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Are 12-16 Hour Workdays Productive? 615

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-wouldn't-say-I've-been-missing-it-bob dept.
theodp writes " It's important to me,' former Opsware CEO Ben Horowitz recalls saying as he threatened a manager for termination because one of his subordinates failed to conduct 1:1 meetings, 'that the people who spend 12 to 16 hours/day here, which is most of their waking life, have a good life. It's why I come to work.' Ben seems to be cut from the same management cloth as new Yahoo CEO Marissa 'I-Don't-Really-Believe-In-Burnout' Mayer, who boasted how she solved the work-life balance problems of mother-of-three 'Katie,' who was required to attend nightly 1 a.m. video conference calls with her Google Finance team in Bangalore, by no longer making Katie also stay for late meetings on her Google day shift on those occasions where it'd make her miss her kids' soccer games and recitals." Jason Fried, C.E.O. of 37signals, wrote a piece for The New York Times recently singing the praises of working a 4-day week part of the year.
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Are 12-16 Hour Workdays Productive?

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  • by slickepott (733214) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:06AM (#41052999)

    .. the answer is no.

    And now that seems very valid.

    • by robthebloke (1308483) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:12AM (#41053047)
      If you spent your time working, instead of posting on slashdot, you wouldn't need to work a 12 hour day. Now get back to work slacker! :p
      • by slickepott (733214) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:17AM (#41053085)

        - I see that you've been missing a lot of work lately.
        - I wouldn't say I've been "missing it".

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:39AM (#41053267)

          Missing "work?" No, I've been missing a lot of meetings.

          (For managerial, talking is working. For technical staff, meetings are precisely the opposite of work.)

          • by slartibartfastatp (613727) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:49AM (#41054027) Journal
            "Informative"... that's funny. How do I mod a moderation?
          • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:23AM (#41054411) Journal

            Amen. Nothing kills productivity like frequent meetings. Nothing worse than a manager who wants to find out how the team is doing by getting everyone together for an hour. "How's it going, Mr. Manager sir. It isn't because you keep dragging us into fucking meetings."

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @11:21AM (#41055085)

              Nothing wrong with frequent meetings, what's wrong is frequent meetings full of pointless waffle.

              10 mins tops, come prepared, raise issues, update people, assign stuff and outta there. No mucking about with 2 people discussing things that they should already have sorted and are irrelevant to the other 5 people at the table.

              I had a boss who had us in weekly 2 hour meetings at which he refused to ever decide anything. I started sending a junior in my place.

            • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Monday August 20, 2012 @12:03PM (#41055619)
              Not if it's an hour a week. That can be a real time saver when colleagues of different areas come up with solutions for each others problems, when ordinarily they wouldn't think of asking each other.
              • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday August 20, 2012 @01:18PM (#41056615)

                Exactly; there's a balance here. I've been in companies that did both extremes: pretty much zero meetings, and many meetings per week (for us rank-and-file engineers). Both are bad. Too many meetings are distracting and waste a lot of time (more than just the meetings, because there's overhead time where you "get in the zone" before you're really productive, and breaking up the day at arbitrary times ruins that, and zero meetings mean no one has any idea what anyone else is doing.

                What's really bad is when your team is behind schedule on a project, so management schedules even more meetings so you can discuss why you're behind schedule.

            • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Monday August 20, 2012 @12:05PM (#41055645)

              Amen. Nothing kills productivity like frequent meetings. Nothing worse than a manager who wants to find out how the team is doing by getting everyone together for an hour. "How's it going, Mr. Manager sir. It isn't because you keep dragging us into fucking meetings."

              There was one manager I had ... who scheduled meetings around 8AM that frequently lasted to 1PM or later. And it was weekly, every Friday.

              The more annoying part was those he felt did "important work" got the ability to drop in and out - the QA lead, the productoin guy, etc. He either got to them first and they were out in half an hour or they got pulled in as-needed for 10 minutes.

              The rest of us had to sit around beyond lunch.

              Of course, after the meeting everyone departed for lunch and by the time you got back, it was only a couple of hours before quitting anyhow, so effectively, it was a wasted day. We learned to add 25% to our work estimates to counter the loss of an entire day.

        • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:52AM (#41054073) Homepage Journal

          If you live to work, the answer is yeas and I feel sorry for you. If all that's important is your work, you have no life.

          If you work to live, the answer is no. The less work, the better.

          • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday August 20, 2012 @12:28PM (#41055925)

            Why do you need to feel sorry to the people who Live to Work. They have a life, they are doing what they are interested in... It just happened to be work.

            Do any of us really care for everything that suppose to be important.

            I mean how much time do we really do about the following and yes I am missing a lot.
            Controlling Carbon Pollution.
            Saving endangered animals
            Stopping War and Violence
            Helping give the next generation education and good values
            Insuring everyone is being treated fairly and justly. ...

