more people to a late project will make it later. It especially focuses on productivity with respect to time.

    If you throw more people onto a project from day one of a year+ long project, you sure can expect more productivity.

    10 engineers can be 10 times as productive working for a year as 1 engineer. What fails is if you have 1 engineer working for 11 months, then adding 99 more the last month, and expect to equal the productivity of the 10 engineers working for a year solid.

    9 women can't make a baby in a month, but 9 women can make 9 babies in the same amount of time it takes 1 woman to make 1 baby.

    It is better to have 5 engineers rather than 4 overworked ones, if they all start projects together.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:20PM (#39378929) Homepage

    There is a significant difference between being at work 60-80 hours a week and working 60-80 hours a week. I have many people who do the former, very few who can maintain the later, at least not long term or without suffering serious consequences. I'm not saying it's impossible or it doesn't happen, but most people who work 60-80 hour weeks for any length of time are doing it for show after a point.

  • by Sentrion ( 964745 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:24PM (#39378981)

    I have a hard time understanding why a single recent graduate with no family responsibilities and a high-enough salary wouldn't be able to handle more than 40 hours per week continuously. When I was at that stage I would have taken the higher-paying job even if it required 60 hours per week, and maybe more. But if your peers are making about the same as you are and going home at 5pm every single day it leads you to wonder if the grass may be greener at the other companies pasture. Things change once you add a spouse, kids, and the responsibilities of home ownership. Again, if salary is high enough to afford a nanny, lawn mowing crew, and prepared dinners, then long hours might still be manageable and possibly attractive if the salary minus these personal expenses still leaves you with a net gain. The problem is that unless you are a high paid consultant working your own hours or the boss of your own company with the potential reward of windfall profits, it can be hard to find the 60-70 hr/wk job that really pays substantially more than the 40 hr/wk alternative. And you still need time out of the office for your own professional development, continuing education, staying fit, and managing your finances.

    There's also the importance of having flexible time that you hold in reserve, the same way that a military commander keeps some of his forces held from battle so he can deploy them to mitigate an unexpected threat or exploit an opportunity. Anybody can have personal problems pop up, and these are usually manageable at 40 hr/wk, but not so easy when you constantly work longer hours. If you're already expected to work 60 hours each week, then you may burn out fast if a short term crisis pops up at work. How many weeks will you work 100 hours each week for $0 in additional pay when your peers are going home at 5pm and apparently take home a relatively close salary to what you already make? The 40 hr/wk worker will likely be more willing to work 60-80 hrs/wk to overcome a short term crisis as long as it doesn't interfere with his family responsibilities.

    Finally, quality of life is an important factor. Some people are happy living their lives without children, or in some cases, even without a spouse or similar close relationship. Some careers, such as medicine or public service, may have intrinsic rewards and something that a person can devote their lives to and be passionate about. Their work may be the reason they get up in the morning. But after years and years, even these types of jobs can wear you down if you don't have a personal outlet. Even then, may people can sustain 50-60 hours continuously. There is also the possibility of working a high-pressure job in your early years while you build a nest egg or establish yourself into the fast track for executive promotion, with the intent of slowing down and enjoying life later. But for most of us, while we may "enjoy" what we do, we do not derive our life's purpose from our work. Even those of us who enjoy working with technology need some personal time to enjoy it our own way rather than following the schedules, deadlines, and division of labor handed down by management. So for the average person 40 hours per week is probably ideal. Expecting everyone to happily work longer hours will lead at least a significant portion of your work force to resent the hours you require. Some of us are not convinced that we will live until retirement or that we will be healthy enough to enjoy retirement. Myself, I would rather work 40hrs/wk on average for the rest of my career and retire when I can't work anymore. I have a spouse, kids, and a home to maintain. I have the occasional personal crisis (health, legal, etc.), but I am also willing to put in more hours during the short term when the company needs it.

  • Re:Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:29PM (#39379057) Homepage Journal

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

    Regimentism is.

    Please define that word you just made up.

    Socialism can't work without forcing everybody to the same set of rigid rules.

