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the three-day workweek
July 21, 2014 5:32 AM   Subscribe

Carlos Slim calls for a three-day working week "We've got it all wrong, says Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and world's second-richest man: we should be working only three days a week." also btw: The four-day work week (previously)
posted by kliuless (84 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the four-day work week link:
A spokesperson for the NSW Business Chamber told me the chamber doesn’t have a problem with people working four days a week since it’s a form of flexibility that maximises workforce participation, but they don’t see a need for legislative change. “The current system works well with employers and employees working out what works for them,” he said. “I think we ought to be suspicious of any Soviet style command and control approach to workplace hours that dictates people cannot work the hours that suit them.”
Thank you, anonymous well-poisoning spokesbeing. It is just remotely possible that the status quo might be built on what schedules suit employers. But I am sure the job creators will respond to what their employees would prefer. That happens a lot.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:51 AM on July 21 [40 favorites]


That's it, I'm sending him to Siberia.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:55 AM on July 21


Amen! There is no alternative to our current rolling economic problems besides shortening the work week. And training costs slow employers from moving towards shorter work weeks without legislation.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:08 AM on July 21


Maybe more likely to be adopted is having the summer hours some professional firms work more common or year round. I was talking with my boss about it recently (we having introduced summer hours last year) and he was pretty staggered by how happy it makes his staff for what he sees as a small perq. Everywhere I've worked that has summer hours, people work harder the other four days and of course it is something different and unique to everyone .... time to hit a pub and buy pitchers, time to do chores so your weekend is free, time to spend with kids or parents or pets, or even quiet time in the office to do more work. I suppose if everyone did it year 'round we'd all get accustomed and less happy about it though.

I used to work for a firm that experimented with the 9/80 thing for a while - one friday off every 2 weeks with the hours made up over the 9 days - and it was a bit of a pain in the ass in practice even with everyone trying hard to make it work. They went back to a summer hours schedule instead.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:16 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Some people work too much
Some people not enough
That's the way God planned it
That's the way God wants it to be
posted by ackptui at 6:16 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


Given that the source of this is a very rich person, one can assume that there's some sort of catch, and indeed there is.

According to Mr. Slim, to achieve the goal of only working three days a week, we'll just have to put in 11 hours (or more) on each of those days, and work until we're 70 years old, or maybe 75. Or maybe a little older, he's not really sure.

Carlos Slim is 74, and I'm sure he figures that if he can "work" for 10 or 12 hours a day, others his age can do it too. And really, what could possibly go wrong with having 70- or 75-year-olds working really long shifts? None of them will be in jobs where exhaustion or physical limitations might affect safety or quality, right?

Plus, as long as those 10 or 12 hour days don't add up to more than 40 hours a week, there's no overtime! And really, who needs shift differential pay when they're only working three days a week?

Sounds like a great deal...for the rich guy. For the workers, not so much.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 6:27 AM on July 21 [17 favorites]


The catch is that they're three 16-hour work days.
posted by octothorpe at 6:30 AM on July 21


I'm pretty sure that I don't give a good goddamn what the richest man in the world thinks is a good idea.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:46 AM on July 21 [27 favorites]


We're way ahead of him here in the U.S. We already have 3 and 4 day (and sometimes 2) work weeks for millions of people. They're called "temps" (or "independent contractors" or "float pool" or "PRN" or...).
posted by TedW at 6:46 AM on July 21 [11 favorites]


It seems like right now the solutions to the biggest problems in the world all involve rich people suddenly deciding to be reasonable and considerate of their fellow human beings.

We're seriously screwed.
posted by MrVisible at 6:51 AM on July 21 [18 favorites]


On the one hand, I like the sound of it. Fewer hours! On the other hand, I know there are people (like me) who work long hours because they enjoy it. Not necessarily long hours crammed in a cubicle--some of those hours are from home in the morning, evening, or on weekends. I think a different change is in order...

I work in an office full of salaried workers (software industry). There are clearly two types of people. There are the 9-to-5ers, who are totally OK with seeing a project deadline slip so long as they don't have to work late (they have kids and obligations, I get it). And then there are the ones who will pour in as much work as necessary to keep a project on track. They are the glue that keeps the company afloat.

The problem is, there is no recognition of the two types of people. There is no concept of overtime in the software industry. So the hard workers end up picking up the 9-to-5ers' slack. The 9-to-5ers, not feeling the consequences of possible poor planning on their parts, keep doing what they're doing. Sometimes a 9-to-5er gets fired for poor performance. But more often, a hard worker gets frustrated and quits, and you end up with a disproportionate number of 9-to-5ers, and a chronic inability to meet deadlines.

I think we need to totally revisit how we think about compensating people. You want to work 3 days a week? OK! Add in 8 flex-hours from home, and your pay won't take a hit. You want to work 5 days a week PLUS 8 flex-hours from home? OK! We'll compensate you for that.