            To be fair most of us who work to live are focused on Banging their preferred gender, and spending time with their genetic offspring, and others with either genetic or personal similarities.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:37AM (#41053241) Homepage

        I find a bit of distraction on Slashdot helps me work some times. Other times I am "in the zone" and won't look at anything else, but some tasks you just need a break from and a bit of time away from it to let your mind do some background processing.

        I am an embedded software engineer, if it matters.

    • by dj245 (732906) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:14AM (#41053065) Homepage
      ,' who was required to attend nightly 1 a.m. video conference calls

      Is this some sort of joke? I do a lot of conference calls with Japan and the latest we go is 8PM EST (but I live in CST so it is only 7PM for me.

      Bangalore is a little tougher, but they could still do 10PM central US, 8:30AM Bangalore. Is google so inflexible that they refuse to reschedule a meeting to be more convenient for everyone involved?

      Also- this is a good reminder for me to never do business with India if I want to remain sane. The meeting times in Japan and Korea overlap not terribly bad with awake hours in the US, but once you go that extra hour or two to India it seems to become very inconvenient.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That seems completely backwards. Instead of 11PM US EST / 8:30AM Bangalore (or wherever,) why not wait 12 hours and make it 11AM/8:30PM? Or better yet 9AM/6:30PM. That doesn't seem bad at all.

      • Here, me.

        When trying to combine Europe, Japan and the US in a single concall, one has to bite the bullet. I was the youngest, I wanted to show commitment, so I was easily convinced that this would be me.

        • by ultranova (717540) on Monday August 20, 2012 @10:32AM (#41054523)

          When trying to combine Europe, Japan and the US in a single concall, one has to bite the bullet.

          This rises the question of just what these concalls are trying to acccomplish? Tired people talking with a host of foreigners with accents over what's unlikely to be hifi-level audio equipment doesn't seem exactly productive to me. What's wrong with sending e-mails back and worth - or even installing an NNTP server and using a newsgroup to conduct the conference? You get automatic logging, can read new messages when you're actually awake, multiple topics can be discussed simultaneously in different threads and discussion easily resumed if new insights occur, and the nature of the system will keep it all neatly organized.

      • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:36AM (#41053867)
        I worked with a programmer that drove 150+ miles a day round trip because the company agreed to waive the dress policy for him when none closer to where he lives would. He was a musclebound hippie with a pony tail down to the small of his back. His daily attire consisted of a muscle shirt and neon orange Hammer pants. [wikipedia.org] Programmers can be an unyielding bunch when it comes to their comfort zones. Given the demands placed on them it is usually warranted.

        He also made some really kick ass habanero jerky once a month.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:22AM (#41053121)

      .. the answer is no.

      And now that seems very valid.

      I've read somewhere that out of a regular 8-hour working day, people are at the peak of their productivity for about 4.5 hours. Somehow it doesn't make sense to me that to prolong a working day when you're already tired could be better in term of actual work getting done than giving it a few extra hours in the weekend. But it may be a good way of getting paid for hours spent by staring vacuously at the screen, that much I'll admit.

      • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:31AM (#41053185)

        I think what most people miss about productivity is that there is a lot of variety in the world, some people are more productive when you leave them the hell alone, others need social interaction 2, 5, 37 times a day depending on the individual.

        The 4.5 peak hour number sounds correct as an average to me, but it depends on what you are doing... picking up trash from the side of the road, call center desk jockey, cashier, etc., probably doesn't have much of a peak and is more of a physical endurance thing. The "new economy" is moving more toward jobs that require "advanced" mental activity, and for some people 4.5 hours a day might be a stretch - others might grind for 6 and actually accomplish more than they do in 4.5.

        • by vlm (69642) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:55AM (#41053437)

          it depends on what you are doing

          As an "older" slashdotter I've studied this in myself and coworkers and when I was in retail management I studied this in my employees and was astounded to discover its a concentration thing. Any time you have to concentrate, be it software development, operations support, video games, or manual labor, a minute of concentration seems to be a minute of concentration regardless of why you're concentrating..

          You'd be surprised how much concentration it takes to do a manual labor job. There do exist absolutely mindless shoveling jobs where there is no QA and there is no goal and it's a perfectly safe non-distracting environment, but they are VERY few and far between.

          I've done call center and cashier in the past and they require too much concentration to do for more than a couple hours both in myself and employees I've supervised. Oh you can make them stand there, you can make them go thru the motions, but one way or another you're only getting 3 to 6 hours of productive concentration out of them before they start screwing up, or getting goofy, or simply not working but being present.

        • by Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:59AM (#41053459)
          Some TED lecture on that topic. [ted.com] The idiots proposing the longer work day are idiots and don't know history (worker exploitation and such).
          • by sycodon (149926) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:21AM (#41053655)

            1. Sloppy work.
            2. Work filled with errors (not just sloppy, but defective).
            3. Resentment.
            4. It puts the company as risk of sabotage and theft.
            5. A bad reputation....does anyone really want to work at Dell?

