Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Why Working More Than 40 Hours a Week is Useless

This week's LinkedIn trawl turned up one good new article, arguing that it is a bad idea to work more than 40 hours a week.

The title's a bit overstated -- the article itself is a bit more nuanced -- but I applaud the general sentiment. This is one that was driven home to me at Buzzpad, which was probably the most *productive* company I've ever worked for. We were a tiny little XP (Extreme Programming) shop, and among the XP rules that we chose to live by was that you not only don't demand that your people work overtime, you don't *allow* them to work overtime. Buzzpad's rule was that Thursday was the only day in which you were allowed to work more than an eight-hour day, and that specifically because Friday was end-of-sprint, so we would allow a *little* extra time if needed for integration. And then everyone was strongly encouraged to have a beer and play Starcraft afterwards.

Like I said, we were phenomenally productive -- we were an eight-person company (including the CEO, CFO, UX designer and tester), and we wound up building software *way* out on the cutting edge, doing things with the browser that the rest of the industry still hasn't caught up with, ten years later. By truly internalizing the "work smarter, not harder" principle -- requiring everybody to *focus* during the workday, in exchange for which there was an explicit commitment that the company didn't own the rest of your life -- everybody accomplished more than I've seen at any other company. We had zero burnout, deep company retention and loyalty, great team spirit, and everybody able to stay sharp month in and month out.

So since then, I've become a fairly outspoken devotee of this principle. It has nothing to do with fairness, or being nice, or anything squishy like that: plain and simply, in the long run it is better for business if the company focuses rigorously on keeping folks on a strict 8-hour schedule, and treating it as a severe process bug if you have to violate that routinely...
Tags: business

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