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    If you have a chance to somehow stop working on Fridays, do it (even with a pay cut). I was fortunate enough to be able to negotiate this while employed and it had a very positive impact on both my work and quality of life in general.

    Now I’m self-employed and had to stop sticking to the old “no work on Fridays” rule. But I’d like to get back into it at some point.

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      Would it work just as well on Wednesdays or does having a 3 day weekend make the critical difference?

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        The 3 day weekend is it. 4/3 is a much better work/life balance than 5/2.

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      why working fewer hours is better for you and your employer

      Tell you manager “I am going to be working a 40-hour work week, unless it’s a real emergency.”

      My first reaction was yikes, 40 hours is “fewer hours”? But then I tried to actually sit down and calculate how many hours I spend doing work.

      I’ll typically spend ~30 hours a week at work - in the office. 25 hours are probably the time I spend doing work tasks; take away meetings, which vary in quality, and I’m probably somewhere around 15 hours of core productive time.

      But then I tried to add in the time I spend at home shooting emails around, thinking about problems in the shower… it’s a mess.

      How do smart people keep track of this? I’d be curious just to get a baseline of how much I actually work.

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        I’ve used a variety of time-tracking apps over the years, starting in grad school. RescueTime for a while, Emacs' Org Mode time tracking for a shorter while (a little too labor intensive), and while there’s always something interesting to see - I usually find out that I spend more time reading the news in the morning than I think - I think there’s no great way to get a complete picture without a lot of discipline.

        If you just want a rough idea of how long in the day you’re at your work computer, something like RescueTime or QBserve is good, but finer grained insight is hard to get and stick with, IMO.

        I also noticed that my motivation to track my time goes up when I’m anxious about not getting enough done, and completely goes away when I’m engaged and feeling productive. So I never stick with anything for very long. And interestingly, I never once felt like I needed to do this while working at an office for a big company, even on days when I wasn’t productive. But as soon as I started working from home, I felt like I needed to track my chairtime again.

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          And interestingly, I never once felt like I needed to do this while working at an office for a big company, even on days when I wasn’t productive. But as soon as I started working from home, I felt like I needed to track my chairtime again.

          This is why I’m a little wary of taking up remote job offers.

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          Hmm, this is interesting. Where I work, we aren’t expected to be keeping track of emails and stuff outside of work hours, and for that reason I rarely bring my work laptop home. Occasionally (once every couple months or less), we might do a server upgrade or major deployment that needs us to be connected remotely for an hour or two during the weekend.

          As far as thinking about problems in the shower goes, I try not to allow myself to mull problems over when I get home at night. After work hours, I have other responsibilities, and thinking about my employer’s problems are not one of them.

          Out of curiosity, do you work remotely? Is the company you work for small? Neither is true in my case, which I think makes it easier for me to separate work and life.

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          Consultancies that bill hourly often have high minimum client-billable hours. I know somebody whose minimum at a consultancy was 40 hours, which makes it impossible to work a mere 40 hour work week. Ultimately I think that was an abusive employer, and thankfully that person quit (after YEARS of it absolutely destroying their personal life and mental health), but that’s another story.

          Even a reasonable consultancy which bills hourly would look like, what, 34 hours/week? That makes for just-about a 40 hour work week if you consider there’s internal company meetings and other miscellaneous necessities to deal with during the week. Those minimums connect directly to the bottom-line of the company, so it seems hard to move the needle to reduce hours.

          Along a different vein, am I mis-remembering that people used to work 9 to 5? It seems like the norm now is 8 to 5, or maybe 9 to 5:30 - I think break time (lunch or other) started not-counting towards work hours at some point. Is that specific to the computer industry? Or has it always pretty much been like that?

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            Traditionally the U.S. 40-hour workweek was inclusive of an “on-the-clock” lunch break at most places. Sometimes a quite short one, e.g. some blue-collar unionized jobs had a 20-minute lunch break written into their contract. But it was still there somewhere.

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              I generally find those practices abusive to the client, too (FWIW, I do run a small consultancy).

              If consultancies bill me 40 hours of work for one of their people multiple times in a row, they are either hiding their internal sync work or they are not sending me relaxed people, which is what I need.

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              The problem is that, on the performance/control tradeoff, typical corporate executives have every incentive to favor control. The board represents the shareholders who care about the performance of the company, but they’re not going to dictate work practices or hours. They let management do that, and executives care about keeping their jobs and getting promoted and, unless they have 5+ percent of the stock, generally don’t have much incentive to care about the business’s performance as a whole: they only care if they get credit. Thus, when it comes to the age-old performance/control trade-off, they’re going to favor control.

              Corporate America is like Soviet Russia. It’s obviously inefficient and backward and depressing but there’ll be a few decades' worth of gap time between the first signs of failure and the actual collapse. It’s very obvious that software is currently wracked by practices that serve no purpose other than subjugation and control: the cramped open-plan offices designed to intimidate people into subordination, the Agile Scrotum one-sided transparency. I don’t see it as likely to change any time soon. The culture coming from the top of the software industry is zero-sum MBA culture. The people running the show only care about holding their positions, and not about actually making anything more productive.