            I think that in all likelihood the vast majority of achievements in the world came from people who were NOT compelled to work 12 hour days. They may have been working long hours, but they did that because of their passion or competitive drive...they wanted to.

            But unless you are on some legitimate high states deadline, long days for the sake of longs days is a bad idea all the way around.

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:22AM (#41053123)

      Depends on what you are doing... grinding out code for 16 hours straight, that might be productive once or twice a week, try doing it for 28 days straight and I don't think anybody is getting anything useful out of that.

      Some "jobs" involve calling people up, schmoozing, doing lunch or dinner, etc. Those could be done 16 hours a day indefinitely, if you don't have a life outside work - and, if you don't have a life outside work, then why should the company pay you anything beyond your work related expenses? That's starting to sound like 18th century manual farm labor in the U.S. South...

      If anybody has ever done endurance cycling (think: Tour de France, for normal human beings), there's a physical capacity of your body that runs longer than the 24 hour period. You might do a 100 mile ride in a day, but you won't likely do 5 100 mile rides in 5 consecutive days. I think that most technical/design brain work follows a similar capacity, better to do 5 consecutive 30 mile days than try for 2 100s in a row and crash.

      • by Xest (935314) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:05AM (#41053527)

        Absolutely, a 16hr coding day can be productive, but you better be damn sure the coder has the day off afterwards, and possibly even beforehand.

        I've done a few stints like this near crunch time where I've maybe done a 12hr day followed by 2 16hr days, but then I've fully made sure I get the following 2 working days off to give a 4 day weekend or whatever.

        Effectively you can frontload (or backload) work like this with 16hr days, but what you can't do is make it a permanent thing and expect a permanent productivity boost - on the contrary, you'll see completely the opposite.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)

        I have met very, very few people who can code with absolute concentration for 16 hours straight (maybe with an hour lunch break in between somewhere). I pulled that stunt a few times in my career, too, and even though I can to some degree do it, afterwards I'm absolutely exhausted and worn out. I usually drop dead into bed and you better not wake me before at the very least 8-10 hours are gone or you will have a very grumpy and very unproductive coworker at your hands.

        OTOH, today it would be no biggie to do

        • by gorzek (647352)

          If I have to do more than a typical 8-hour day's work in one stretch, there comes a point where it just becomes utterly mind-numbing and I'm not even sure what I'm doing anymore. That is, if I am expected to be concentrating and coding that whole time. In reality, I don't spend an awful lot of time coding. Usually, I am planning out my code first, then I write it, then I test it. The actual writing of it is the shortest part. The planning and testing eat up the bulk of my "development" time. But if I get st

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by andy16666 (1592393)
      I actually do find them productive, or at least 10 hours give or take one or two. With 8 hour workdays it seems I'm always getting ready to leave just when I'm most productive.

      I doubt I'd find the extra time productive if it were mandatory because longer hours necessitate the freedom to leave and rest when you're no longer productive. But when I wrote my thesis for example, two weeks of 10-12 hour days got the job done. If I'd worked longer days I wouldn't have been able to resume easily the next morning
  • It depends... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shellster_dude (1261444) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:09AM (#41053029)
    I find that occasional long days of 14-16 hours can be just fine. Doing it on a regular basis would kill my productivity after about hour 11. There is also an important element of engagement, which must be considered. If the project is interesting to me, and I am engaged, the long hours don't matter near as much as if I am doing something I hate.
  • 12 - 16 hours??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Harold Halloway (1047486) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:11AM (#41053039)

    I work 90 minutes a day. That feels about right to me.

    • You jest, but (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:24AM (#41053141)
      That's about as much "engineering" as Xerox once found its engineers actually did in a survey. The rest was meetings and bureaucracy and travel.

      My feeling is that if you need to work long hours, your job is badly designed. Studies have suggested that once over 44 hours a week, productivity starts to decline faster than the gains from longer working hours. I believe this; I've spent so long debugging code from people who thought pulling all-nighters was smart that in at least one case we might just as well not have employed him.

    • Re:12 - 16 hours??? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:33AM (#41053201)

      I work 90 minutes a day. That feels about right to me.

      Thats kind of wimpy. I've found that at work or home I can put in a real, intense, solid 6 or so hours of work. I mean super intense absolute peak productivity. Doesn't seem to matter if I'm studying/homework at university, or bulk manual labor of yardwork, doing hard core electronics work at home at my workbench, video gaming, programming/sysadmining/troubleshooting at work... just a law of nature that much as I sleep about 7 hours a night I can only work about 6 hours.

