Not startup, smart-up.
February 17, 2015 9:47 PM   Subscribe

At some start-ups, Friday is so casual it’s not even a workday. "Treehouse is closed every Friday. The 80-and-counting employees work a 32-hour work week Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, employees are expected to be home, with their families, having fun, doing something, anything, other than work." How's it doing? "The company has raised $13 million, saw 100 percent revenue growth last year and has close to 100 percent employee retention."
posted by storybored (85 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wouldn't even mind the 40-hour week if it could be four 10-hour days and a three-day weekend. Alas, it is not to be. Because reasons.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:54 PM on February 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


I wouldn't mind a 40 hour work week that was actually 40 hours.
posted by ryanrs at 9:58 PM on February 17, 2015 [160 favorites]


I just got home. It's 11:00PM, I got to work at 9:00AM this morning.

I'm not an hourly employee. I'm a senior analyst in an IT shop. Working a 12-hour day is beyond typical for me; it's all but spoken as an expectation. Oh and I also worked 2 hours on Sunday, and a few more on my HR-sanctioned holiday yesterday.

But the thing that galls the most? The fact that in spite of all this extra labor, my boss still has the nerve to send out a passive-agressive "warning" email to the whole team to remind us not to took "overly long lunch breaks" because, you know, it's a perception issue with the other departments.

FUCK. THAT. NOISE.

...it's an interesting article. Makes a lot of sense for knowledge work. Wouldn't it be nice if more companies could do this.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:05 PM on February 17, 2015 [43 favorites]


See, this is the promise that innovation has been making for a number of years. We become more efficient via technology, and we will have more leisure time to spend with friends, family, and self-actualizing activities. The damned lie has been that in reality, it has just created higher expectations for what people can get done in a 40 hour work week. What this company is doing makes my heart soar a bit, because it's calling others out on this nonsense, and also creating something that people have hoped for years, and will flock to: that society will one day become such that family and relationships are the primary focus, and work can fundamentally be something that supports that as the highest end. The way everything works now, too often family and relationships suffer to value work as a higher social priority. I would love to see some sort of a flip-flop in my life time.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:12 PM on February 17, 2015 [73 favorites]


They are workers like Andrew Chalkley, 31, who took a pay cut to work at Treehouse as an expert teacher.

Emphasis mine. Is it safe to assume that they are paying only 80% of what their competitors pay for "40" hour work weeks?
posted by maryr at 10:20 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


The trick is to be in a position for people to have to treat you nice for retention purposes.

I've not found that employment-wise but I have found it with my apartment building. They do a wonderful party 2 or 3 times a year and keep the common spaces in fantastic shape and do service requests within a few hours because they know that if they retain tenants they make a lot more money than they would with higher turn-over.

It's almost like somebody found a vaccine for MBA-itis.
posted by srboisvert at 10:22 PM on February 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


Did anyone besides me immediately look at their job listings page?
posted by greenland at 10:37 PM on February 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


Is it safe to assume that they are paying only 80% of what their competitors pay for "40" hour work weeks?

I would have taken a 50% pay cut to work only half the year at my old tech job. Sure, I made enough for that to be possible along with my expenses being minimal. But we're all worth more than what they pay, so such things don't happen.
posted by MillMan at 10:44 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Still a long way to go from the Jetsons, where George would complain about his 4-hour week.

We live in a country where many people don't even take all of the tiny amount of vacation that they're allotted (compared to the rest of the world). We don't have mandated maternity leave, and a Presidential candidate thought it would be great if children could work janitorial jobs.

One of the greatest tricks The Man ever pulled was convincing people it was a good work ethic to work more than 40 hours a week but not get paid overtime, because they were "exempt."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:52 PM on February 17, 2015 [51 favorites]


Please, please let this be the hot new corporate trend. I will cheerlead this every step of the way.
posted by naju at 10:52 PM on February 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


Doleful Creature: "senior analyst in an IT shop."

Serious question. What does a senior analyst do?
posted by pwnguin at 11:06 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I work for a small company in Portland (not Treehouse). I've been there three years and in that time I've worked more than 40 hours in a week maybe twice.

Honestly, it's fantastic. If you've never had a professional job with hours like that, you don't know what you're missing. I can't imagine putting in hours just for the sake of it, or having too much work to do in a day, or work that can't wait until tomorrow.

I wouldn't even consider any offer less than 1.5x what I'm making now. And even then, it'd be a hard sell.
posted by paulcole at 11:06 PM on February 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


Good to see some kind of sanity over hours in the tech industry.

It would be interesting to see when this trend for very long hours for managers started.

I saw a revival of a 1931 play "The Man Who Pays the Piper" recently. A big plot point there is that everyone in the household of the Important Businessperson dreads the hour of 6PM, when the CEO arrives back home in a foul mood after working so hard at Business all day. In "Three Men in a Boat" (1889) it's explained:
George, who would not be able to get away from the City till the afternoon (George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two)
It's not always been the case that hugely long hours have been expected of managers.

It doesn't make much sense that people who are supposedly valued for their judgement and creativity should always be in a haze of exhaustion. Long hours seem to arise out of a mix of a superstitious cult of "talent", and competitive signalling where people try to prove that they can at least work for longer than the next person.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:41 PM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


Good lord does no one remember these stories from the dot.com era circa 2001??? enjoy it while it lasts.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:47 PM on February 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm seriously considering trying 80% hours for a year, providing my manager goes along (he most likely would, as another person in my office has Tuesdays off).

