Re: Average Hours Worked

Subject: Re: Average Hours Worked
From: kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 08:40:31 -0600

I've found the software industry to be rife with the practice of
"presenteeism," where workers wear the excessive number of hours they work
as a sort of badge of honor, making anybody who "only" works 40 hours feel

No sir, I don't like it.

For one thing, that's not what I'm getting paid to do. I signed on to work
40 hours, and am paid accordingly. There are professions where that simply
isn't considered to be enough (young lawyers come to mind), but in most
lines of work, you *should* be able to get a good week's work done within
that time. At least that's what *I* think.

So I work between 40 to 45 hours a week, averaging around 42 or 43. Those
couple extra hours are my nod to this practice, but that's all. I'll only
work more in a crunch.

I got this philosophy from Beth Sawi's excellent book "Coming Up for Air,"
in which she teaches a very interesting lesson about the impact of working
overtime, which I'll attempt to paraphrase:

Suppose you sleep 8 hours a day, which leaves you 16 hours of being
conscious. Suppose further that you have a 1-hour commute each way to
work, and that it takes you 1 hour to get ready for work in the morning.

If you work an 8-hour day (which becomes a 9 hour day if you take lunch),
add your morning prep and your roundtrip commute, you've used up 12 of
your 16 hours of wakefulness.

That leaves you 4 hours of free time.

Here's Beth's lesson:

? If you work one hour of overtime, you are only lengthening your workday
by about 12%.
? But you've just given up 25% of your free time for the day.

Is it worth it?

Not to me. That's why I keep an eye on the clock, and make sure I don't
work any overtime that isn?t truly necessary.

I *will* work more in a crunch, but I've also developed a jaded outlook on
these crunches. Many of them are simply the result of poor planning, or
are a ritual people fall into. I worked at a company where we routinely
worked a 24-hour shift the night we published our docs. The first time
around, it was because we had some last-minute problems. But after that,
it was more of a ritual than anything - we were led to *expect* to pull an
all-nighter each time we released new doc, with no effort to adjust our
internal milestones and deadlines to eliminate this "crunch." It was very
poor management, and the company took advantage of peer pressure to guilt
everybody into working these insane shifts (which we'd take days to
recover from).

Crunches do occur. But I've found many of them can be avoided or prevented
by some planning. (I'm always reminded of that line "Poor planning on your
part does not constitute an emergency on my part." SO true.)

I've also learned a different way to approach unrealistic deadlines:
modify my expectations.

If you assign me a 5-chapter document and only give me one work-week to
complete it, I'll get it done. I will NOT only get three chapters done.
PERMITS. Many writers don't subscribe to this methodology, and work too
hard on the first couple chapters, use up all their time, and miss the

Of course I could do a better job if I had two weeks, three weeks; a
month. But I gear the level of my efforts to the amount of time I have to
devote to the project. Learning this skill has helped me tremendously.
It's hard at first, because chances are you will NOT be creating a
document of the kind of quality to which you've become accustomed. But at
least you created SOMETHING.

And the important concept is that all five chapters are of equal quality -
I did not do a more thorough job on the first couple chapters and then
rush through the last part of the document as my time ran out.

It's a balancing act, but a good one to learn how to execute. Timing is

This philosophy may rankle some of you. I'm not saying it's for everybody.
But my job is not my life. It's a means to support the things I do in my

End of sermon. Please return to your font fondling. And we're going to
need you to stay late tonight - that's not a problem, is it?

-Keith Cronin

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