Maybe some companies already do this, and mine is stuck in last century?
posted by mantecol at 6:53 AM on July 21 [9 favorites]


I'd rather have four 6 hour days (1 hour of which is lunch). I only have a 15 minute commute - I don't know how people drive for an hour or more and then work a full day and then drive that much back. It's fucking ridiculous.
posted by symbioid at 6:53 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


mantecol - you can thank the "Fair" Labor Standards act for making certain types of white collar employees exempt.
posted by symbioid at 6:57 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


I don't know how people drive for an hour or more and then work a full day and then drive that much back. It's fucking ridiculous.

It's called limited employment options in a household with two people who are employed full time. Add in trying to get kids into a good school (district), and people will do all sorts of things that take them away from home even longer. Oh, toss in aging parents for good fun.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:59 AM on July 21 [5 favorites]


I think we need to totally revisit how we think about compensating people. You want to work 3 days a week? OK! Add in 8 flex-hours from home, and your pay won't take a hit. You want to work 5 days a week PLUS 8 flex-hours from home? OK! We'll compensate you for that.

Maybe some companies already do this, and mine is stuck in last century?


Nope, your company realizes that some people are dedicated to their work and will "go the extra mile" to get the project done. Those people are the suckers that keep the company going as it does, without compensating people for the real work they do.

If everyone stuck to the hours they were paid for, the company would have to address the workhour shortage somehow, either by hiring more people as temps or full time, or pay for overtime.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:04 AM on July 21 [82 favorites]


There is no concept of overtime in the software industry. So the hard workers end up picking up the 9-to-5ers' slack. The 9-to-5ers, not feeling the consequences of possible poor planning on their parts, keep doing what they're doing. Sometimes a 9-to-5er gets fired for poor performance. But more often, a hard worker gets frustrated and quits, and you end up with a disproportionate number of 9-to-5ers, and a chronic inability to meet deadlines.


Which functionally is the fault of the people planning and managing the project. Knowing that they have particular deadlines, which really have nothing to do with the lower tier workers they are using to meet them, these goals, and the work allocation has been set with hedged bets that more workers will feel 40+ hours are fair than will have no reason other than a pay cheque to be invested in the company.

The best trick there is making the 40+ people secretly feel that the 40=/< people are somehow a problem more so than really stupid planning from above.
posted by Phalene at 7:10 AM on July 21 [57 favorites]


If you are a doctor or an engineer or any kind of a pro who works on technology edge you can hardly keep your head above water right now working 40 hours a week. At 24 you will drown in a couple years.
posted by bukvich at 7:10 AM on July 21


Nope, your company realizes that some people are dedicated to their work and will "go the extra mile" to get the project done. Those people are the suckers that keep the company going as it does, without compensating people for the real work they do.

Oh, I get the game. But you'd think that a company that tried hard to compensate workers fairly would have a performance edge? Dedicated types would line up to work there, and projects would stay on track whether or not there were some 9-to-5ers in the mix.
posted by mantecol at 7:13 AM on July 21


I think the practical minimum is four. A three day work week is a race to the bottom, ending with requiring most everyone to work two jobs (six days a week) to get by.
posted by fings at 7:15 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


I think we need to totally revisit how we think about compensating people.

No. As filthy light thief says, what you need to revisit is these "deadlines" - how they are generated, what they accomplish, and whose boat they float.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:16 AM on July 21 [21 favorites]


But you'd think that a company that tried hard to compensate workers fairly would have a performance edge? Dedicated types would line up to work there, and projects would stay on track whether or not there were some 9-to-5ers in the mix.

When I work as a contractor, I do not work for free. If I do work, I am paid.

But, when I have a regular job, they expect me to work until 8 most nights, because Bill, Joe, and Samantha are too stupid to not work for free.

So, fuck that. They want me there for 50 hours ? Fuck them, pay me. They want me to answer emails on weekends ? Fuck them, pay me.

You are giving away the one resource you can never ever recoup when you work. Time.

Why would you do that for free ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:25 AM on July 21 [71 favorites]


Dedicated types would line up to work there, and projects would stay on track whether or not there were some 9-to-5ers in the mix.

Would they? Or would the management -- who apparently have no idea how to manage projects with the staff they have -- say "we have the best most dedicated people in the business and we compensate them in the greatest possible manner" and then proceed to cut all the deadlines back by a week because, well, these people are getting paid so much they should be working "harder" than the 9-to-5ers we got rid of in exchange for them.
posted by griphus at 7:31 AM on July 21 [10 favorites]


You are giving away the one resource you can never ever recoup when you work. Time.

Why would you do that for free ?


