Work More Hours

August 14, 2012

If you’re a senior-or-above talent, you know how work longer hours without it significantly impacting your work product. For this, I’m talking about the 40-50 hour range. Most people start to fall off around the 50-60 hour range, and we all start producing crap around 60-80 hours. Beyond 80 hours, it probably time to look for a new job. Having said this, let’s focus on the 40-50 hour range. If your employer suggests or requires that you work these extra hours, it’s probably not going to destroy your home life, or wreck your sense of well-being, so the impact should be minimal, if not negligible. Why not work these extra hours? Because you’re not getting paid for them.

When you sign on with a company, there’s a document you sign called your employment agreement. Give that a read. If it says you are required to work a 50 hour work week, and you signed it to get your job, stop reading as this article doesn’t apply to you. However, if you’re like to majority of us, it probably assumes a 40 hour work week, which is most likely explicitly called out in the employee handbook. What this “40 hour work week” implies, however, is largely lost on people working in software development. It doesn’t imply that you come in at 9:15am, take an hour for lunch, and then leave at 4:45pm so that you can dodge traffic. No, it’s saying that you owe them 40 hours of business value. When you do the math, that’s more like you arriving at 8:00am and leaving at 5:00pm with a 1 hour lunch break, or working 9-to-5 but skipping a lunch break. That’s what they’re paying you for, but you abuse the system and end up giving them around 6.5 hours a day. They get pissed, and try to balance the equation by pressuring you to work more hours.

Then, there’s the quality of the hours you do give them. Let say you are one of the few employees in software development who give their employer a solid 8 hours a day of business value. What did you do during those 8 hours? Did you goof off in the break room? Did you attending a mind-numbing meeting where you spent most of your time paying bills online? Are you giving them the business value they’re paying you for? What I’m driving at here is that we [ collectively ] need to stop bitching about being asked to work overtime UNTIL we start giving them the solid 8 hours they pay us for. At that point, when they want us to work the weekend we can legitimately put our foot down and politely decline. What happens next will hopefully be a discussion acknowledging the difference between a knowledge worker and a factory worker. Then again, we could always unionize.

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I would like to point out that if we work together today, or have in the past, my opinions may or may not have been influenced by working with you. Most likely they have been, but I have to say that to avoid offending people. You're so vain. I bet you think this site is about you.