Re: Average Hours Worked

Subject: Re: Average Hours Worked
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 21:01:48 -0400

I've been watching this thread unravel all day with a sense that there was something that was making me uncomfortable about it. I think I can finally put my finger on what that is.

I know that there is a reality, both from the employee's/contractor's point of view and from the point of view of some employers, to the idea of hours worked versus output generated; But from an external frame of reference, that reality evaporates. (This is a Flatland argument; if you are familiar with Edward Abbott's Flatland, 'nuff said; if not, please take a moment to Google it up and read it before skewering me for my heartless reductionism.)

The hours worked/good produced model works in manufacturing. When I worked in a bakery, the number of loaves we made bore a direct relationship to the number of hours we worked. When I did paste-up at a light table, the number of pages I churned out bore a direct relationship to the number of hours I worked. Further, in both of those cases, the employer sold the units I produced. That is, bread was sold at a price per loaf and pages were pasted up at a price per page. Whether I had been employed flat rate (that is, paid by the piece, like an auto mechanic) or by the time clock (as I was, in fact), the conversation between me and the employer could revolve around hours of work the employer wanted or that I was willing to put in.

In the present discussion, those who argue that they are productive/efficient/get their work done in eight hours are taking the flat rate approach. Those who argue that whatever they accomplish in eight hours is by definition enough are taking the punch clock approach. I say both approaches should be abandoned. We are not in the tangible goods business. We are producing intangibles (and getting paid a heck of a lot more than most manufacturing employees, too). Our employers' customers, for the most part, are not buying our output by the page. (I'm sure there are exceptions.)

The model that usually applies in the work we do is this: we contract to produce a specified deliverable by a particular date. Dates slip. Goalposts move. Stuff happens. We renegotiate. But still, this is the model. If we bite off more than we can chew in a forty-hour week, we work longer than forty hours. If we learn from this experience, we negotiate better the next time. If, over the long term, we contract to produce less than the guy in the next cube, we'll probably get paid less than the guy in the next cube--or he'll have a job and we won't. If he does it by working smarter than we do, more power to him. If he does it by working more hours, so be it. But it's all subjective and much too squishy to try to account for tech writing productivity the same way we measure a roofer's productivity.

Hours schmours. Feh!


Buy RoboHelp Deluxe starting at only $798: you'll get RoboDemo, the hot new
software demonstration tool that's taking the Help authoring world by storm,
together with RoboHelp Office. Learn more at

Your monthly sponsorship message here reaches more than
5000 technical writers, providing 2,500,000+ monthly impressions.
Contact Eric (ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com) for details and availability.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Re: Average Hours Worked: From: John Fleming

Previous by Author: Re: Of myth and reality
Next by Author: Re: Alternative to 'Click on...' for visually impaired
Previous by Thread: Re: Average Hours Worked
Next by Thread: Re: Average Hours Worked

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads

Sponsored Ads