I generally agree and struggle with these questions daily, but it's not quite as one-sided as this. I get something in return for hard work, which is access to resources and to problems that enable me to hone my skills. Happiness, to me, is deep thinking (that "flow" that they talk about in articles about creativity). The standard 8-hour day (interrupted 2-4 times by meetings, lunch, etc) is barely enough to get deep into a problem. I'm happy to work hard, I just wonder if there is a way it could be compensated for so that no one has to wonder if I'm stupid for doing it. Anyway, off to work, so I'll leave it to you guys to hash out!
posted by mantecol at 7:34 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


I'd rather work 40-hours straight and then have the rest of the week off.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:40 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Sounds like a great deal...for the rich guy. For the workers, not so much.

Huh? Given the choice between working three 11s or five 8s for the same take-home pay, I'm going to bet most workers are going to take the three-day week.

And, let's be real here, most of us are all working until we're 75 or drop dead of exhaustion anyway. Better to take your 'retirement' in four-day increments; it's a hell of a lot harder for your corporate overlords to steal it from you retroactively that way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:50 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


Given the choice between working three 11s or five 8s for the same take-home pay...

You're making a huge assumption there. There's no way in hell (at least in the US) that businesses are going to pay you the same for three 11s, that you would make for 5 8s. No. Bloody. Way.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:01 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Kadin2048: Given the choice between working three 11s or five 8s for the same take-home pay, I'm going to bet most workers are going to take the three-day week.

My last job gave us the option of flexible hours, but only out to 4 days of 10 hours each. People who chose that liked it, but said that 10 hours is a long day.

And to get 40 hours done in 3 days, you'd need to work 13 hours, 20 minutes each of those days, not 11 hours.In the US, truckers are limited to 11 hours of driving in a 14 hour work day. At some point, you're pushing the limits of productivity.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


c.f. Parkinson's Law. Obviously wouldn't work universally, but I personally have never had a job where I couldn't have just got my ass in gear a bit more and finished all of my work in four or even three days instead of five. It's always been merely the fact that I have the five days that I set my pace accordingly. It'll probably never happen, but a four or three day work week would be fantastic.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:05 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


So the hard workers end up picking up the 9-to-5ers' slack. The 9-to-5ers, not feeling the consequences of possible poor planning on their parts, keep doing what they're doing.

I hear this all the time working in VFX. It is wrongheaded. It is not "poor planning" on the parts of the 9-to-5ers (which in my industry is more like 9-to-7:30ers), but poor planning on the part of management. It also isn't the "hard workers" "picking up the slack" of the 9-to-5ers...it is overeager and skilled pushovers who aren't savvy enough to organize and demand that they should be paid more for every second they stay past the designated end of the work day.

As Phalene astutely pointed out up above: You have fallen for the corporate frame...you are the over-worked one fighting for the interests of management against your fellow workers. A workforce composed of those that resent each other is easier to control.

But you'd think that a company that tried hard to compensate workers fairly would have a performance edge? Dedicated types would line up to work there, and projects would stay on track whether or not there were some 9-to-5ers in the mix.

Well...you're currently a "hard worker" who puts in more than is required and you're still with your current company aren't you? As long as there are already folks like you around why would any company offer to compensate your extra work fairly when they already get it for free? I can guarantee that if everyone who felt like they put in the extra hours to "keep the company afloat" walked out when the 9-to-5ers walked out...then you might see some change. Every resentful "hard worker" that blames people who leave on time is more a part of the problem than those that leave on time.

In my experience, however, most of those folks can't stomach walking out because they have a misplaced sense of loyalty or duty - their role as "slack-picker-uppers" is part of their identity and one that, they hope, will one day be rewarded (pro-tip: it likely won't). The ones who actually like to be there because they like the work don't seem to care if they get paid extra or not...and they usually don't disparage the folks who leave on time, it's just that in their world they would be doing whatever it is they are doing at home anyway.
posted by jnnla at 8:05 AM on July 21 [63 favorites]


Of course, if I had to work harder each day to fit my work into three days, I do imagine that my prodigious metafilter contributions might fall off a bit, which would be a shame.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:06 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


A three day work week is a race to the bottom, ending with requiring most everyone to work two jobs (six days a week) to get by.

I'm not sure people read Slim's proposal.

He is saying that instead of working 5 days a week and then retiring at an older age, you should work all your life and work less. The thinking is that 1) When you are younger you can enjoy the time more and 2) Many people don't know what to do with their retirement.

He is putting his money where his mouth is. In his Telmex fixed-line phone company in Mexico, where workers on a collective labour contract who joined the company in their late teens are eligible to retire before they are 50, he has instituted a voluntary scheme allowing such workers to keep working, on full pay, but for only four days a week

posted by vacapinta at 8:11 AM on July 21 [7 favorites]


Instead of giving one's "flow" away to an employer who doesn't value it, find a way to create that flow at home, for your own benefit. Maybe that's doing the same type of work, but on something you'll commercialize yourself, or maybe it's exercising another skillset entirely as a hobby. Either way, it's better for you, better for your coworkers, and ultimately better for society.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:15 AM on July 21 [5 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt, I agree there's already a way to be compensated for all your time in software (contracting), but among reasons why people might not choose that route are: guaranteed health insurance (in the US — maybe this will start improving soon), not having to look for work all the time, and being rewarded by working on the most interesting problems.