      I am present at work about 11 hours per day about 4 days a week, but there's lunch, uncountable meetings both informal and formal, about two hundred emails per day have to be read, analyzed, and almost all deleted and about 1 in 100 followed up or acted on, a couple breaks, training classes mostly as recipient some as trainer, lots of time consuming mindless procedures, numerous distractions when I'm concentrating on something.... it works out to a bit more than half the time I'm actually producing.

      I can F-off and listen to my coworkers talk sports and surf the net the rest of the time. Also I can "produce" at about 10% to 20% efficiency for an extra 12 or so hours on top of the 6. Beyond 18 hours we're solidly, deeply into negative productivity stage. I can, with numerous breaks / meetings / interruptions spread my "work" across an entire day. "Oh I thought I'd interrupt you while you were concentrating... it'll only take 10 minutes and then an extra hour for you to get back into the zone again". That type of thing.

      Overall I'd rather sit in the office for 6 hours and work like a superhero all 6 hours, then spend the rest of the time at home. But I have to put in a show of being at work for 11 hours a day just to amuse bean counters. I had a boss some years ago who explained he hated his wife and family, so he was at work for 16+ hours per day just to avoid them. I feel sorry for those people.

      You know those idiot kids who come into work still drunk from the night before and brag how they are "so tired" because they were up all night drinking and only got 2 hours of sleep, and they think everyone else considers them a hero for doing it so they brag and brag about it? Most of us think they're idiots, not heros. Ditto the "I work 18+ hours per day and then pager duty all night you should worship me" sorry dude you're a first class top of the line idiot not a hero.

  • by crow_t_robot (528562) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:12AM (#41053045)
    ...they would still be stupid.
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:13AM (#41053051) Homepage

    Yes, on occasion:

    • At the end of a monthly "sprint" (i.e. about once per month)
    • While monitoring a live system after a major release (i.e. about once per year).
    • Preparing for a major presentation, conducting the presentation, and then the subsequent wining and dining (assuming that counts toward the "12-16 hours") -- i.e. about twice per year.
    • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:37AM (#41053249)

      I agree with the latter two, but the first one screams "bad management" to me.

      A regular "end of month sprint" is quite simply trying to catch up with stuff, that didn't get done. Things that don't get done is down to bad management.

      Yes, there can be rare occasions where an entire department is crashed for a bit (illness, accidents etc), but that's not something that should happen on a regular basis.

  • 32 hour week! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rvw (755107) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:14AM (#41053061)

    It's crazy, working 12 or 16 hours a day, and that five days or maybe six a week? If you have no social life, earn $10k+ a month, if your work is your hobby, if it's your own business - maybe. I cannot imagine doing this, but I know people who live like that. I prefer a 32 hour workweek, all year, and here (in the Netherlands) this is very common. We do also have 25 holidays a year (for a fulltime 40 hour workweek).

    If know that my performance will go down when working 10+ hours a day. I even think that 7.5 hours work would be more productive.

  • Let think about this:

    +2 hours travel - If I take the the bus it takes me about an hour to get to work and an hour home.
    +8 hours working (minimum usually 10 for me)
    +1 hour lunch and breaks
    ---------------------
    11 hours just to work
    +8 hours sleep
    ---------------------
    19 hours dedicated work and sleep
    That leaves at best 5 hours for doing things like dishes, meals, wife, kids, laundry, continuing education, and most important showers.

    So if you want stinky hungry employees who don't see their families then by all means push them. But you'll find the good one's will find other jobs in about 2-3 months. That what happened at my last full time job. 40% of teh staff left in 4 for weeks of each other and another 20% 2 months after that.
    • by chrb (1083577) on Monday August 20, 2012 @02:53PM (#41057899)
      8 hours/day came about because productivity studies showed that production actually increased when hours were reduced: [salon.com]

      That output does not rise or fall in direct proportion to the number of hours worked is a lesson that seemingly has to be relearned each generation. In 1848, the English parliament passed the ten-hours law and total output per-worker, per-day increased. In the 1890s employers experimented widely with the eight hour day and repeatedly found that total output per-worker increased. In the first decades of the 20th century, Frederick W. Taylor, the originator of “scientific management” prescribed reduced work times and attained remarkable increases in per-worker output.

      By 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers’ pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight. The National Association of Manufacturers criticized him bitterly for this — though many of his competitors climbed on board in the next few years when they saw how Ford’s business boomed as a result. In 1937, the 40-hour week was enshrined nationwide as part of the New Deal. By that point, there were a solid five decades of industrial research that proved, beyond a doubt, that if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.

      Evan Robinson, a software engineer with a long interest in programmer productivity (full disclosure: our shared last name is not a coincidence) summarized this history in a white paper he wrote for the International Game Developers’ Association in 2005. The original paper contains a wealth of links to studies conducted by businesses, universities, industry associations and the military that supported early-20th-century leaders as they embraced the short week. “Throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, these studies were apparently conducted by the hundreds,” writes Robinson; “and by the 1960s, the benefits of the 40-hour week were accepted almost beyond question in corporate America. In 1962, the Chamber of Commerce even published a pamphlet extolling the productivity gains of reduced hours.”