    Yea, standards suck, don't they? Better to just let everybody do their own thing all the time and hope for the best. BTW, how was your drive to work on those socialism-funded roads? Was it worse than, say, traveling on a rutted wagon path through the woods? Or perhaps you would rather be forced to pay highwaymen a daily ransom to travel on their "privately-owned" roads?

    The rest of your post, being obviously nothing more than a childish rant against coworkers you perceive to be less motivated yet more entitled than thou (funny, I don't hear them bellyaching...), is not worth responding to.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:33PM (#39379113)
    If the corporation crumples like a paper bag every time he takes a sick day, he's not doing his job right.
  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:34PM (#39379139)

    New people can also have negative productivity. Old people have to train them, and you don't know if they are air thieves yet.

  • Re:Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eli Gottlieb ( 917758 ) <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:45PM (#39379295) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I tried not fucking around and doing my job every day and going home. It got me an excellent relationship with my team leader, and a talking to from my "peer mentor" (our little company thingy had no formal supervisor except over the whole division) about how I needed to work at least 40 hours/week, not counting lunchtime.

    Cool efficiency, bro.

  • Re:Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:47PM (#39379337) Homepage Journal
    Yes. Unions have done wonders for the auto industry, just think of the workers paradise we would create if we unionized IT.
  • Re:Ha! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:52PM (#39379411) Homepage

    It should be pointed out that the Germans are also strongly Socialist. Much more so that in the US. The differences between Greece and Germany are many: Greece has a much smaller population, many fewer natural resources, quite a bit more corruption in government, and their finances were poorly managed for decades; but the government safety net is the same in both countries. Honestly it's probably better in Germany now, with all the cuts the Greeks have had to make. It's certainly true that the Greeks are looking for bailouts mostly from Germany, and that the way they were running their government was unsustainable; but if you're pointing at the Germans as a model of how it "should" be done I want my socialized medicine, awesome state sponsored public transportation, employee-centric employment laws, 5 weeks of vacation... well you get the idea. I'd be pretty happy if the US swung far enough to the left to look anything like Germany.

    Before you start accusing me of wanting other people to do my work for me, I should point out that I'm a skilled, well paid, degreed worker. I'd probably lose money paying taxes like the Germans do, it's true. I can live with that. Taxes are the price we pay to live in civilization. (That said, I'd be pissed if my government managed the tax money I put in as poorly as the Greek government did)

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:54PM (#39379447) Homepage

    Yup. People think they can multi-task when in fact we mentally can not. What we call "multi-tasking" is actually task switching. The distinction is important. It's one thing to be multi-threaded in cognitive thinking which is impossible for most people than it is to time slice our actions. Time slice too much and you start dropping balls and making all sorts of careless mistakes. Basically, the human brain functions like a single core CPU. It can only process so much data at any given time. We're also horrible about real-time task scheduling because of external environmental distractions.

    We suck at computing. That's why we invented the computer.

  • Re:I love OT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jgdobak ( 119142 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:56PM (#39379485)

    If you need to work overtime to provide for your family, you aren't middle class. Sorry .

    You're working poor, just like the rest of us.

  • by azalin ( 67640 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:08PM (#39379669)
    Who came off with the idea that having doctors work for hours that would be illegal for truck drivers? It's not like the lack of sleep and concentration could harm patients. It might be really interesting to find out how many people die each year, because the doctor could think straight anymore. Lack of sleep has a lot in common with being drunk, but a truck leaving the road makes a far easier news story than a doctor messing up medications because he just had another 24h shift.
    The world would be a far better place if those responsible for such things had to face the consequences instead of those who don't really have a choice if they want to keep their job. I'm still dreaming of the day when an executive goes into jail because he risked the life of others by letting doctors (or other critical proficiencies) work insane hours.
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:36PM (#39380073)

    By which point your family will have already grown-up.

    I'd quit now and learn to live with a lower-cost lifestyle. You don't need cable; free TV is good enough. You don't need unlimited cellphones; $5 or $15 a month for a few hours calling is good enough. I'm not sure if you can sacrifice on internet but I do: it only costs me $15 a month. ............ Otherwise you might quit your 70 an hour week job circa 2020 and discover your wife is a stranger, and your kids are teens who don't want anything to do with you.

  • by kpainter ( 901021 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @02:41PM (#39380883)

    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?