The issue mantecol points out can really only be addressed by stronger labor laws. If the company is prohibited from allowing uncompensated overtime, they'll either plan differently, or find a way to legally compensate people to make things happen faster.

Moreover, it would remove the simple number of hours worked as a tool for playing the advancement game, and would probably make workers more efficient. (I say this as a hopefully-not-too-bitter-souding 40+ type person who would rather compete, if I have to compete, on the basis of results achieved within 40 hours than on the basis of hours worked that merely symbolize dedication.)
posted by mubba at 8:17 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


I really wish all the busy bees who take pleasure in working more than 8 hours a day (and who apparently don't have families or friends or time-consuming medical conditions or interests beyond work) would use their extra energy to organize unionization campaigns, instead of cheapening the value of everyone's time by donating it to their employers.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:27 AM on July 21 [44 favorites]


Given stagnating wages over the years, most folks need as much work as they can get if they are hourly employees...try living on minimum wage now, at an 8 hour day.
posted by Postroad at 8:31 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


vacapinta: He is saying that instead of working 5 days a week and then retiring at an older age, you should work all your life and work less.

And that bums me out to no end. On one hand, I've seen plenty of people who retire and just don't know what to do with themselves, but I have a really long mental list of long trips I'd like to take, which aren't doable on four day weekends. Unless I could work more than 3 days a week and bank up a month of time off with some ease, I don't want to work long days and have four day weekends until I am 70 or 75.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:33 AM on July 21


I really wish all of the people advocating for extending the retirement age to 70 or 75 could trade in their "sit on your butt all day long" job for a job being a nurse or a waitress and see if they still feel the same way.
posted by Asparagus at 8:36 AM on July 21 [21 favorites]


Rich guys always want what's best for everyone.
posted by colie at 8:39 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Rich guys always want what's best for everyone....

at their club.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:47 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


"Work" is an evil that should be abolished; shortened work weeks and reduced hours are a good step in that direction.

20-30% of "working" time goes to waste, anyhow. Probably more in white collar jobs. If people are only going to be productive for 4-6 hours a day, then that's all the time they should spend at work.

And remember, the 40 hour work week was hard fought for... it is not a default below which society will crumble any more than the 60 hour/six day week was. The further we can push in that direction, the better.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:49 AM on July 21 [19 favorites]


Re those that pick up slack: there are two ways one is compensated: bonuses (in some industries, at least) and first dibs on promotions and raises.
posted by jpe at 9:05 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


jpe, I know a woman who not only exceeded all performance metrics and picked up extra projects for the many years she was employed at a large professional services firm, but also literally put in more hours than anyone else at that company in the country.

Yet somehow, she still managed to get paid less than the men. Point being, compensation has fuck all to do with actual performance or even the appearance thereof, even at companies that claim to be good about such things. I will give them credit for one thing, though: Job title wasn't the issue, just pay relative to male peers who did less work, and often of objectively lesser quality.
posted by wierdo at 9:34 AM on July 21 [7 favorites]


The 9-to-5ers, not feeling the consequences of possible poor planning on their parts, keep doing what they're doing. Sometimes a 9-to-5er gets fired for poor performance. But more often, a hard worker gets frustrated and quits, and you end up with a disproportionate number of 9-to-5ers, and a chronic inability to meet deadlines.

Oh bull.

If a team has a "chronic inability to meet deadlines" it's the poor planning of the management.

As a software developer I am expected to, and paid to, work 40 hours a week. If we miss a deadline it's not because I didn't work an extra 20 hours a week, it's because we are understaffed and working on hard problems -- and thankfully my management is on the ball enough to know that.

I used to work in a job where I was paid half the industry standard for my experience level and frequently asked to put in crunch time, cancel vacation plans and so on. And guess what? We never met deadlines. But people did get pissed off and burned out.
posted by Foosnark at 9:35 AM on July 21 [20 favorites]


I think we ought to be suspicious of any Soviet style command and control approach to workplace hours

Like the one we have now, where a tiny, insular politburo at the top sets the hours (and all other policies) for everyone, despite being totally disconnected from the results of those decisions.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:43 AM on July 21 [7 favorites]


Every sufficiently sized organization becomes a command economy bureaucracy (smaller ones are generally but not always despotisms). There are very few exceptions to this in my experience.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:45 AM on July 21


People need to stop pretending that deadlines are a real thing. There's no reason a software company can't meet a deadline with a 40 hour work week. The only real deadlines are where people will actually end up dead, as in avalanche victims who aren't found in less than an hour.
posted by desjardins at 9:50 AM on July 21 [17 favorites]


I've seen plenty of people who retire and just don't know what to do with themselves

Or they don't have the money to do anything "fun", they can't visit their kids because the kids are always working, they have poor health due to staying too long in physically demanding jobs etc.