      What these studies showed, over and over, was that industrial workers have eight good, reliable hours a day in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day. Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days. So paying hourly workers to stick around once they’ve put in their weekly 40 is basically nothing more than a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits. Let ‘em go home, rest up and come back on Monday. It’s better for everybody.

  • Yes and no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by csumpi (2258986) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:23AM (#41053125)
    Sure, before you have a family, you can do bursts of 12-16 hour days. After a week the work product and morale will suffer, but your manager/company has to eat that up.

    Once you have a family, it's abusive behavior. Not spending time with family/kids is how the American family and education got fucked up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fuck you and your marriage and your kids. I won't do 12-16 hour days as a single guy because I also want a life beyond work. Find someone else to throw under the bus, asshole.

  • Nope. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:23AM (#41053135) Homepage

    I am LEAST EFFECTIVE after the 8 hour mark every day. Same with all the co-workers, every hour after a standard 8 hour day degrades exponentially in productivity. In reality things start degrading at hour 6, but honestly we are still above the "typical productivity" water mark for the next 2 hours.

    any manager demanding extreme work days is a highly uneducated and ineffective manager. Upper management needs to look at replacing any manager that is so bad at his/her job that the average daily work time is greater than 8.5 hours.

    • I used to work 4 10s. At the 8 hour mark I'd pop out for a smoke, get a snack and a beverage, and do all of the low-impacting stuff, usually documentation or paperwork, that would've otherwise been eaten up by the next day.

  • by gaspyy (514539) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:26AM (#41053155)

    Eight years ago I worked with my team of 12 for 110 days at 16 hours per day. We had to because the project was late (due to client's management and internal politics) and because we were paid by the hour.

    Financially it was worth it, the pay was very good and let's just say it changed my life. In terms of accomplishing anything however, I think the money was not well spent. Everyone was so tired after 8-10 hours that they just faked it. Productivity was very low, the resulting code was crap, morale was abysmal even with the financial incentives. Luckily most of the team members were single (only 3 of us were married). After 100 days, no one could actually do any real work that required thought, we had to wind down for a month.

    Like I said, I think it was a good experience (both financially and in learning one's limits) but I would not do it again. I don't think an artist or programmer can be productive more that 6-8 hours/day, everything else is browsing, chatting, faking it or simply doing bad work.

    Anything past occasional shit-happens-needs-to-be-fixed-now overtime is bad management. When young people are involved, it's relatively easy to push them into pulling insane hours, because they may be single and want to prove themselves and don't know their limits and don't know any better, but it's not productive.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:06AM (#41053539) Homepage

      I know a friend of mine who did something more or less the same, the pay was extremely good, fancy company car, big travel benefits - in return they basically owned his life, not only the long hours but he could be bounced around to any place they needed him to work. When you're young and single you can pretty much do this, put your life on pause for half a year or a year and make a buttload of money. It was also a case of "been there, done that, downpaid my loans and got my economic freedom, never again".

      I remember seeing a documentary on the TV this weekend about some spoiled brats who were sent on a trip to discover how hard other people had to work for their money. Their first stop was a sapphire mine in Africa where it was hard physical labor, six long days a week for the local minimum wage - basically enough for food and practically nothing else. Compared to that you're still in your comfy chair in your air-conditioned office, it's not like long coding sessions will kill anyone. Sure I could do it, that I don't want to is an entire matter entirely.

  • by theillien (984847) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:30AM (#41053179)
    But not for me when I have to keep fixing the mistakes made by the guy who doesn't understand when he's hit a wall and needs to go home.
  • Type A MBA types (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:31AM (#41053189)
    I find the 12 hour a day people come from 5 camps, the first are compensating for the fact that they actually suck. They know in their hearts that they suck so they put on a dog and pony show about how "dedicated" they are. Then they have something to lord over the actually productive people who are in for 8 hours or less. An easy way to detect these people is that they don't have any sense of proportion. They are working on a project to save some printer ink or whatnot and get mad at someone else taking time off for a very sick family member.

    The next group (and often overlapping with the first group) just have OCD and don't know any other way. They would work 24 hours a day if they could. As with all things OCD they can't explain why they are driven to do what they do but they think something bad will happen if they don't. An easy way to tell this type is by the size of their spreadsheets. I have met OCD types with time management spreadsheets that went into the double letter columns.

    Another group are screw-ups or frauds and don't leave because they need to control the whole situation and make sure that people don't step into their position for a moment and detect the fraud. This type often either avoids vacation or breaks it up into short little one so that nobody takes over.

    The least frequent is someone who is determined to succeed at something where the benefits to success are huge, curing cancer or something and they are actually contributing to the end goal with every hour they put in.

    The saddest is the over stressed employee who works for a crappy company where they have to give "110%" just to keep their jobs. Sort of the Glengarry Glen Ross thing of "First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second place is a set of steak knives, and third place is you're fired." These places tend to be family run where the family feels that every low paid employee should work as hard as they did once when they first started the business.

    In almost all of the above situations the person is a bully and even if they are productive their insanity drives the the best employees away resulting in a slow but sure gutting of the company. The horrible problem is that for a short while it usually generates results. So you bring in the new type A manager and boom the team doubles productivity. Manager gets huge bonus. But a 6 months later 3 of the very best people have left. A year later those 3 have recruited 6 more of the very best. The remaining dregs develop ulcers and huge mistakes start to happen. The golden child manager successfully blames those who have left for the new problems. Then the golden child moves on to something new and more lucrative highlighting their success where they doubled productivity when they took over.
    • by alen (225700)

      don't forget the single or married with no kids people who have no life, hate themselves and compensate for it by working all the time. and ruin time off for everyone else out of spite.

  • by tg123 (1409503) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:32AM (#41053195)

    Are 12-16 Hour Workdays Productive? - This is the wrong question.

    The Real Question/s should be Why ?

    Why does the company find it necessary ?

    Why can't they employ more staff?

    Why do staff spend 16 hours at this company?

    Why haven't they got a life outside of work ? (I mean come on 8 hours which is just enough time to sleep)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:35AM (#41053223)

    Norway: 34 hour work week
    Denmark: 37,5 hour work week (includes paid break)
    Sweden 38 hour work week (excluding unpaid breaks)

    And Norway and Sweden are amongst the richest, most successful places in the world. We have a minimum of 4 weeks vacation each year, we perform better because were well rested and healthy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS (41445)

      You're right. It has absolutely nothing to do with predominantly culturally unified societies (vs. say, the US or the UK) with large amounts of natural resources that the populations are willing to exploit for financial gain.

    • by niado (1650369) on Monday August 20, 2012 @02:30PM (#41057657)
      Just some economic/demographic perspective for Americans that may not be familiar with the Scandinavian countries:

      Norway has a population around 5 million (roughly the size of the US state of Alabama or Colorado. [wikipedia.org]

      Norway's GDP per capita adjusted for PPP is about $53,500. This would put them around 10th among us states. [wikipedia.org]

      Sweden has a population of about 9.5 million (about the size of the US state of North Carolina). Their GDP per capita adjusted for PPP is around $48,500. This would put them around 20th among US states.

      They both adhere to Nordic Model [wikipedia.org] socioeconomic systems (which includes universal 'free' healthcare and education), which are rather successful. The tax burdens in these countries are very high, fluctuating around 50%.
  • by fredrated (639554) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:35AM (#41053225) Journal

    and they should be treated like the sociopaths that they are.

  • What an asshole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by radio4fan (304271) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:37AM (#41053251)

    Lordy. I know I shouldn't have RTFA, but this guy Horowitz comes across as the biggest asshole not featured on a .cx TLD.

    When Steve came into my office I asked him a question: “Steve, do you know why I came to work today?”
    Steve: “What do you mean, Ben?”
    Me: “Why did I bother waking up? Why did I bother coming in? If it was about the money, couldn’t I sell the company tomorrow and have more money than I ever wanted? I don’t want to be famous, in fact just the opposite. ”
    Steve: “I guess.”
    Me: “Well, then why did I come to work.”
    Steve: “I don’t know.”
    Me: “Well, let me explain. I came to work, because it’s personally very important to me that Opsware be a good company. It’s important to me that the people who spend 12 to 16 hours/day here, which is most of their waking life, have a good life. It’s why I come to work.”
    Steve: “OK.”
    Me: “Do you know the difference between a good place to work and a bad place to work?”
    Steve: “Umm, I think so.”
    [continues to drone on in this patronising and insulting vein...]

    He sounds like a reject from a 50s infomercial.

    What an insufferable prick.

  • Dangerous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HnT (306652) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:42AM (#41053305)

    As a European I find her use of "positive" rhetorics/manipulation to be worrying... like she is offering you something, namely a chance to do "what really matters to you" while at the same time she robs you blind of the biggest part of your free time and this fact isn't even part of the discussion. So you lose 4 to 6 hours free time each working day and get 1 or 2 hours back "to be with the kids". Sure, what a great trade-off for the employer. Sure she could do it in 1999 when she was in her early 20s, now she is 36 and I doubt she does 16 hours each day and if so then how long does she think she can keep it up? If work is all you have in life, sure you can invest the maximum of your available time in it but you know, for most people it is NOT all they have in life. I think this is recklessly endangering her own health and as someone in important positions like this, she actually OWES it to her company to take care of her health especially well.

    And what a well-researched "opinion" to simply claim "burn out" does not exist.

  • by CloudyWithAChanceOf (2711601) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:44AM (#41053323)
    Just left a company that "leveraged" salaried staff to make up for bad business deals, poor project management, etc. Our project manager used to say "when our client's day ends, ours is only half over"... Leaders thought it was funny. There were three types of people: -Those who defined their "boxes" so they could do a lot of "that's not my responsibility" in order to keep their workload manageable. -Those that attempted to pick up all of the dropped work (i.e. the people that burned themselves out) -Those that said "enough of this crap" and left (many like me) You are fooling yourself if you think it is sustainable or productive. I'm now smiling when I get home. Have already lost 10 lbs... YMMV
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:45AM (#41053335)

    I work to live, and while I really do enjoy my work, I don't enjoy it so much that I'm willing to sell the majority of my life to a faceless corporation that won't remember me five minutes after I've retired. I work as much as I need to in order to pay the mortgage, and the rest of the time, I travel, study, read, and compose. The hours that exist outside of work hours are simply not for sale at any price.

  • by lophophore (4087) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:47AM (#41053365) Homepage

    There are two kinds of riches.

    One is the big house, the fancy new car, all the toys.

    The other is time with your family, friends, time for yourself.

    I've worked the crazy hours, made a ton of money, and I'd go home and I did not know the people there -- my wife and daughter.

    Decide what you want. Make trade-offs for work/life balance.

    You can get another job pretty easily. You cannot get new family or friends so easily.

    Are 12 to 16 hour work days productive? Yes, if you only care about the money.

  • Wake up CEO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:50AM (#41053385) Journal

    Perhaps this guy should take a look at how his employees view his company: http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Opsware-Reviews-E11055.htm

    Doesn't look like those 1:1 meetings are really paying off in "that the people who spend 12 to 16 hours/day here, which is most of their waking life, have a good life."

  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:00AM (#41053471) Journal

    Denial is the first symptom. Trust me, I know too many people who suffered from it. One of them was a sysadmin who was proud that his pills made him stay awake for 24 ours so he could work that long. It took 3 months before he collapsed. He was in such a bad condition afterwards that I wonder if he ever could have a job again.

    Alas it does not matter if you believe in burnout. Burnout believes in you.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:04AM (#41053521)
    I regularly work 16hr days - but it is for my own company.

    Would I work 16 hour days for a $100,000 annual salary? Yeah, no. But, equity stakes, large bonuses, overtime - you have my attention.

    I don't work because it is fun, I work to acquire money.
  • It's not worth it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CptJeanLuc (1889586) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:14AM (#41053603)

    Great for businesses to squeeze the lemon to the last drop from every employee and to have everyone always-on; not so great for the employees. Why bother even having a family or a home if all time is spent at work, thinking about work, or dreaming about work. And yes, I have "been there, done that".

    An article [guardian.co.uk] in The Guardian listed the top five regrets of dying people:

    1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
    2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
    3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
    4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
    5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

    Lots of people probably feel trapped in the current workplace due to debt, running expenses, or an expensive-to-maintain self-image, which requires maintaining the current position or even advancing the career. My advice is to think outside the bubble, e.g. move to a cheaper location or cut back on luxuries. If not possible today, actively pursue opportunities to make future changes.

  • Sleep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:17AM (#41053625) Homepage

    8 hours sleep.
    8 hours work.
    8 hours leisure (which INCLUDES travel to/from work and everything else).

    I think you should be grateful that you get ONE HALF of my entire waking life every weekday. And I *earn* the weekends by not doing a crappy job.

    Weekends are also my buffer if you don't pay me enough, I have an emergency of some kind that needs me to work for money, or whatever else. Out of respect for the working agreements, I won't do that as a night-shift or after work during the week without your permission, but if I suddenly need to earn money at the weekends too - that's *my* business. Even if it's just flogging some old tat on eBay or a boot sale.

    And there is "work" outside of paid work too - I either have to pay some professional to do some DIY or do it myself. Either way, that's more of my earned money and free time I burn up *NOT* lazing around the house.

    Anything above and beyond that is for something:

    - that was caused by something stupid that I did (including lack of planning!). I *will* rectify my mistakes if they've caused some provable, detrimental effect on the business. That's professional pride.

    - is absolutely vital, cannot be put off, and cannot be done by others during the working day, is voluntary and that I will expect back in kind (notice: not money necessarily, but when I want a day off later in the year, or better tools, or training, or whatever, you better not get snarky about it).

    Anything outside those criteria? You're trying to steal my life for your company and the only recompense I can possibly EVER reap is money (if anything!) which can't cover the sort of ills that work like that can cause.

    If you regularly work more hours than that, you either have no concept of life outside work, value money too much, or you are, quite honestly, weak-willed or mentally ill (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc. causing you to not want to say No).

    The bigger question is: What does the company get out of employing tired drones? Savings on wages for any "free" work they can make you do? That's about it. They should be hiring someone else instead, if they cared about their customers, products or services. Better an extra part-timer for a year than wearing your best workers into the ground chasing some mythical business utopia. And if they can't afford that? Then they were doing business on a knife-edge all along and are probably better off without staff anyway.

    You can ask me nicely and "bribe" me for some short-term changes to my contract. Anything longer and you're not upholding your responsibility to your customers or your staff by doing a shoddy job where you should have hired more people.

    When you have half my waking life during work-days and you want more? Then I look elsewhere for someone running their business properly rather than a cash cow obtained by grinding up lesser employees.

    And, really, if you can't do something in 8 hours, 5 days a week, then you have problems bigger than what you can squeeze out of your employees. Some of the most productive countries in the world work less, on average. And anyone who's worked for themselves knows - you actually earn a LOT more when you just do the job and nothing more, get paid for the day, and go home.

    Hell, when I was doing THIS EXACT JOB, but on a self-employed basis, I was earning the same money in less than half the working time. The difference is stability - chasing potential customers, economic fluctuations, insurance, etc. is all a gamble. At any time, you could be doing NO work at all, and not be able to find any. The way out of that is to scale up so that losses are absorbed by profits elsewhere, etc. which is a net gain - you actually make more money out of 10 people working 8 hours than you do 1 person working 80 if you do it right. The *stability* of a good job that you like is just-about worth half-your-money.

    The cost of even the best job is unlikely to be worth half-your-waking-life, though.

    Bloody hell, people. You hav

  • The difference (Score:4, Informative)

    by residieu (577863) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:51AM (#41054059)

    “Do you know the difference between a good place to work and a bad place to work?”

    Well for one, in a bad place to work you're expected to be in the office for 12-16 hours a day.

  • Working 12-16 hours per day, 5-7 days a week, prevents the workers from having time available to find better jobs. Welcome to your new reality, USA. Freedom in slavery, etc, etc.
  • For me, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, + commute is uber-suckage. It consumes nigh my entire existence. Compound that with the fact my wife works two 12 hour shifts every other weekend. It pretty much leaves us with little time. We have to try to take care of all the business side of things, medical bills, auto stuff, taxes, etc while dealing with work.

    Furthermore, I've found in programming, that I am far more effective when I get into the flow. It might take me 1-2 hours to achieve flow. Then there's lunch, then trying to get back on flow. Then meeting, then trying to get back on flow. I often find that around 4pm I start becoming much more effective. And then it's shortly time to go home.

    I really think programming would benefit from three days of 12-13 hours. This would allow us to get into the flow, continue the flow, and then basically have 4 days of laying fallow. Furthermore, two employees would easily cover an entire week of schedule. But I wager many developers would be a lot more effective if they could work three long days with less interruptions. And then have 4 days to take care of life, have a mini vacation any weekendt they want, be able to work on side projects, etc.

    Sadly, companies refuse to consider such because they believe 5, eight hour shifts are the only way to go. Why? Is it for the work? Nope...it's for the control. Companies want you there EVERY day. Sat/Sun has been established as a mandatory break for most, so they want you there every other day.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday August 20, 2012 @12:18PM (#41055787)

    See, in the old days they actually *measured* productivity instead of just "defining a new reality" and creating "the right story" as my manager said recently.

    And they found that the productivity for working 6 days and 5 days was basically the same. And the productivity for working an 8 hour day and a 12 hour day was basically the same.

    And then more recently, about 20 years ago, they found that for most people (not those mutants who only need 3 hours a night sleep), that after two weeks of over 8 hours, the error rate rose and the severity of those errors rose and you had a productivity loss.

    And it explains the insane and low quality decisions coming out of the executive and management classes these days. They are exhausted and working stupid. We are now told to write up projects "so your grandmother could understand them" because that's how exhausted and brain dead the executives are.

    But they think they are doing fine when they really need to get more sleep.

  • by jjohn (2991) on Monday August 20, 2012 @12:37PM (#41056071) Homepage Journal

    I quit a job with a manager who didn't think that "work-life balance" was valid.

    Even in the face of a terrible economy. Engineering requires a functioning brain.

    Perhaps the world would be a better place if more people took time off.

  • by composer777 (175489) * on Monday August 20, 2012 @01:11PM (#41056505)

    Really, let's think for two seconds. We have productivity levels that have skyrocketed (some of which is caused by overtime, but most of it due to automation and increased efficiency), 10%+ unemployment, college students that can't find work, and you are asking if 16 hour work days are productive?

    Yes, those work days are a great brainwashing technique, just ask the U.S. army, or any medical residency training program, or your local fraternity. It's pretty well known that those kinds of hours (combined with sleep deprivation) are great for keeping people so broke down that they can't think for themselves. However, in the face of 10%+ unemployment, what are you, crazy? How about we employ the entire work force before we worry about making some of us work 16 hours a day.

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