  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @03:28PM (#39381587) Homepage

    Social mobility is empirically higher in Europe. There is a good body of peer-reviewed data on this. Your sample of under 300 wealthy Americans is not appropriately sized for a population size of 300 million, plus you are beginning by selecting for upper class members in the first place, ultimately reinforcing, if anything, the parent's post.

  • Re:almighty dollar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @03:32PM (#39381651) Journal

    This is why capitalism is ultimately doomed, just as communism and fascism and all the other isms failed. The simple fact is that thanks to technology the people here right now, much less those just being born? Well about 40% of those are simply not needed, their labor is no longer required thanks to automation and technology. We are playing IQ musical chairs when the average IQ is barely 100 and more and more simply won't get a seat.

    In the old days one who couldn't pass college could work in a factory and feed themselves and their families but not anymore, those jobs are gone to Asia where the corps can pollute to their evil heart's content. and soon even college won't help, I was talking to the dean of our local college and he figures about 35% simply won't find a job in their field once they graduate, no matter what field they choose. there is simply more labor than is required and thanks to H1-Bs the market is even more skewed thanks to stuffing the channel with even more workers. Hell I'd argue about 40% of the low end jobs in the USA are being subsidized by the American taxpayer as "make work" for example if you go to work at Walmart one of the first training videos you will be shown is how to apply for food stamps! Now how many think that if Walmart was forced to pay a living wage they wouldn't automate many of those jobs, nothing about stocking or scanning products that couldn't be done by machine. Same thing with fast food, its all a limited choice set anyway and that kind of assembly line work, using pre measured ingrediants in a line, hell you'd probably cut down on waste and screwups by just making the entire thing automated. you'd just slap the money or CC in the machine, push a couple of buttons and the food would pop out of a slot.

    So we simply have to face the facts that capitalism is coming to an end and look ahead to a replacement, otherwise that end could be quite violent. Much of what we saw during the Arab Springs could easily happen here as we have "jobless recoveries" which is just a code word for "The rich are living like Gods while everyone else suffers" which of course breeds hatred and contempt. We simply have to accept the very basis of the entire system, trading labor for capital, simply no longer works. What do you do with those millions upon millions who simply don't have the IQ required to become doctors and lawyers? hell 25% of lawyers graduating can't find jobs as we have more lawyers than jobs now. In the end we simply have to face the fact that we are quickly approaching half a billion people in the USA and with just current technology we could get by just fine on 100 million, maybe less. What do you do with the other 400 million? without consumers our service economy collapses, do you pay them to just buy shit and watch TV? Do you make up "make work" jobs where they do some pointless task simply so they can get a check? Even in IT we are seeing the coming of smart gear that can take care of itself and call a parts monkey when something breaks, construction they are already testing a road building machine that uses GPS, no real humans needed there, and houses can be prefabricated.

    So what do we do with all the people that simply can't trade their labor for capital when their labor isn't needed? we need to think of something or its gonna get nasty. The minorities are already looking at 25%+ unemployment and the whites won't be far behind, there are simply too many people and not enough work. What do you do? put them in camps? False flag an attack that can wipe out large numbers of them? Just leave them in the street to starve or create huge crime zones? gotta do something as time is running out folks, the tech just keeps getting smart while the average person stays the same or even gets dumber.

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @03:59PM (#39382003) Journal

    Friend you appear to have engaged mouth before utilizing brain. Of course there are more millionaires, the dollar is only worth 6 cents... do the math.

    The question you posed is social mobility and it has never been worse in the United States. In fact social mobility is significantly greater in most of Europe than the U.S. and all you had to do was a quick search [] to find that, or perhaps you did and chose to ignore the truth to make your point.

    The top 400 wealthiest people in this country now have the same wealth as the lower 170,000,000 citizens. Can you see the problem. The wealth is locked up in the hands of a vanishing few. That means there's nothing left for the rest of us. Your comment above about millionaires is precisely the problem. With a vanishingly few exceptions, the masses are being locked into futures unable to afford decent educations, social service or viable means to escape their condition and things are getting precipitously worse. Add age discrimination and a failing network of services for the poor and serious ugly is just around the corner. French Revolution style ugly. Why do you think we built up a private security army (yes, I know, make Dick Cheney one the super-wealthy.) Their use in Iraq was just the testing grounds.