As to the scheme where people eligible for retirement keep working four days for full pay ... Does this mean he is not paying out their pensions to them or is their pension payment picking up the fifth day? Either way, he is coming out ahead financially, isn't he?
posted by saucysault at 9:50 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


what is up with the corporate world that so many people are simply incompetent at project management? I'm trying to help some people with project management and I know nothing but I know that you should write down the project goals before you work on listing the steps required to complete those goals. And then set deadlines for each task, before determining how many people you need to complete the tasks. Even simple things like this seem mind-bendingly difficult for people to do.

And it's not just my company, it's companies everywhere. I've met some people who are really good at this! But what I don't get is, why does it not seem to provide competitive advantage? Could it be that the day-to-day make-work corporate grind is nothing more than a tool to generate random economic activity, a percentage of which is skimmed off the top as "profits" for the wealthy class?
posted by rebent at 9:52 AM on July 21 [21 favorites]


The only way a shorter work week would work is if it were somewhat across the board. Which means enforced by the government in terms of labor laws that would dissuade companies from "encouraging" (forcing) their employees to work more than three days a week. For example, a 24/3 rule: everyone gets paid full time for their first 24 hours or first three days of reporting to work (whichever is less). But beyond that they would have to get paid double time, or double time and a half, or triple time. Whatever level would strongly encourage the company to hire an additional worker instead of just paying their existing employee the overtime rate to stay more hours. Once the new regime is in place, the shorter work week would become the new normal and businesses would hopefully adjust their pay rates higher and/or retail prices lower accordingly.

On the flip side of that, workers would have to be discouraged somehow from taking second jobs, which would sabotage the entire exercise. A highly progressive tax rate would help in that regard.
posted by xigxag at 9:59 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


desjardins: People need to stop pretending that deadlines are a real thing. There's no reason a software company can't meet a deadline with a 40 hour work week. The only real deadlines are where people will actually end up dead, as in avalanche victims who aren't found in less than an hour.

That's silly. The word means a time by which some work must be completed. The "must" does not carry with it a requirement that someone literally dies if the work isn't completed by the deadline. You're using a definition of "deadline" more specific than the actual literal or colloquial definition.

There are, of course, fictional "deadlines" that have no real consequences for missing them other than having a boss or project manager be mad at you, but that doesn't make the deadlines any less real to the people trying to meet them. They're simply a goal, and one that can be met or missed like any other goal.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:05 AM on July 21


The cultural mindset that went into creating the eight hour work day seems to be missing this time around.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:05 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


Three 11-hour days a week is 33 hours, or seven hours less than a 40-hour workweek. The question remains: who would absorb the loss in hours: the business, who'd put up with 80% of the worker-hours for the same salary bill and hope that improved productivity/reduced illness/better morale helps it balance out, or the employees, who would be free to use the extra 7 hours a week driving an Uber cab or doing TaskRabbit tasks to meet the mortgage payments?
posted by acb at 10:07 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


what is up with the corporate world that so many people are simply incompetent at project management?

...

And it's not just my company, it's companies everywhere. I've met some people who are really good at this! But what I don't get is, why does it not seem to provide competitive advantage? Could it be that the day-to-day make-work corporate grind is nothing more than a tool to generate random economic activity, a percentage of which is skimmed off the top as "profits" for the wealthy class?
posted by rebent
I think that for most, project management is an acquirable skill, but most people either don't learn it, or make the connection between planning a cake and planning a software update. It's not really necessary in high school, and after that it's possible to slip by without really having to do anything worthy of project management skills.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:09 AM on July 21


Project management can be both soulless and soul-crushing, so it's not a surprise to me at all that there are a lot of problems in that area.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:12 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


mantecol: The problem is, there is no recognition of the two types of people. There is no concept of overtime in the software industry. So the hard workers end up picking up the 9-to-5ers' slack. The 9-to-5ers, not feeling the consequences of possible poor planning on their parts, keep doing what they're doing. Sometimes a 9-to-5er gets fired for poor performance. But more often, a hard worker gets frustrated and quits, and you end up with a disproportionate number of 9-to-5ers, and a chronic inability to meet deadlines.

Look, please stop working crazy hours. You are accomplishing many things, nearly all of them bad, and many of them bad for other people:

1. You are depriving other people of jobs. If everyone actually worked a normal schedule, employers would need to hire more people, instead of exploiting a few with crazy hours and ruining their lives.

2. You are enabling stupid management practices. If people wouldn't 'work' crazy hours, management wouldn't get to have all of their stupid, useless meetings without impacting productivity, and they'd have to stop wasting everyone's time.

3. You are cheating yourself. You're giving your time away to the company for free, and taking nothing. It's exactly the same as if you gave them a chunk of your paycheck back.

4. You're ruining things for everyone else in your field. You raise expectations, making it so new people will have to work crazy hours just to get a job. The IT industry is one of the most worker-hostile, family-hostile workplaces already, and it's people working crazy hours for no extra money that got it there. This was actually a major factor in why I didn't go into your field; I like it, but I'm not throwing away my entire life just to have a job.

So, just stop it. If you truly want nothing more than to work all of your life, do a normal schedule and then volunteer for a similar project.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:13 AM on July 21 [90 favorites]


So the hard workers end up picking up the 9-to-5ers' slack.

Fuck this assumption that "hard workers" and "9-to-5ers" are antonyms. Jesus Tap-dancing Christ.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:17 AM on July 21 [49 favorites]


So to echo what everyone else is saying, the tech industry has normalized fraudulent and criminal exploitation of workers, and many other fraudulent and criminal practices besides. If you enjoy working long hours get a second job or participate in an open source project. Don't screw all your co-workers and everyone else in the industry by aiding and abetting practices like half-assed approach to project and resource planning that depends on "oh well, everyone will just work more hours" to solve logistical problems, shunting business risk onto employees' personal lives, squeezing more personal time out of employees by maintaining a never-ending "crisis mode", and all the other dirty tricks that owners and management use before they run off with bags of cash.

Or on preview, everything Mitrovarr said better.
posted by XMLicious at 10:20 AM on July 21 [9 favorites]


There are, of course, fictional "deadlines" that have no real consequences for missing them other than having a boss or project manager be mad at you, but that doesn't make the deadlines any less real to the people trying to meet them. They're simply a goal, and one that can be met or missed like any other goal.

But that's my point - they're fictional, and there's no reason that people should have to work extra hours for no/low pay to get the TPS report finished by Friday. In the larger scheme of things, it doesn't matter at all if the TPS report isn't done until next Wednesday. No one's going to die! If extending this fictional deadline means that people don't have to stay later (for free!) to finish it, it's a net benefit to society.
posted by desjardins at 10:23 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


And then there's the elephant in the room of automation: it has already claimed many traditionally “working-class” jobs (and the culture of a large-scale industrial proletariat with it), and with AI and robotics, looks set to claim many formerly safe-seeming middle-class and professional jobs. At the logical extent of this, we'll have robot lawyers and surgeons which are more reliable and efficient than the highly-trained human professionals who used to do those jobs; even before that, the amount of work to go around dwindles; meanwhile, everyone still needs food, clothing and energy.

Given that our culture is predicated on the assumptions that idleness is immoral and that one's value as a human being is tied in to the value of one's labour, this can be problematic to say the least. For a while, artificially high workloads may be maintained for purely disciplinary reasons, because the alternative, giving people money for nothing, is immoral (whereas making people spend their finite hours alive in pointless paper-shuffling exercises for their daily bread isn't). Eventually the hours will be cut back, with a minimum income provided to allow people to survive. After that, either society will recognise the intangible value of that time being spent on leisure and non-economic projects, with 1:1 scale models of cities being built in whatever replaces Second Life/Minecraft, Wikipedia pages written about obscure cartoon characters, not to mention the myriad novels, songs and films made, being seen as intrinsically valuable (some solely to its creator, and a minority to a broader population); or, alternatively, the sentient AIs who by then run the corporations that run the economy and have full legal personhood will recognise that humans are a drain on profits and exterminate them.
posted by acb at 10:23 AM on July 21 [14 favorites]


desjardins: But that's my point - they're fictional, and there's no reason that people should have to work extra hours for no/low pay to get the TPS report finished by Friday. In the larger scheme of things, it doesn't matter at all if the TPS report isn't done until next Wednesday. No one's going to die! If extending this fictional deadline means that people don't have to stay later (for free!) to finish it, it's a net benefit to society.

Yes, but some deadlines are real. Maybe nobody dies, but customers can be lost, and people can be fired.

I'm totally on board with (what I think is) your larger point that managers often exploit workers using fictional deadlines, but saying that there are no deadlines other than ones where people are actually dying is unnecessarily hyperbolic.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:25 AM on July 21


meanwhile, everyone still needs food, clothing and energy.

The funny thing is, there are these futurists who ask: what would life be like in a post-scarcity society? But, we are already there. Something like 40-50% of all food is wasted or literally thrown away. There is already a superabundance of cheap shelter, clothing and energy - not enough for McMansions for all, but certainly enough for everyone to be well-fed and comfortably sheltered. It's a travesty that in this context people not only spend the majority of their days working, but actually volunteering more time to their employer besides. Paying people to not work (NB not "to do nothing") is the logical and rational next step in this situation, but there's so much ingrained opposition - even from the very people who would benefit from that arrangement. It's a strange world we live in.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 10:39 AM on July 21 [12 favorites]


It's no surprise that bureaucracies in the corporate world value people who give away their time by putting in 60+ hour weeks, since most of these environments are ruled by machismo-fueled douchebags who see number of hours worked as a some sort of competitive scoring mechanism.

There's plenty of evidence that overtime is counter-productive.
posted by nerdler at 10:45 AM on July 21 [7 favorites]


He is saying that instead of working 5 days a week and then retiring at an older age, you should work all your life and work less.

I read the article. Slim paints this rosy picture of people working less and having more free time for entertainment, relaxation, etc. etc. It's, basically, the same nirvana-like picture people painted about automation in the workplace. Insert your own opinion/experience as to how that's worked-out so-far.

He also doesn't address the very real probability that working less=earning less. The only way that's going to work is if the cost of living is also reduced to match the lowered incomes. I somehow don't see that happening. Lowered incomes would most likely mean a reduced quality of life.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:53 AM on July 21


Three 11-hour days a week is 33 hours, or seven hours less than a 40-hour workweek.

That must be cultural. Where I live, everyone who works full-time works/is paid 35 hours a week, plus an unpaid lunch (the morning and afternoon break are paid). Some people only take a half hour lunch and then leave work an half hour early at 4:30. So 33 hours is only two off from the 35 - not sure whether paid lunches/breaks are included in the eleven hour day.
posted by saucysault at 11:05 AM on July 21


My husband, one of those coders who does his job brilliantly in the scheduled hours, points out that one of the reasons the team consistently meets goals and sprint targets is because none of the "9-5" coders have to fix the gazillion mistakes of a sleep deprived hours-competitor who makes a bad commit at 4am and breaks stuff.

Secondarily, I led large teams through the IPO process in the dot com era. Almost across the board, those folks burning themselves out with the 80 hr, sleep at desk, modality either burned out before they could ever cash in a stock option, or...as happened in the vast majority of them, the management team laid them all off before they could vest in the options. Because options unused go back into the grant pool, and guess who gets them?

The hours as metric of value is a flawed metric, and my experience has taught me to avoid shops where that is the management preference. (To be fair, I'm an expensive consultant, so clients are thrilled that I can do my job in half the time they think it will take.)
posted by dejah420 at 11:07 AM on July 21 [12 favorites]


ZeusHumms: The cultural mindset that went into creating the eight hour work day seems to be missing this time around.

Because we already have the 8 hour workday! We won! Now we're just trying to make enough to get by, so staying late and showing you're dedicated might keep you employed in a tough economy. As said in other threads, the US has come to hold The Working Man as The Best American, while berating the Union Jerks who are Stealing From America, and sees no conflict in that mentality.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:10 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


We've had an awful lot of technological advancement, and cultural shifts, that replaced almost all the useful jobs that existed way back when we enacted the 8 hour workday.

We cannot expect to employ everyone today unless we either (a) reduce the workweek further or (b) make up more bullshit make-work, like the Keynesians had us doing over the last several decades. And our ongoing economic crises show that the Keynesians failed.

We should shorten the work week enough to employ everyone, including eliminating the exemptions from FLSA. And ideally we should shorten the work week a bit more to wipe out some bullshit make-work jobs
posted by jeffburdges at 11:22 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Yeah, 11 hour days sucks. Our short term goal should be three 8 hours days or maybe some arrangement of 6ish hour days. We should achieve this by reducing the useless work. And deadlines occur frequently with useless work.

That said, Carlos Slim has the right idea when he says "With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life. Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied."

I'd tentatively assert that three 11 hour days would help transition us into a post-work society faster than our current five 8 hour days schedule. Ain't so easy to pass from four to three days because many people will choose an extra job over leisure, but this damages the economy and employee productivity. It's therefore maybe best doing that while the total hours remain too high.

I'm dubious if his later retirement would fly either given folks attachment to their current retirement, so maybe we'd score a 33 hour work week, pass the biggest hurdle, and keep retirement the same.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:30 AM on July 21


saying that there are no deadlines other than ones where people are actually dying is unnecessarily hyperbolic.

There is no such thing as unnecessary hyperbole.
posted by asperity at 11:39 AM on July 21 [9 favorites]


We would also have more time to consume the things we make, which (given that we're in a demand-side crunch) might actually be good for the economy on the whole.

The problem is, though — as capital learned in the 60s and 70s — the problem is that once people are comfortable and have free time, we tend to start demanding that capital start seeing us as people. We start asking for enforcement of our extant on-paper rights, we start agitating for more rights, and in general we start acting like we're valuable, instead of acting like whatshisname upthread who lives to give away work. Very bad.

tl;dr: idle hands are the devil's plaything, amirite?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:41 AM on July 21 [10 favorites]


srsly, though, I think maybe I have to stop reading about workplace practices in america and just keep my head down and hope that things get better. or that I can find a job in a country where things are better.

The thing is, I've got a reasonable gig — but I know that my reasonable gig is rare, and that in a lot of ways my reasonable gig is built on a foundation of everyone else's unreasonable gigs. Moreover, knowledge of how nasty the work world is on the whole makes me horribly paranoid that my reasonable gig is unreasonable in ways that I'm just not smart enough to see.

Basically, I have trust issues re: all employers. The relationship pattern itself feels deeply abusive, always, even when no concrete abuse is going on.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:49 AM on July 21 [10 favorites]


Everyone could work three-day weeks and have at least a secure middle class wage. It would just mean we'd have to stop concentrating wealth upward into the hands of people who already have plenty. We can't technocratically solve the issue while leaving the abusive system in place, the abusive system has to be replaced, which means legislation guaranteeing less hours and better pay. It would just mean less insane profits, CEO pay and so forth: the wealthy might have to get used to being only five times as wealthy as their workers instead of fifty times as wealthy.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:00 PM on July 21 [11 favorites]


I've totally been doing it wrong. I've been the late-working guy and the 9-5 guy with more important commitments both at the same time for years now. In my new job, I'm sticking with the 9-5 thing (have to by contract anyway).

It's definitely management's fault if the estimated hours are completely unrealistic, even though they always are.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:29 PM on July 21


At my previous job, management would present project goals and ask the entire team for estimates (ala "Agile" methods where everyone votes and the average is taken). The result was that Business Analysts would be voting on technical programming tasks - as if they have any real basis to understand how long that task would take. You would also always have the programmer that would throw out huge estimates no matter what: "That'll take 50 hours", "But it's only going to take changing one line of code", "Oh, really? Well, still.. 50 hours is a safer estimate".

Nevertheless, the estimates were often pretty close or at least a good gauge to go by. The reality, however, was that management would just come back to the group and force us to re-estimate if they didn't like the results of the original estimations.. or they would actively argue us down.

Furthermore, after voting those estimates for, say, a 4-month project, two months in management would come in and add additional scope or completely change the direction of the project and then insist everything could still be done within the remaining 2 months.

It was absolutely ridiculous and I'm glad I am gone.
posted by mbatch at 3:54 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]


By the way, I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to guess what would happen in the project retrospective meetings when the grunts would point out what I said above when asked the question "where we went wrong?".
posted by mbatch at 3:56 PM on July 21


Years back I had an hourly job at a graphics company and I could opt for 4 days 10 hours each or 5 days 8 hours each. Worked really well. Loved that job.

My current and previous jobs are both salaried. The previous one required 4 days in the office and a fifth day for research, or part-time teaching elsewhere, or whatever. My current one requires 5 days in the office 8:30am to 5:15pm even though much of what I do could be done from home. I saw a lot more productivity in myself and others at the previous place and see a lot of just marking time at my current one.
posted by Gotanda at 4:15 PM on July 21


tonycpsu: "...but saying that there are no deadlines other than ones where people are actually dying is unnecessarily hyperbolic."

So, eponysterically, I'll have to say: "You know who else had deadlines where people die if the deadlines weren't achieved..."

This guy.
posted by symbioid at 4:23 PM on July 21


They are the glue that keeps the company afloat.

Anecdotally, obvs,- and I'm sure you're not like this - but I've noticed that the perception you are vital to your organisation and they would be unable to carry on without you often presents in people who are: unhappy inside and outside work; unable to respect or be nice to their colleagues; showing progressively weirder behaviours and getting side-eyes from people as the delusion intensifies; and have more and more deadlines missed and problems, catastrophes etc.

Maybe if you're an org of ten people, or you're like a brain surgeon who can do an operation no one else can. But my experience, certainly in the corporate world, is that literally no one is crucial. They will find a way to stumble on without you, usually faster than you think. It's an unpleasant realisation sometimes, for people who give so much of themselves to work.
posted by smoke at 3:53 AM on July 22 [3 favorites]


I'd like to work one day a week in my garden and my home, with my friends or family during busy times, growing my own food and maintaining my own shelter.

One day a week for my feudal overlord who protects me from invaders, with my community, who will share the tasks of rearing the children and maintaining communal property.

One day a week in the forest, hunting and gathering, with select members of my community who I like to do this with.

One day a week on my own in pursuit of a skill or vocation that I like but that also has benefits for the other days' responsibilities.

One day a week in preparation for the next day of celebration. With select members of my community who I like to do this with. Or maybe some common-benefit infrastructure type work. Or helping the others with the kids or their busy days.

2 days off. One day of feasting and celebration. One day of whatever.

I think we used to have this?
posted by evil_esto at 5:02 AM on July 22 [5 favorites]


"we" come from an incredibly diverse set of political systems. I'm not saying you're wrong, just [[citation needed]].
posted by rebent at 5:24 AM on July 22


I was thinking about Papua New Guinea.
posted by evil_esto at 5:36 AM on July 22


They are mainly 'Melanesian'. But they don't always call themselves that.
posted by evil_esto at 5:36 AM on July 22


Not sure if our political systems are all that 'diverse' actually? Maybe cite that.
posted by evil_esto at 5:38 AM on July 22


I like esto's proposed living schedule, but let's kill the feudal lord and replace Overlord Service Day with Interminable Marxist Committee Meeting Day.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:59 AM on July 22 [4 favorites]


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