And I'm one of the lucky ones already, working in a country with sane labour laws (Norway) and regularly putting in 37.5 hour weeks.

My workday is quite flexible, so I could probably with no fanfare put in one hour extra the first four days of the week, and then leave for the weekend Friday at lunch.

I suspect my quality of life would improve measurably. I could fetch the smallest kids from kindergarden and just mess around with a elaborate Friday dinner for them and the wife when she comes home from her work.
posted by Harald74 at 12:42 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Good lord does no one remember these stories from the dot.com era circa 2001??? enjoy it while it lasts.

There were successful four year-old startups that and offered coding classes to all people over the internet in 2001? You must be from a brighter timeline.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:49 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is definitely well into "problems you'd like to have" territory, but there's an interesting golden handcuffs aspect to situations like this. Is this a great place to work, or is it a great place to work 4 days a week? This is something I wonder about often with my current company.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:51 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I once worked at a tech company where the hours were 10AM-5PM. Retention was unbelievable (in fact, they could have done with more staff turnover) and the same amount of work got done (nobody can code for 8 hours a day).
posted by Leon at 1:31 AM on February 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


After working for several companies with soul crushing hours, and shit catching on fire at least twice a month, I got a job that was 40 hours a week with almost no fires.

It was a 10% cut in pay from the previous gig, but still paid enough, and by god my sanity was worth it.
posted by zippy at 1:41 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


One of my past employers, a major bank in Australia, offered employees up to 4 weeks "Lifestyle Leave" per year. Basically you swapped up to 1/12 of your salary for extra time off. The money could be taken out of your pay over the course of the year or day by day as you took time off. It had some annoying gotchas (for example you had to use up your paid leave before you could take Lifestyle Leave) that made it a win for the bean counters, but it was surprisingly popular with people who were financially comfortable and looking at winding down their career. On top of Australia's standard 4 week vacations, you could take up to 1/6 of the year off.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 1:56 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


My company has a similar thing, whereby extra leave can be bought at the start of the year.
We also have an excellent flex system whereby extra hours worked (which, being a consultancy happens quite often) can be rolled up into days of leave.

These are all very nice, but as others have said it's the structural changes to what we think of as full employment that we should be making.
If everyone worked three days a week the same work would get done, everyone could have a job and there would be more free time for learning, playing, creating. I would bet that it would come out ahead in the long run.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:11 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


In 2009, my company decided to do furloughs instead of layoffs. "Furloughs" meant a 10% pay cut for everyone, and every gets alternate Fridays off. At the time, I didn't have kids yet, and didn't need the extra money, so I loved it. I wasn't the only one. There was quite a bit of grumbling when the furloughs ended.

I thought at the time and still think that the company would've been wise to offer the option to continue on the same schedule/pay for employees who wanted to do that. I have to imagine that they would've saved more on salaries than the hit they took on productivity -- how productive are people who don't want to be there, anyway? Especially on a Friday? But I wonder if they have any before-and-after data that could actually make it possible to judge the business impact, or if its all hopelessly tangled up with the poor performance during the recession.

It might take just one major company realizing that productivity is an S curve and that cutting people's hours and salary 10% does not yield a 10% decline in productivity, to start a trend toward 36 hour work-weeks. But a trend toward 10% paycuts does not sound as appealing...
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:45 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


If everyone worked three days a week the same work would get done, everyone could have a job and there would be more free time for learning, playing, creating. I would bet that it would come out ahead in the long run.

This was exactly the reasoning behind France's 35-hour work week, yep.

Sub-contractors get the short end of the stick though. We have employment contracts, all 35 hours (some are 37 in which case you get additional days off), but boy does "client perception" get wielded as a weapon when you're anything below senior analyst. In France, senior analysts are generally treated well since good ones are hard to come by. Managers all work at least 40-hour weeks, usually 50, often 60, and don't get extra holidays; it's "expected" of them.

pwnguin, a senior analyst in IT can mean a lot of things. Given Doleful Creature's minimal description, I'm guessing they're on the tech end, analyzing business input and writing technical and/or functional specifications based on that. I, on another hand, am a senior test analyst, on the functional side, and have reached a point where that includes management. I analyze business *and* technical inputs, so meet with lots of business analysts and senior analysts (technical). Then I write test strategies, get them validated, and do the tests, to make sure stuff works the way it was designed to work, and the way a nominal user would expect it to work, with my user-friendly experience in other fields that is often seen as something magical by IT people here. (This is partly due to France being very blinkered about how education and career trajectories are "supposed to work"; meaning, as someone with a BA in French and a Masters in comparative literature, who runs a BSD system and set up her own RaspberryPi-based WiFi-controlled media center, for instance, I'm a unicorn in the French IT world.)

Anyway, yeah, I'm writing this from my work laptop as we near our lunch break. Got to work at 9am and will be able to leave around 5:30pm (our company does 37-hour weeks). 6 weeks of paid vacation a year. Very happy to be "senior" since no one gives me crap any more about taking 1-hour lunches (we can actually take 2 hours without much of a problem, depends on who you work with/for though) or leaving work before 6. I blew it off then, but yeah, nice not to have the pressure at all.

35-hour weeks really are wonderful, I hope they reach the US sooner rather than later. It's so nice to be able to go home and have time to just... do nothing (talk to the cats)... if that's what you want.
posted by fraula at 2:54 AM on February 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


I work 4 days a week -- 28 hrs a week -- and it's bliss. And by bliss I mean it doesn't cause me to spiral into depression/anxiety and get fired (and it's pleasant). I don't get tech money for it, pro rata or in absolute terms, but there's no way I'd sell back that extra day. And after having done it for a while, I honestly think most people would greatly benefit from an arrangement like this (assuming they were still getting a decent wage, etc).
posted by Drexen at 3:02 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Uhh this is how Fridays go at every tech company already! (If you're a VP)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:36 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm really lucky in the American working context. I stumbled into a Fortune 100 company (and not one of the sexy ones) that does walk the talk about work-life balance - our hours are 37.5 a week, and amazingly, few people work much more. I believe it works out to around 38.5 hours a week on average for non-managers and 39.5 hours a week for managers in my field. The culture includes meeting other people for a proper sit-down lunch at least 3 or 4 times a week, flexible start and end times, working from home is normal, even for entry-level employees (in my field at least), they're introducing summer Fridays and by American standards, their FTO policy is generous.

The thing is, even if they had all these policies on the books, if the culture and the managers dictated that facetime was important, it would be hard to actually take advantage of them. But because everyone seems to agree that what's important is getting one's work done, while maintaining a good work-life balance, it all works!
posted by peacheater at 3:40 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]




I would have taken a 50% pay cut to work only half the year at my old tech job.

No kidding. I would gladly work in my current job two or three or four days, with the appropriate pay cut. But part-time professional work just doesn't exist.

I don't know how people can regularly work 12+ hour days without massive amounts of stimulants and very few outside activities. I start to unravel when my work week hits 45 hours.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:52 AM on February 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


I unfortunately can see this turning into that "unlimited vacation" perk that was quickly discovered to be useless because people were so scared of taking vacation, lest they look like they were taking advantage, that they ended up taking less than the usual amount per year.
posted by PenDevil at 3:54 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


This year I took a %45 pay cut to keep my job. I work 60-70 hours and get paid for 40 have no safety net whatsoever and get questioned for 1 hour over charged. I can't pay my bills anymore and as a senior developer with 20 years experience can't find a job because I am overqualified or just plain old. So yeah wish this was a reality but it isn't.
posted by mrgroweler at 4:07 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


Serious question. What does a senior analyst do?

The key part is getting old.
posted by srboisvert at 4:58 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


My guess is that they can do this only because they have exceptionally cheap overhead per employee (Portland tech = cheap rent and young, cheap-benefit-cost employees) AND an extremely low-touch business model (most people can't let a client problem that arises on Thursday afternoon, or a sales lead that comes in during cocktails on Thursday night, sit untouched until Monday) AND they've fully outsourced whatever "touch" remains to Amazon Web Services (or something like that) which has people working for them 24-7.
posted by MattD at 5:00 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Perception lunches are why we should all have the option of working remotely.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:04 AM on February 18, 2015


(I've said this before) My first job, in 1967, had a 37-1/2 hour week. I was a union book factory. The owners closed it and moved operations to the Midwest.

I have known a handful of companies that had four-day work weeks. All of them seemed successful. All of them were bought by larger companies that promptly imposed a five-day week. The corporate oligarchs cannot stand the idea that ordinary workers might have more leisure, or more money, or more anything. It's because they are assholes.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:07 AM on February 18, 2015 [31 favorites]


Startups and tech are not ready to abandon the industrial revolution. Which makes sense given that both are about consolidation of capital.

Workers are just in the way until robots arrive.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:08 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know how people can regularly work 12+ hour days without massive amounts of stimulants and very few outside activities.

My first restaurant job, I regularly worked 16+ hour days. My memory is still a blur--I don't think I socialized with friends or got laid or did anything but zone out in front of the TV while I was there. Ever been too tired to sleep? Afraid to go to sleep because you know you'll sleep through your alarm? It's hell.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:18 AM on February 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


I recently left a public sector job with four day weeks, 37.5 hours total. There was some spill-over with evening meetings or a report to finish over the weekend, but that was minimal. I never added it up exactly but I think we got about six weeks off a year, plus sick leave.

There was a lot that was good about that schedule -- it was really humane, left a lot of time for taking care of personal stuff, and could be sustained over the long term. My experience is that work can expand or contract to fill the time available; people working longer hours aren't necessarily working harder.

But for other reasons I left that job and am back in the five days a week and extra hours required world. I miss the schedule, but I don't miss the parts of that job that weren't so great. In a perfect world I would be able to cherry pick and get both the nice schedule and the other things I want, but right now it's an either/or.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:19 AM on February 18, 2015


This discussion is adorable considering it's tech company focused. I'm old enough to remember the bullshit selling point in the 80's that computers will actually give us MORE leisure time, I guess the joke there is that we'll be unemployed. It would be nice one day for the proletariat to rise up and demand a society where we work to live as opposed to the other way around. That won't happen until we rise up and destroy every Cadillac we see in response to this kind of propaganda.

We better get to it soon before they can replace us with robots. I don't understand how any responsible government can sit back and do nothing as the population continues to increase at the same time technology stands at a precipice of automating so much labor. It's a recipe for disaster. Either we need to engage in population control or slow progress. History tells us the latter is virtually impossible.
posted by any major dude at 5:31 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't mind a 40 hour work week that was actually 40 hours.

I'm of the opinion that only 5% or so of employees in an organization--basically people with titles like "Chief Foo Officer"--should be "exempt."* Everyone should get paid overtime, with strict audits to ensure no one is "ghosting" time (to the point of checking server logs for email exchanges). In my mind, it will force companies to face the true cost of what they do, rather then act like they have infinite capacity with finite people. As they capture these costs, they can adjust their whole cost model, stock valuation, etc., to reflect true costs.

Perhaps some folks will work 10-20% overtime, because it's a threshold too low to justify another body, and they can't combine it with some other folk's 10-20%. But, it would force the company to look at what that person is doing, and if it's worth the extra money.

Folks outside of the C-suite may not get bonuses, or as big bonuses. Personally, I have no problem with that. Giving a bonus to exempt employees means that the company gets to decide what to pay for the overtime. Giving 2-3% for an extra 10-20% of labor sounds, to me, like a financially astute decision.

There may be things that need to be figured out--how to handle folks with greater flexibility or have part-time professional roles, but I think this would be a good start to balancing the labor marketplace.

*Note that I state this as a percent, and recognize it may need to be calibrated, and other criteria added. The goal is to avoid the situation we're in (where everyone becomes exempt (everyone is a "Chief Something Officer" or Vice President)), as well as keep the exempt at the top of the pyramid (i.e. not have the 5% on the assembly line be "exempt").
posted by MrGuilt at 6:01 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


Any Major Dude -- the places with the biggest focus on robotics are more worried about population decline, than they are about population growth. Also, we have precedents for large scale automation across all kinds of industries, and they've resulted in mass unemployment because consumption, and concomitant employment, rises to absorb the increase in productivity.

Consider the driverless car as a thought exercise. People are going to react to driverless cars by driving longer distances, and buying things that had to be transported longer distances by driverless trucks. The guy who takes my ticket on my commuter train will be taking my ticket on one of ten new ski mountains that will be built in northern Vermont because everyone in New York will just hop in their cars at 11 p.m. every Friday night and go to sleep, waking up at 8 a.m. Saturday morning in time to have breakfast and hit the slopes, and go home at 8 p.m. that night.
posted by MattD at 6:06 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not an hourly employee. I'm a senior analyst in an IT shop. Working a 12-hour day is beyond typical for me; it's all but spoken as an expectation. Oh and I also worked 2 hours on Sunday, and a few more on my HR-sanctioned holiday yesterday.

If you're good at something, you never do it for free.

Big shoutout, though, to everyone in tech who will put in 20-40 unpaid hours of work every week, but still vote for republicans and against labor unions. I mean, you call yourselves libertarians and then value your time, skills and effort at zero. What did you think was going to happen?
posted by mhoye at 6:25 AM on February 18, 2015 [38 favorites]


“It’s really about survival,” said McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting software firm. “It’s this kind of us-against-the -world mentality. You’re competing with multibillion-dollar companies that want to crush you out of existence. You have to work your ass off just to survive until tomorrow.”

Those companies can field literally a hundred people for every one of you, and never notice the expense. Trying to outwork them is really, really stupid.
posted by underflow at 6:26 AM on February 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


I am kind of going nuts over the idea of an internal web forum. I work at a high school and we've got a ton of students, they each have teams of 6-10 teachers/clinicians/counselors/administrators/parents/social service agencies working with each kid. Trying to find out how a kid is doing, what are the behavioral plans, emotional goals, even finding out if there's homework can waste hours of everyone's day.

I'm bringing this idea to school.
posted by kinetic at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2015


My husband works in manufacturing, and this isn't that unusual there. He works whats called a 4/10 schedule: 4 days a week, 10 hours a day. For his company, they take Monday off. This saves them the trouble of having to deal with the mandated holiday days that fall on Mondays when it comes to their production schedule.

Honestly, it has really been an amazing thing to have, since I'm an academic, and usually have Mondays off.
posted by strixus at 6:45 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine worked at a place that did nine hour days with every other Friday off which seemed pretty cool except that it was a horrible place to work otherwise.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Trying to outwork them is really, really stupid.

Fighting a much larger force on that larger force's terms is such a basic mistake that Sun Tzu dismissed the idea in a single sentence about 2400 years ago.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Freshbooks is not doing so great these days.
posted by mhoye at 6:48 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, I neglected to add:
"As far as I’m concerned, working 32 hours a week is a part-time job,” Arrington, said in an interview. “I look for founders who are really passionate. Who want to work all the time. That shows they care about what they’re doing, and they’re going to be successful. - Paul Arrington
Fuck that guy. You know who's putting in 80 hour weeks, sleeping under a desk, neglecting their health and burning through their youth for an unlikely shot at a decent pay off? Not Paul Arrington, that's who.

JWZ replied to his disingenuous bullshit as follows:
I hate this, because it's not true, and it's disingenuous. What is true is that for a VC's business model to work, it's necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.

Follow the fucking money. When a VC tells you what's good for you, check your wallet, then count your fingers.

He's telling you the story of, "If you bust your ass and don't sleep, you'll get rich" because the only way that people in his line of work get richer is if young, poorly-socialized, naive geniuses believe that story! Without those coat-tails to ride, VCs might have to work for a living. Once that kid burns out, they'll just slot a new one in.
posted by mhoye at 6:59 AM on February 18, 2015 [32 favorites]


Consider the driverless car as a thought exercise. People are going to react to driverless cars by driving longer distances, and buying things that had to be transported longer distances by driverless trucks. The guy who takes my ticket on my commuter train will be taking my ticket on one of ten new ski mountains that will be built in northern Vermont because everyone in New York will just hop in their cars at 11 p.m. every Friday night and go to sleep, waking up at 8 a.m. Saturday morning in time to have breakfast and hit the slopes, and go home at 8 p.m. that night.

You know, to have an actual thought exercise, you need to progress, logically, from A to B to C to D, not just jump from A to D because, "I figure that's what I'd do." That's not a "thought exercise," that's a fantasy.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:05 AM on February 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


A friend of mine who is fairly (but not vehemently) anti-union recently griped to me about all of the extra (unpaid) work he and his co-workers were increasingly being asked to do outside of regular working hours. When I told him it sounded like they could use a union he laughed it off, but the look in his eyes kind of said "You know what....?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:16 AM on February 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


I feel like this is one of those things that's going to start to crumble very quickly when we stop tying healthcare benefits to employment. Once I don't have to work 40h/week to get benefits I will absolutely take my skills to the most reasonable bidder (which, in my industry, will probably be a situation like a normal week of 28-32 hours and maybe some kind of agreement re: emergencies, except for the couple of projects a year where you end up billing 40-50hr weeks for a couple weeks), and someone will take me - if my own employer doesn't make that deal first, which I think they would.

Of course, that's all fine and good for my skilled middle-class self. I could probably negotiate that deal right now if my husband had benefits that covered me or if we could go on the exchange. It's not going to do any good for people paid hourly who are already maxing their 32 hours at Wal-Mart and then another 16 at UPS or the Amazon warehouse for minimum wage (and no benefits).
posted by Lyn Never at 7:18 AM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I feel like this is one of those things that's going to start to crumble very quickly when we stop tying healthcare benefits to employment

You'd think so, but it doesn't disappear nearly as much as one would hope.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if this fabulous employment feature is extended to the people who clean the bathrooms and stock the kitchenettes. Looking at their web site, it appears not.
Already, the 103,000 students enrolled in Treehouse courses outnumber the 10,000 students who graduated with computer science degrees in the United States in 2012.
Wow! This is the most honest and definitely-not-lifted-from-a-press-release comparison ever!
posted by Poldo at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


> Fuck that guy. You know who's putting in 80 hour weeks, sleeping under a desk, neglecting their health and burning through their youth for an unlikely shot at a decent pay off? Not Paul Arrington, that's who.

There are things I don't like about my job, but one thing I love about it is that the fruits of my labour aren't helping some rich asshole Ayn Rand disciple pay for his vacation helicopter.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:24 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


I wonder if this fabulous employment feature is extended to the people who clean the bathrooms and stock the kitchenettes.

Those people are almost certainly "independent contractors" working for some outside agency, thus ensuring that no one at Treehouse ever has to think about or probably even see them.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:54 AM on February 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


I work for a start up, and I would not be able to pay bills without overtime. These stories are cute and all, but they're about as fantastical as me trying to play in the NBA.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:58 AM on February 18, 2015


Is that the startup's fault or your bills' fault?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:12 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I believe a lot of what we think of as "work" is a defense mechanism we use to prop up our failing moral framework that tries to make the case that our universe continues to operate solely on the collective output of competing individuals. But the truth is, for most of us, post big-bang work is just coasting on the inertia and pretending like we're hot shit for doing so.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:30 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm in my late twenties and have just started working my first straight nine to five job. It's a non-profit, a wonderful place to work, and dovetails perfectly with my personal goals. And yet, I've been completely baffled by the requirement to be in my office at my desk for 8 hours a day, when what I do is essentially creative work. I dream of going to part time so that I can do a really good job at what I'm doing, AND also work on my music career (and actually, this seems like it could happen). I've spent a lot of time just figuring I'm an entitled lazy young'un, but it's so gratifying to hear from more experienced folks that I'm not alone in feeling flustered by the arbitrary nature of my schedule, and the unspoken expectation to be available outside of those hours in case of tiny "emergencies."

I know myself, and I know that my productivity and the quality of my work would improve exponentially if I worked on a more limited schedule.
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


A couple of friends and I were having a discussion over the weekend about weird fringe benefits that seem to be on the rise lately. They are all actively job hunting, in fairly tight job markets.

There seems to be a split among companies*: some are just throwing money at the problem, offering fairly insane compensation packages but with the expectation that you're going into a shitty meat-grinder culture where you'll work 3,000-hour years without complaint until you burn out and go elsewhere (at which point you'll have to leave several years' worth of unvested stock options on the table, so you'd better really be burned out). Other companies have realized that they can't win by playing that game; they can't afford the giant cash compensation packages and they can't or don't want to do the stock-option thing.

Work-from-home, including or especially remote-work from lower cost areas, seem to be big targets for negotiation in lieu of big cash packages. (Which makes sense; the cost of living is so staggeringly different in various parts of the country that you might logically take a 50% paycut to live in, say, Chapel Hill, NC instead of NYC and still feel like you came out ahead.) And even if there's some hit to your productivity as an employee, as long as it's not 50%, the company can still feel like they got a bargain too.

A four-day workweek seems to be in the same category. It costs the company something, sure, but it could be cheaper as a recruitment and retention strategy than trying to straight-up outbid other companies for talent. And it's really hard for another company to just suddenly start matching (their corporate culture likely wouldn't appreciate having a bunch of new employees start and only be expected to work 4 days/week). So it's clever, purely as a bit of startup strategy.

I'd like to see it catch on, but I'm not sure outside of a startup where you have the ability to mold the culture from a blank slate, that it's likely to happen. WFH—where maybe you get away with working fewer hours, but nobody is really around to see or call you on it—seems more likely, just because it's easier to transition to. But maybe in the long run, the benefits to having everyone in an office are still such that companies that make the effort to make it more pleasant (shorter workweeks, or Google-esque stuff like on-site daycare, free food, commuter buses, etc.) will see an advantage over those that just punt and let people work from home as soon as they're in a position to negotiate it for themselves to escape cubicle hell.

* Before anyone jumps down my throat, yes, I realize that this is only relevant to the companies and the portion of the labor market that's currently tight/competitive right now, which is to say basically STEM folks and to a lesser extent MBA-types working in the private sector; no this is not generalizable out to the labor market as a whole and especially not to the parts that are slack or 'buyers markets' for labor.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:12 AM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


“But the more I thought about it, really, running your own company is about creating your own universe. So why not create a universe you’d want to live in?

This bit from the piece resonated the most for me. I hit this crossroads about 15 years ago. My work history up until late 1999 was typical--soul-grinding long hours spent chasing consumption tickets and prestige. And to be honest, there was also a significant level of my buying in to the standard "American Dream." I was pretty decent at it--not other-worldly good, but I did hit my goal of becoming an officer of a company.

When the ISP I worked at was sold I had an offer to take a lateral move to VP of biz dev with the new owners. As I assessed that offer, I began to consider my career to that point and the two points I kept coming back to were: a) I'm awfully tired and b) I've spent my life working my ass off to make other people rich.

The transition was a little rough but I eventually carved out a situation in which I work a 24-28 hour week, have benefits and union protection, and a bunch of time to lead a more rounded life. I make a lot less money (a lot less!) but I have embraced frugality as a virtue and I'll still manage to have the mortgage paid off 13 years early come the end of 2016.

While it is hard to create the kind of universe one might wish to live in, it is possible. But...you have to be good at what you do. I get more done in 6 hours than many of my co-workers get done in 8 because I am diligent and focused on being productive. Fortunately for me I can point to objective productivity measures to demonstrate this. So, whenever I am asked to put in extra hours I can be adamant about my position: if it is a genuine crisis then I'll usually put in some extra work to do my bit; but if it is just another faux unnecessary crisis brought about by poor decision-making and ineffective management I have no problem saying, "No."

I sell my labor and not my soul.
My currency is time.
I'm committed to living my life on my terms as much is is possible without being a whacked-out anti-social nutcase. I'm just a run-of-the-mill curmudgeon, thank you.
posted by CincyBlues at 10:14 AM on February 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


But...you have to be good at what you do.

This is key to many of the dreams bandied about a decade ago on the forthcoming Knowledge economy, which as we know now, is all about holding hands and "sharing"...

I know I'm lucky. As CincyBlues says, one lives a lot more frugally but then one can't be bought. And there are lean years, and bumper years, just like the old times before a carefully constructed 'global economy' market framework design system was put into place, and one learns to stock the larder for the winters.

Its the ones whose belts are getting tighter adn tighter who are dependent on the old formal economy's jobs, that I worry about. There must be other more win win pathways out there.
posted by infini at 10:48 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Serious question. What does a senior analyst do?

fraula gave a pretty good description...I was being vague for fear of reprisals, though that's likely completely unfounded. My official title is something like Senior IT Business Analyst or some guff but in reality I do a little bit of everything: meet with business managers, write specs, manage QA, manage product roadmaps, anaylze and report on business metrics (BI dashboards blah blah blah), train other departments on internal software, wireframing, test case writing, minor debugging (leaving the bigger issues to actual full-time devs).

If you're good at something, you never do it for free.

Sure, but for me the money isn't really the issue. I'm well paid, no complaints about my salary at all. The challenge is, if I was given a choice between being paid overtime and simply not having to do the overtime...I would rather have the time back. Hell, I'd be willing to take a 20% pay cut to get a 32 hour work week! That would still be a very liveable wage in my world.

Maybe it's time to dust off the 'ol resume.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:22 AM on February 18, 2015


I worked in two start-ups for a total about 10 years doing a minimum of 60 hours and sometimes 80+ hours. Weekends, nights, all that. Both companies are still around and doing well; one is public. My various stock options I worked so hard for were worth next to nothing; in one case the various acquisitions and mergers that happened devalued my stock so much that it was pointless. In that case I was employee #14 at a place that was 200+ with multiple offices by the time I left. Lots of the work I did quite literally built the company into what it became.

For the last 6 years I've worked 40 hours a week and I get *more* done than ever before (and somehow I get paid more too). You can do a lot in a day. Often if a company wants you to work more than that it's a structural problem - too few workers, bad code, stupid management practices. (Example: Say you are a Dev Ops person with a pager and constantly have to do stuff late at night. Why doesn't the company hire 2nd shift workers?) My advice is to never exchange your work-life balance for a promise of riches. If your job title doesn't start with "C" or "VP" odds are you'll look back and regret it.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:23 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


How's it doing? "The company has raised $13 million, saw 100 percent revenue growth last year and has close to 100 percent employee retention."

I notice a distinct lack of anything resembling "turning a profit" in that sentence.

Meet the new dot-bomb. Same as the old dot-bomb...
posted by spilon at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm looking for a new gig, and just got off a call with a company that has a 10-5 schedule and is working on implementing mandatory vacation. Just like that, they went from one among many leads to a real top contender.

Its a small company with a handful of people that has spent 4+ years focused on building a solid, sustainable business by making and selling a useful product, rather than group of people sacrificing themselves at the altar of growth trying to get to an exit event to cash out. Talking to them was like a breath of fresh air in an overflowing festival portajohn that is the startup scene.
posted by frijole at 2:21 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm about to turn 26 and would love to have a secure job that was 32 hours per week. I tried to do 4 ten hour days at my previous job at a grocery store but for some reason they wouldn't let me. Then again, they also never told me when I was going to work, so 8)

Currently unemployed now, trying to fix up my depressive state and go back to work.
posted by gucci mane at 2:31 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a 9/80 schedule (work 9 hours per day instead of 8 but get every other Friday off) which is great since every other job I had I would end up probably working 9 hours a day anyway, so it really feels like a free day off every 2 weeks. Except that I also have a 1.5 hour commute which leaves me tired enough at the end of the two week cycle that I NEED that extra day to recover!
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:50 PM on February 18, 2015


I notice a distinct lack of anything resembling "turning a profit" in that sentence.

Well, he says in this post from a year ago that they have $10m revenue per year, so I think they probably are.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:45 PM on February 18, 2015


Well, he says in this post from a year ago that they have $10m revenue per year, so I think they probably are.

Revenue is not really the same as profit -- you have to subtract expenses from revenue to get profit.
posted by peacheater at 4:05 PM on February 18, 2015


Contrast it with this. interview from a data scientist.

My friend sent me the link above as I work in a similar field and this leapt out at me.

What are your average work hours?

Data scientists are professionals and should expect a professional work week. Nowadays, that seems to be 60 hours per week.


When did a professional work week become 60 hours? 60 hours was nothing when I was younger but seems to be tougher with every passing year. The assumption that 60 hours is the norm is just depressing to me and just about seems to rule out anyone with child care responsibilities or an active life outside work making it in said profession.

Of course the tech industry is not overtly ageist or sexist. SMH!!
posted by viramamunivar at 4:45 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Revenue is not really the same as profit -- you have to subtract expenses from revenue to get profit.

That's why I said 'probably' - I have a hard time imagining they are running through over $10 million per year, but it's possible. But regardless, anyone pulling in $10m revenue per year is pretty far from the empty-shell dot com bubble companies that were being funded for nothing more than a pretty napkin sketch, which is what the comment I responded to was implying they were.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:56 PM on February 18, 2015


This is relevant to me. I've spent the last three weeks looking for work as a senior/lead engineer in NYC. I'm in the fortunate position of choosing between two offers. One is a startup that will obviously expect me to work startup hours. The other is a more-established company that pays less, but is known for having 8-hour workdays and respecting your work/life balance. I'm choosing the lesser-paying job.

Money is important to me, but it will only get you so far.
posted by evil otto at 5:01 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have a 9/80 schedule (work 9 hours per day instead of 8 but get every other Friday off) which is great since every other job I had I would end up probably working 9 hours a day anyway, so it really feels like a free day off every 2 weeks.

Same. When I took the current gig about 7 years ago, I was coming off 8 years of increasing stress and workload, where I was regularly at the office until 7 or 8 PM, and working at least a little many weekends. So the fact they only matched my salary wasn't a problem, because working actually 80 hours in two weeks with alternate Fridays off felt like a huge raise.

Going back to a regular schedule, if I ever have to, will be a major problem.
posted by suelac at 5:04 PM on February 18, 2015


I wouldn't even mind the 40-hour week if it could be four 10-hour days and a three-day weekend. Alas, it is not to be. Because reasons.

A friend of mine who worked for an MS subcontractor did this, and said it was pretty much the shit. He also worked something like noon to 10pm, sunday-wednesday.

I was really jealous of it, but i'm pretty sure he moved on to a new place that doesn't do the same schedule. There wasn't a single person there who didn't love it, and once you had been there a little while you could pretty much pick which days of the week you worked.(and there were people in the office 24/7, since they provided 24 hour support/response)

I have other friends who are regularly up at 1am putting out fires or coding stuff, working a kabillion hours a week, and i just shake my head.

I really, really hope this kind of thing catches on.
posted by emptythought at 7:20 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


These companies must not have sales teams. I work for a software startup and we'd miss 20% of sales if we were closed on Fridays. And our customers are already cranky that our support is not available 24/7, imagine if we said they couldn't contact us on Fridays.
posted by radioamy at 9:22 PM on February 18, 2015


imagine if we said they couldn't contact us on Fridays

I think the real-world solution to that, in most cases, is not a four-day operating week but a six or seven-day operating week with spread schedules and non-traditional schedules. Maybe Sales reps work 5- or 6-day weeks but only 5 hours/day (which I could see being a huge plus for someone with, say, a child in school), support is scheduled for broad coverage but each person only works 3-4 days/week, etc. (I can't imagine getting a sales rep to share anything, but job-sharing is another way, or team selling, or something we haven't thought of yet.)

I think three-day weekends are not at all what this stuff will look like in general practice. Individuals might have 3-day weekends, but companies as an entire entity won't.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:39 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


But regardless, anyone pulling in $10m revenue per year is pretty far from the empty-shell dot com bubble companies that were being funded for nothing more than a pretty napkin sketch, which is what the comment I responded to was implying they were.

It's not much better than a "pretty napkin sketch" if you are spending $2 to get each of those $1 in revenue. Also, the $10 mil number could be a fabrication anyway.

They took a Series B of $7 mil 8 days before the blog post, so maybe that's what makes up most of that large number.
posted by sideshow at 12:54 AM on February 19, 2015


Wow, if you care so much about believing that they are lying unprofitable scam artists, go ahead (saying that they might be calling VC money revenue? really?). Here Ryan explicitly states that they are profitable, three years ago. I guess he means that they have brought in more VC money than they have spent or something else con-man-like.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2015


I don't understand the cynicism. Whether or not a startup succeeds or fails, it should be lauded for at least trying a new workplace practice that benefits the lives of its employees. The three-day weekend is something that should be the way of the future, and not tied to any single organization. It seems to me there's envy towards it, as in, "Who do these Portlander techies think they are, privileged to have a better work-life balance than me? They should suffer for their extravagance." But having a better work-life balance shouldn't be a luxury. It should be the future of work.

And their mission even has social value. Why throw shade at them?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:16 AM on February 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Apocryphon, the answer to your question is: crabs in a bucket.
posted by MattMangels at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the real-world solution to that, in most cases, is not a four-day operating week but a six or seven-day operating week with spread schedules and non-traditional schedules. Maybe Sales reps work 5- or 6-day weeks but only 5 hours/day (which I could see being a huge plus for someone with, say, a child in school), support is scheduled for broad coverage but each person only works 3-4 days/week, etc.

My partner is a librarian at the city library, and this is exactly what their schedules are like.* Some people do the 3-4 day but long shifts thing, some people do lots of spread out shorter shifts. She does a mix. This week was all late start 11:30-8pm shifts, the next week might be more short shifts, etc. Everyone gets a rotation, and some people locked in a specific schedule or type of shift.

It makes me facepalm super hard that i've basically never heard of an office that works this way. All the complaints about "well what about meetings?" and stuff seem to work out fine. Someone schedules a meeting? At the beginning of the week everyone just gets a "hey, there's a meeting about bla on this day at this time" and just shows up for it. Occasionally it's stupidly timed, but i still think that's a small price to pay for not having a fixed stupid schedule.


*Unfortunately, stupidly, asininely, when i was forwarded an open IT position there that seemed like a decent fit, it was standard 40 hours a week 9-5... why? it seems like all the office staff are on standard hours. I can't think of any legitimate reason for this other than as mentioned above, crabs in a bucket old school "Well, i had to walk through a neck deep hallway of poop to get here, why shouldn't you have to? Do you think you're better than me or something?" kind of bullshit. It also wouldn't surprise me if there's an element of "Oh, that's silly pink collar work, they don't have to work real man professional job hours. This is a Real Job, don't you take it seriously?" in there.
posted by emptythought at 3:56 PM on February 19, 2015


Canada briefly had a Work Less Party. It was not very successful, but their central platform was interesting, and they did publish a pretty accessible, short book that lays out their philosophy: Workers of the World, Relax.
posted by duffell at 6:48 PM on February 19, 2015


The UK has the opposite. The tories only represent hardworking people.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:08 AM on February 20, 2015


I'm a ski bum and somehow I wiggled my way into being able to cram 40hrs into Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. That leaves a four day weekend every week to go skiing. It's pretty great.
posted by pwally at 6:57 AM on February 23, 2015


I don't understand the cynicism. Whether or not a startup succeeds or fails, it should be lauded for at least trying a new workplace practice that benefits the lives of its employees. The three-day weekend is something that should be the way of the future, and not tied to any single organization. It seems to me there's envy towards it, as in, "Who do these Portlander techies think they are, privileged to have a better work-life balance than me? They should suffer for their extravagance." But having a better work-life balance shouldn't be a luxury. It should be the future of work.

And their mission even has social value. Why throw shade at them?
posted by Apocryphon

Apocryphon, the answer to your question is: crabs in a bucket.
posted by MattMangels

Eh, I think people in this thread are overestimating the allure of a 32 hour week to those doing well at Silicon Valley startups. Even the fuddy-duddy "go home by 6pm" mature companies are giving out six figure RSU retention bonuses to the right people.

So, perhaps less "crabs in the bucket", and more "ah, aren't you Oregonians precious".
posted by sideshow at 10:10 PM on February 24, 2015


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