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:28PM (#39383303) Journal

    This is a process of indoctrination. We've been trained since birth to want more, need more, eat, drink, and medicate more. We've built an entire society on the point of a pyramid which is just about to come crashing down around us all. The Wallstreetification of our society and the placement of a little box in every home which tells us what to think and who to like has resulted in a uniform social disaster. Society shaped by the stupid and narcissistic. It would actually take balls and vision to provide better for the future and I'm not at all certain we have the will or the intelligence anymore to see that goal. I mean we let Dubyah steal... er, borrow the presidency for 8 years. how stupid is that?

  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:39PM (#39383441) Journal

    "These work conditions are demanded by the market.",

    There are millions who have been laid off due to the financial crises out of work who have accounting and financial experience.

    The market doesn't demand it. Your CEO and shareholders demand it. What time do they leave? My guess is 5. If they want people not to quit and work for private companies or start their own small accounting firms they need to hire more and lessen the hours.

    It was necessary in 2008 to cut staff, but it seems they kept the hiring freeze and just made free money and probably more mistakes.

    If you love your marriage I would quit and work elsewhere. The extra perks and pay are simply not worth it if you spend all your time at work.

  • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:01PM (#39384403) Journal

    People really need to learn this and take it to heart. Unfortunately the myth of social mobility through hard work is so ingrained in American culture that it'll probably never be rooted out completely and exposed as the lie that it is. It's too convenient a motivator for the masses for the rich to let it fade away easily or completely. It doesn't even require any kind of conspiracy. It's an emergent system that forms from each rich individual doing their own thing.

  • You post is utter, citeless bullshit. The US is one of the few countries, unlike Europe, where social mobility is very possible.

    The US has close to the worst social mobility in the OECD, and it's been getting steadily worse for decades (basically - and unsurprisingly - since the income increases of "normal people" vs "rich people" started dramatically diverging back in the '70s). In stark contrast to most of the EU countries, which have the highest levels of social mobility.

    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.

    By which time being "a millionaire" won't be quite so impressive. At 3% inflation, a million dollars today will be worth the equivalent of ~$400k today.

    Assuming a 5% return, to end up with a million dollars in 30 years you need to save $1,250/mo, or $15,000/yr. Which is around 50% of the median annual wage (a reasonable estimate of a "worker bee") of $30k.

  • Re:almighty dollar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nobodie ( 1555367 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:14PM (#39395901)

    The thing I don't think you are getting is that the employer is also factoring in the training period for a new employee, when they are least productive. When you set that scale as your norm, then a burnout empoyee at 60 hours a week is still working as expected. The fact that they could be producing more at 40 hours a week than they do at 60 doesn't matter, they are meeting the expected ROI.

    When I was a worker (and I mean that literally, as a carpenter, job superintendent and contractor) I and my crews were quite frustrating for my various employers. We could finish our days allotment of work in 3-5 hours. Then, because we didn't have the material to continue to work, we goofed off for the rest of the day. One company finally tried to get us material on our schedule and we were out of work in under 2 months (for what was scheduled as a 4 month job).

    Rule 1: No overtime. We worked 40 hours a week, period.
    Rule 2: No layoffs. Everybody comes to work every day and works 8 hours, even if it is just cleaning the jobsite.
    Rule 3: Safety begins and ends in your head and your heart: Watch out for your buddy and trust them to watch out for you (25 years without a jobsite injury AND without hardhats and steel-toed boots)
    Rule 4: quality is your job

    That was all that was needed, we never ran out of work and I had men who followed me from company to company just to stay with me. They still email me and I've been out of that industry since 1996.

    Personally, I believe that the destruction of the American work ethic came about because of the rise of the MBA. The change that this signalled, from labor as an asset to labor as an expense, destroyed the American work environment. Or, as Utah Phillips once said, "When they tell you that you are America's greatest asset, run for the hills! Have you seen what we do to our 'greatest assets?' Have you seen a strip mined mountain, a clearcut forest or a burning river? Those were America's greatest assets!"

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington