six-hour workdays, Zappos’ big move to kill job postings, and other things to know this week

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: Zappos’ move to get rid of job postings and replacing them with its own social network, Sweden’s examination of a six-hour workday, and more. You can read it here.

{ 152 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth West

    #2–OH YEAH

    I’d love a six-hour workday, especially if I got paid the same (I’m hourly, though, darn it). I tend to work in spurts that start early and peter out later in the day. Sometimes it’s hard to pace activity for eight hours, especially when things are slow. Of course, I’d be willing to stay longer if it gets really busy or I get behind. And if I have less hours to do my work, say, if I have an appointment and I’m leaving early, I always bust my ass to get everything done. Yeah, this would work for me.

    1. M. in Austin!

      I agree. I know I could get most of my work done in 4 hours each day… but I have to be here another 4! 8 hours is so long. I don’t know anyone in my office that can work the solid 8 hours.

      I work best in 2-4 hour burst where I can be SUPER productive. By the last 2 hours of my work day, I am beat. 6 hours sounds might nice :)

      1. Thomas W

        After 5 years of 12+ hour days (also hourly, thank goodness), an occasional 8hr day feels like nothing! But truthfully, I support shorter days if the job gets done. 6hrs here, 10hrs there, etc. Doesn’t have to be the same every day.

    2. Tasha

      Totally agree. I’m often in my (grad school) office from 8-8, but now that classes are over, a lot of that time is waiting for simulations to run or for people to get back to me. There’s only so much time I can spend reading papers. So even though I’m here a lot, I’m probably *really* working for 6-8 hours at most.

      1. Ruffingit

        Yeah, I think that’s true for most people. The actual, productive hours of work are probably only about 4-6 if you remove time waiting for people to get back to you with project stuff, return your calls, water cooler chat, etc.

    3. Anonsie

      Agreed. I’ve been thinking about this recently since it’s been in the news, and I think the decreased fatigue from the saved time would make the time I’m at work more productive and it would all even out. Being compensated by the hour, however, means you can’t cut your hours for financial reasons even though you’ll be producing the same amount. Frustrating.

      This is really variable, though. Some people would much prefer longer days.

      1. Nina

        I was once in favor of longer days in order to have an additional day off. I would happily work for 10 hours if it meant having Monday or Friday off. I know that option wouldn’t work for a lot of people (especially if you have children) but I would definitely do that.

        1. Stephanie

          When I was a fed, Adjusted Work Schedules were pretty big at my agency. Most of us did 5-4/9 (aka 9-80s) where we worked nine-hour days and got one day off every other week (I think they wouldn’t let people do a traditional 40-hour work week initially, actually). A few people did 4/10s to get a day off every week.

          I agree childcare might be a hindrance to that. It might also not be feasible for some jobs where daily support is needed.

  2. Mike C.

    A weekly “work” news post would be quite interesting for the site. Either that, or mixing a story or two into your morning “quick questions” post.

      1. Mike C.

        Heck, you could solicit items for discussion if you want. I’m sure there are many times someone work/business related has happened and folks wanted to discuss it here.

      1. Ed

        I’ve done something similar to this (though on a smaller scale) and it quickly became a nuisance with those emails mixed in with everything else. I eventually created a new email address just for suggestions of articles, blogs, etc. Anytime I was low on content, I could open that folder and quickly pull together a beefy post.

      2. Stephanie

        Oh, this is a dangerous request. I usually don’t have write-in questions, but I will happily send you post fodder.

  3. NylaW

    I already wanted to move to Sweden because of their great family leave policies, social programs, and schools. This just clinches it.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      Yeah, but the whole 20 hours of darkness a day in December, 20 hours of sunlight a day in June can be damn hard to get used to.

      1. Chinook

        “Yeah, but the whole 20 hours of darkness a day in December, 20 hours of sunlight a day in June can be damn hard to get used to.”

        These are easily solved with blackout curtains and ey shades for sleeping in the summer and alarm clocks that use light to wake you up and good lighting in the winter. I willingly put up with shorter winter days because it means I can be playing outside in the summer until 9 or 10 at night. And 3 hour sunsets are a nice summer perk as well (I kept missing those short ones when I visited Bali – took me 4 days before I realized you ahd to be outside at 6 pm to catch it).

        1. Colette

          A few years ago, I traveled to Botswana twice for work – once in January and once in July.

          In January, twilight was 6 pm. In July, it was 7 pm. It was such a huge contrast to here.

        2. Al Lo

          This week is one of my favorites in this neck of the woods. Last night, I came in from mowing the lawn at 10:30, and it was dusk, but not quite dark yet.

          I may eventually trade that for living somewhere with better year-round weather, but there’s nothing quite like a long, long summer evening that doesn’t get dark until 11.

        3. Windchime

          I’m in the Pacific Northwest and we don’t even think about starting fireworks here until after 10 PM; it’s not dark enough otherwise. I love the long days in the summer; it starts getting light between 4 and 4:30 AM and doesn’t get dark till close to 10. The winters are a drag, though…..9 hours of sunlight is no fun.

          1. Callie

            I moved to the PNW from the Deep South and you aren’t kidding. The winters are awful and I had such a hard time adjusting. I was miserable. But the summers are glorious and make it worth it.

      2. Mimmy

        Agreed. It’s not Sweden, but I remember when I traveled to Ireland with my sister a number of years ago, it was still semi-light out at 10-11 p.m. It was definitely a little weird for me.

    2. Mints

      Me too. I read that line and thought “I always feel like moving to Sweden
      Just adding more reasons onto the pile

        1. Mints

          Ooh that was really interesting. I never heard about the alcohol monopoly. I’ll have to Google that more. And the right to public places is cool too; I knew sort of generally about that, but the institutionalization of it is so interesting

        1. Mints

          Haha that’s adorable! I don’t remember seeing that

          Maybe I should move to Canada, though. Close enough, eh?

          1. Chinook

            Having read the “20 things to know,” I would saymost of them do apply to Canada – government control of liquor – check; casual dress is jeans – check; . . . So move on up here.

              1. Cath in Canada

                Agreed – I’ve had four jobs since moving here and three offered 20 days per year as the starting amount of paid vacation time, and the other offered 15 days but gave you the week between Christmas and New Year as a freebie. In my current job you start getting an extra day per year after five years of service, so I’m at 22 days right now (it maxes out at 35 days, for people with 20+ years with the same employer).

                In the UK I always had at least 25 days, occasionally 30, but there are fewer public holidays as extras.

    3. Anonsie

      I have a long-running fantasy about becoming a fabulous expat in Scandinavia for these (among other) reasons.

      Realistically, the list of places I could live happily is short because I have an absurdly intense hatred for being cold.

      1. Mints

        You could spend your six week annual vacation at the equator during the worst part of winter, though!

      2. Elizabeth West

        Me too–I don’t want to live in the Northern US for the same reason. I’d be okay with it if it got cold and rained; it’s just that snow and more snow and BITTER cold and especially ice just suck.

      3. BCranston

        Sweden certainly has its idiosyncrasies that aren’t readily apparent on the surface and in a lot of these “best places to live” lists. I have a Swedish husband and actually am currently in the Stockholm area for a few weeks. Yesterday we were talking when walking through the city about the lack of choice here and level of conformity. All the housing looks the same, regardless of where you are. Everyone looks and acts the same, except the poor immigrants that have essentially been ghettoized on the outskirts of the major cities with few job prospects beyond driving a cab or running a kebab shop. You are limited in what type/brand of alcohol you can buy at the Systembolaget and the prices will ensure you don’t buy too much. The lagom concept drives all, and should you be more ambitious or risk tolerant, this is not the country for you.

        Is it gorgeous? Sure – right now I can see from the kitchen table a 12th century cathedral and later we will walk 5 mins down the hill to get a coffee at the harbor and meet a friend. But the taxes here and cost of everyday items ensure that it is a challenge to grow real wealth beyond one home, one car, some vacations, and a family life. I just paid 30% to the Swedish tax authority last week on a gift that was sent from the US with a value over $40.

        We’ve decided that while its nice to visit here, this just isn’t the place for us. And I’m not surprised by this study – I guarantee that in most offices the fika (coffee break) culture already cuts down the workday from 8 to 6 hours already! :)

        1. Monodon monoceros

          I’ve been living in Norway for about a year, and as I understand it, it is very similar to Sweden. The “cons” you list are probably all true for Norway as well. But I often can find a “pro” to the “con” (if that makes sense). For example, the lack of choice can be annoying, but today I found it helpful- I needed to replace a doorknob in my house that my dog chewed (yup, chewed the brass doorknob). Went to the CoopBygg wondering how difficult it was going to be to find the same doorknob. Luckily the lack of choice worked in my favor! There was only one brass, modern style straight door handle. Voila! Did not have to spend an hour deciding, and no chance of buying something that won’t work.

          Silly example, I know, but there are pros and cons to everything :)

        2. Anonsie

          This is what my friends that live there tell me, yes. My family somewhat recently immigrated from Norway (the greats & great-greats) and a relative there said “Why would you want to move here? The prices are absurd and the selection is provincial.”

          Everywhere has problems, though, just different problems, and people will be more or less suited to some than others. I like slow and I like risk-averse. Growing wealth is somewhat of an absurd idea for someone at my class level in the US anyway– a comfortable family life alone would be an upgrade… The difference that appeals to Americans is that the “bottom” is much higher there. The presentation I get from Scandinavians (if you’ll pardon the grouping) of only being able to have “one home, one car, some vacations, and a family life” as if that’s not a lot highlights differing perspectives, I think. To a lot of Americans, that’s an end-life goal that most of us never achieve.

          1. Monodon monoceros

            Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but Yes! “only being able to have “one home, one car, some vacations, and a family life” as if that’s not a lot highlights differing perspectives”. This summarizes what I’ve been saying to both Norwegians here and my American friends and family back home. I feel like in the US, you are doing pretty darn good if you have a house, a car, vacations, and family life. That is the new American “Dream”. Many Americans will never own a home, or have a car, and vacations and family life are a pipe dream. But those are all pretty basic for the majority here (from what I can tell, and yes, I know that there are poorer people here, but the middle class here can expect to have these things, whereas I feel the “middle class” in the US struggles to have these things).

  4. Homme

    Everything the people at Zappos touch turns to gold. They are true innovators. I’m sure this endeavor will work out well for them. I have nothing but love for that company due to their fabulous customer service, and regularly buy shoes there as a result.

    As for the six hour workday- Yes, please. Realistically, most people only work that long in an eight hour day anyway. Other two hours are spent on blogs, news, and chatting with other employees.

    1. Mike C.

      To be honest, I’m a bit skeptical about Zappos in the long term. Many companies try to take a whole new approach to how they do business/treat employees and so on but as they grow larger they shed those practices in favor of less employer/customer friendly decisions.

      I hope the best for them of course, but I’ve seen too many go down that spiral.

          1. Stephanie

            How so? Because they’re expanding into things like self-driving cars? I don’t disagree, I’m just curious.

          2. fposte

            Are you talking about the approach to users/civilians on Google (with which I heartily agree), or is there employment stuff going on as well?

            1. LBK

              The impression I’ve gotten lately is that they went from “We have a super fun office environment which inspires people to work crazy hours for us” to “We have a super fun office environment, therefore we don’t feel guilty about making people work crazy hours for us.”

              1. Anonsie

                I’ve always assumed the former was never true and has always been a cover for the latter.

                1. Anon

                  Anyone with more details on this? I have an interview there coming up and don’t want to get sucked into an endless workaholic nightmare.

                2. Sidney

                  Hi Anon. I have in laws who work at Google. He works long hours (management level position) and they commute together, so she spends a lot of time at the office too. But her job is normal hours.

        1. Stephanie

          I’ve noticed they have dummy models of the electronics out now. I’m guessing they picked up people were coming into Best Buy to test out the item and then ordering it online.

          1. De Minimis

            I was thinking of Best Buy’s policies for their corporate office employees…they were known for basically not requiring people to keep regular office hours as long as things were getting done, but I think they’ve backed off on that now that the company is having problems.

      1. Homme

        I fear you may be right, their customer service is probably too good to last. I think the way they run their company ought to be the model for all online retailers in the future, but maybe I’m approaching the issue too much from the consumer’s perspective. Free shipping both ways, no questions asked on returns, friendly employees who go out of their way to help people with their issues, fast (one or two day) shipping for loyal, repeat customers. What’s not to love?

        1. Andrea

          I expect that they–and these policies–may very well last. After all, everything you described about Zappo’s customer service and policies is also true at LL Bean, a company that has definitely stood the test of time.

      2. Persephone Mulberry

        “Many companies try to take a whole new approach to how they do business/treat employees and so on but as they grow larger they shed those practices in favor of less employer/customer friendly decisions.”

        Zappos has been in business for 15 years, has revenues exceeding a billion dollars a year, and they’ve successfully kept their customer- and employee-centric culture intact despite being acquired by Amazon in 2009. Considering the “we’ll pay you to quit” and “no titles” policies, asking people to network their way into a job fits right in.

        1. Esra

          It’s definitely for a certain kind of person. The no titles thing makes me shudder. We’re currently going through turmoil in the office with a new leader who wants to create a flat organization.

        2. Sidney

          The “we’ll pay you to quit” doesn’t sound like an especially appealing policy–from the employee’s perspective. $1,000 and you get to be unemployed again?

    2. Windchime

      I can’t remember the last time I bought shoes anywhere other than Zappos. Seriously. I love ordering 3 or 4 pair, keeping one (or two, or none!) and then sending everything back for free. I’ve never had a problem with a return, and shipping is crazy fast. Love me some Zappos.

  5. Michele

    #2 sounds like ROWE (Results Oriented Work Environment). We had the program at my old job. The nice thing about it is during slow times in the production cycle you were able to work from home or come, get what you needed done, and get out the door to enjoy the day.

    1. Ed

      I love this concept but one thing always left me confused. If you can do your job in 5 or 6 hours, wouldn’t mots managers just say you should obviously be taking on more work?

      1. Michele

        There is a book you can read about ROWE. In order to participate in the program everyone in my company had to go through a training class. There were always time in our production cycle (I manage apparel production) that are slower so we could take advantage of leaving early or coming in later or of course not at all. There were also times where you would work 10 hour days. This program does not necessarily work for all departments.

      2. Anonsie

        Just depends on the nature of your work. If you have a job that has a natural ebb and flow to work volume, taking on more in a slow period is going to be a mistake because when it picks up you’ll be overwhelmed.

      3. Esra

        I think most good managers realize work has crests and waves. Endlessly piling on work during slower times kills morale and leaves you unprepared for emergencies. Not to mention the expensive increase in turnover.

  6. Adam

    #2 Six hour work day. Sounds like Heaven, doesn’t it? Of course I would hope to get paid the same, and it since it meant I would be off before 3:00 you could easily squeeze in a little afternoon nap, which some research says is not only good for you physically and mentally, but that are bodies may in fact have been designed to take naps. Why do you think your dog/cat is always lounging around in the afternoon?

    1. Jamie

      My dogs and cats lounge around afternoons, mornings, and evenings interspersed with periods of high energy.

      If we take productivity lessons from my cats we’ll be napping most of the time, sniffing for food and catnip every so often, a little bit of cuddling, chase a toy on a string or two, and back to sleep.

      A cat based economy could never survive (although I totally want to trade lives with them – because they’ve got it pretty good.)

      1. Chinook

        Even cats know a cat-based economy wouldn’t survive – that is why they manipulated humans to be their servants.

      2. Windchime

        Don’t forget the running up the stairs, down the hall, and back down the stairs again. Mine does that every night for 5 or 10 minutes. Then snack on crunches and sleep again.

        1. Monodon monoceros

          And walking around the house in the middle of the night meowing super loudly, for no apparent reason.

    2. Jennifer

      The first thing I think when they mention something like this is that I will no longer be paid enough to maintain my lifestyle.

  7. Victoria Nonprofit

    The issue with the six-hour work day is adjusting the amount of work. Right now, I work a highly flexible job. But I have 50+ hours of work to do a week; to make a 30-hour week work my organization would have to think through how to restructure itself to accommodate that.

    1. OriginalYup

      The pay is the big thing I’m thinking about. Yes a 30 hour work week would be awesome for my mental state, but presumably my paycheck would also reflect the fewer hours? Which in Sweden (with its particular social/government structure) may not be a huge problem but could create major problems in my ability to afford good health care or similar. In theory it should all work out because companies aren’t paying wages for unproductive time so their profitability and prices reflect that, but reality rarely seems to follow rational models. I’m definitely interested to see the results of their study, though. :-)

      1. M. in Austin!

        I could be wrong, but I think the pay would remain the same. A tech company is California (Treehouse I think?) has a 4 day work week with no pay cuts (8 hours, 4 days a week, so 32 hours total).

    2. Vicki

      This sounds like you should be writing to AAM to get tips on fixing your problem. If you have “50 hours of work” to do in a week… something, somewhere, is out of whack.

      1. EE

        Or she’s an auditor, or a lawyer. Some jobs are just like that.

        Things I don’t miss in life? Auditing.

    1. Calla

      You know, I’m actually okay with hugging at work if all parties involved know it’s accepted by the other, and it’s occasional. But that sounds like a kindergarten exercise.

      Also, at the last few months of my last job there were a number of departures, and therefore after-work farewell shindigs. On three separate occasions, a male coworker hugged me (totally fine) and then did a cheek kiss (what)! Now THAT surprised me.

      1. Office Worker

        When I lived and worked in the UK, a cheek kiss and/or a hug was a regular part of my work and social life that I got used to; when I moved back across the pond it took me a while realise that isn’t done here. I was at a store and ran into a recently retired coworker (who was with his wife) and automatically cheek kissed him; I don’t know who was more embarrassed, me, or him, or his wife but I have never air or cheek kissed again.

        1. Calla

          Ha! Yeah, cultural difference/adjustment I would understand but those guys were both (one did it two different times) born, raised, and never lived outside the US afaik. And not even a Southern quirk, since this is Boston!

        2. Jamie

          Yeah, it’s extra awkward in a culture where it’s not expected.

          I had two men go in for a cheek kiss in my career and I was so startled I moved weird – one got my ear and the other my mouth…kind of off center, but still.

          If someone really can’t control themselves and must kiss me they should go for the top of my head – because if I get startled and head butt them they are just injured and not inadvertently too intimate with me.

        3. Michele

          The kiss on each check/hug is definitely the norm in fashion here in NYC. With that said I would not want to hug my co-workers everyday. There are only 5 of us and it would be weird to hug the owner of my company everyday!

        4. Mints

          It’s the norm in (some parts of) Latin America, too. But only for women. I don’t mind it socially, but I’ve never worked there, and would probably be weirded out if coworkers did it

    2. Ash (the other one!)

      I’ll wait for Allison’s post, but no. Just no. I am not a touchy feely person. I have to force myself to even hug my friends let alone people I am not close to. Yeesh.

      1. Sascha

        Me too! I read that article with my face contorted in disgust. I shudder to think about what would happen if this was implemented in my office, especially when that one creepy coworker was still working here…the chair-shaker…

        However I am very snuggly with my dogs. I prefer hugging animals. :)

      2. Esra

        Every day at Defy Ventures starts with 14 hugs–per person. Everyone gives 14 other people full, bear-hug style embraces.

        Nope. Nope nope nope. Every nope. All the nopes I have.

    3. BRR

      I’m holding off for now but I’m going to start typing my response so it’s ready to go. Oy

    4. Brett

      Context might be really important here. A company that specifically employs people with criminal histories has unique issues that might actually be partly addressed by the hugging exercise. These issues won’t exist at most companies, and so those benefits from the hugging exercise do not exist.

      1. fposte

        Yes, I thought that too–this is a place that’s foregrounding inclusiveness and reintegration.

      2. Clinical Social Worker

        I work with inmates they have trouble with boundaries enough as it is. Do many of them need more positive affection in their lives? Sure. They shouldn’t be getting that at work though.

      1. Jamie

        Thank you. And I am eagerly awaiting Alison’s article because I’m not sure how this works with legality. (My clumsy way of asking if it’s legal) since it’s obligatory and I’m assuming they wouldn’t want to hire someone who wouldn’t do it, and to work there and balk at it would go against culture – how is that not requiring employees to engage in “full bodied physical contact” in order to work there. And isn’t making non-optional full body contact with fellow employees a requirement of employment a sticky legal issue?

        Although kudos to whomever picked the photo to go with the article because the bears are adorable and very fitting. I’d hug one of them.

    5. Vicki

      What an “interesting” idea.
      I commented on the original article. No one else has commented.
      My comment was:

      No.
      No no no.
      Noooooonononononononono.

  8. MR

    Admittedly, I don’t see anything wrong with working until you are done for the day. If that’s four, six, eight or 10 hours, so be it.

    Companies seem to be hung up on people being there for eight hours, that they don’t really care if if their staff hang out and ‘look busy’ for half of their day.

    Companies either need to let them go when they are done with their work or reallocate job duties to get the full value out of that time – if that’s what they really want.

    1. Ash (the other one!)

      Yup. I do a lot of seat time at the moment — may not be actually working, but need to be here. I’d much rather be running errands…

      1. Vicki

        At LastJob, except for an occasional meeting, I did all of my work online, by email, and by IM. When I was in the office, I was in my cubicle, alone, using the Intranet, email, and IM. When I worked from home, I was online.

        The only difference in my work between telecommuting and being in the office was that my work in the office was less productive because the office was so noisy.

        Yet, managers kept trying to come up with reasons why I should be in the office because that’s “traditional”. The craziest was the last manager I had. He was physically located in Dallas, TX. I was in the San Francisco area. He literally Never Saw anyone at HQ unless he flew out, yet he still thought I ought to be sitting in a cubicle because “that’s the way things are normally done.”

        I don’t work there anymore.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I work the same way (mostly online, alone in a cube), but I actually get MORE done in the office because my equipment is better set up there. Though it does get noisy at times. I have noise-reduction headphones and I listen to music on my phone, so that helps.

    2. BRR

      I agree that looking busy is a waste for everyone. I find many companies expect exempt employees to put in a minimum of 8 hours. If the workload requires employees to put in more not a problem, but doing less than 8 (or whatever your standard workday is) is a rarity.

    3. Jennifer

      Or alternately, you’re “on call” for when more work drops in. That’s about how my job works: ebbing and flowing. Right now I’ve had several hours “off” more or less (did a few things here and there) because something’s going on right now computer-wise that prevents me from working. But I have to sit there just in case they finish up fast or something like that.

  9. fposte

    I’m really interested in that generosity study. I’ve been thinking about that lately and trying to say yes to more broadly service-based stuff that could go on without me. I can’t tell if that means I’m not naturally generous enough for it to benefit me or not, but I think it’s a valuable area to explore.

    1. literateliz

      I also found it really interesting, but I wonder if calling it “generosity” and “selfless acts” characterizes it the wrong way. I’d say that I’m generous in the way that the article describes, but I don’t do it because I’m just a natural giver, nor do I do it “with strings attached” or with the idea that the recipient will repay me in a specific way (as a recent example, recently a friend who I recommended for a job said he’d buy me a drink to thank me, and I told him no way; I’d feel just as weird if he said he’d also recommend me in return, or give me a promotion, or whatever). I do it because life is long and you never know when someone you’ve helped in the past will turn up at a company you’d like inside info on, or get a position in charge of hiring for freelance projects in your area of expertise, or whatever. I don’t think you have to be either “naturally generous” or cold and calculating to see that nurturing your network and doing favors can only benefit you in the long run.

      1. fposte

        Yes, I think that’s a good way to talk about it that mirrors my thinking. I’m not considering it a loan that needs to be repaid, but I do think it’s broadly beneficial to me as well as others, and that is part of why I do it.

      2. Jamie

        I agree. A generous and selfless act to me would be if I gave a co-worker one of my kidneys.

        (If they needed one, out of the blue it would just make the worst secret Santa ever.)

        But I help people because by and large I’m a decent person and if I can I will. People have helped me over the years and I like to do the same. And exactly as you said – it’s not a quid pro quo where I keep track, but yes, the more people out there who are predisposed to have a positive impression of me can only help down the road. Or if not help, at least not bite me in the butt.

        And I never do it for this, but the collateral benefits aren’t always down the road. If you have a reputation for being generally helpful and a decent person when you’re in a jam people are more willing to lend a hand or at least cut you some slack – where if you’re all “not my job” all the time good luck getting someone to go out of their way for you if it’s not in their job description.

        Besides like if just more pleasant if we avoid being a jackass whenever possible.

        1. Chinook

          I have to agree that a side effect of being willing to help when a colleague needs it is that you usually can pull of “miracles” if need be. Another side effect is job security – when down sizing, would TPTB prefer to get rid of “not my job” or “sure, I’ll see what I can do.” I will admit that the later is part of the reason why I have become the go to person for our AAs in the field when they need something in the office – when it comes time to decide if they need to make my position permanenet and if I should be the one to fill it, having tons of good feedback from various sources will be good.

          That being said, being willing to pitch-in is also an efficient way to use company resources (if you know when to say no and point the requestor in another direction). If my being able to walk up to someone and solve a problem in 2 minutes that would take someone based elsewhere hours by email and phone to clear up, why wouldn’t I?

      3. OriginalYup

        I agree. Some of the “extra” stuff I do is done with an eye towards it just… needing to get done. This is the mindset with which I show people how to put paper in the copier and use the shared calendar, or find research on our area of work. It’s not my particular job to show you that, it may or may not benefit me directly, but in the end — isn’t an office where everyone knows how to do basic stuff, a better place to work?

        I do take the article’s point, though, that we can burn ourselves out by expending all this energy in unproductive places. I’ve done it, and it’s a recipe for resentment and self-pity.

        1. fposte

          I might hunt the study down to get a little more info, since I thought the Slate report was a little confusing on the methodology of generosity, but I was particularly interested in the notion that some ways of being generous work better than others.

    2. bullyfree

      That is really interesting and now I’m going to order Adam Grants book, “Give and Take”! Never heard of him before and I am very interested in studies like that one. I haven’t known how to be anything but a giver to the point of becoming a doormat, in and out of the workplace. (Something I am working on.) I love seeing people and businesses succeed
      and thrive. I think being generous and a giver benefits everyone.

  10. Matteus

    Regarding the 6-hour workday, I personally like having flexible hours better than a shorter amount of fixed hours, e.g., you have 80 hours per 2 week period to get your work done, arrange them how you will. This is mostly how my most recent job did things, and it worked out fairly well. You need a bit more communication to make sure people are present for meetings and whatnot, but it definitely makes for a more relaxed work-life balance.

  11. literateliz

    I was talking about #3 with a friend yesterday. She’s a generous person and an incredibly hard worker who wants very badly to prove herself in the workplace, but she’s fallen into a number of situations where her bosses demand more and more of her without ever recognizing her work. I want to advise her to be more selfish and stop being a doormat, but the thing is, I have also been a “giver” in my career (volunteering for work that no one else wants, giving introductions, taking care of interns) and in my case it’s paid off big time.

    I think a number of factors play into our different outcomes. Definitely luck, but she’s also far too credulous, and not willing to walk away–her current job has been dangling the carrot of a promotion which from my outside point of view it doesn’t look like they’ll ever give, and she keeps working harder in hopes that she’ll get it. She’s more concerned with herself and whether she’s good enough, and fails to evaluate her employers critically. In this and a number of her past positions she’s been very innovative in coming up with ways to stand out and new roles to perform, which shows great grit and initiative, but when her employer is unwilling to create a new position for her, she gets frustrated and stews on it (although she’s also aggressively looking for a new job now, which is good).

    I think the article’s point that successful givers give a little to lots of different people instead of giving a lot to one or two people is really good–that approach will stop you from getting sucked in by someone who’s a black hole of need. It’s also about giving to the right people, which again, consists of luck, a critical eye, and being able to walk away.

    1. fposte

      That’s a really interesting differentiation there, and I suspect that’s exactly the kind of thing the study is talking about. I don’t recall seeing anything in the Slate report about the generous people who say yes because they feel bad saying no, but I suspect that’s not the kind of generosity that leads to power either.

    2. OriginalYup

      I’ve worked for companies that rely on people like your friend to keep their costs down, by filling their ranks with 10 people doing the work of 25 for the pay of 7.

      One question for her to ask herself is, “When will it be enough?” (i.e., at what point will I have proved myself, been good enough, met the bar, whatever)

      Another is, “will I be able to sustain this and do *even more* when that long awaited promotion comes through?” Because if it takes 70 hours a week and results that are nigh-miracles at the Associate level, the Manager level ain’t going to be a downshift.

      1. literateliz

        Ugh, this is spot on. She’s definitely got some problems with insecurity, so the answer to “When will be enough?” might be “Never” for herself and “JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE AND THEN THEY’LL SEE” for an employer. And you’re right, these companies see that, and exploit it.

        I did an internship with a company that sounds like what you describe, which is where luck comes in, I think. I knew they were using my free labor for tasks that really should have been done by a paid employee, and weren’t really recognizing me for it. I stuck it out because I didn’t have other options, because there was a solid end date, and because my boss was an influential person in the industry who actually is known for doling out introductions, favors, and recommendations (and for calling them in–she really works her network). I took a gamble and it paid off; she gave me a great recommendation that got me into a job that’s much more relaxed and respectful. But all the warning signs were there, which is why I’m hesitant to say that my success was all because I was so smart about who I gave my time to.

        1. OriginalYup

          It sounds like you took a calculated risk that paid off. What she’s doing sounds more like gambling and trying to beat the house.

  12. Ed

    For #1, I don’t think this is that different than some very large organizations like hospitals or universities that make people spend an hour creating a profile and then constantly login to check for new job postings. If you have that much demand, why not make the candidates do all the work? Of course, you’re probably never talking to many of the best candidates that way.

    1. Stephanie

      Yeah, I thought this sounded a lot like creating a profile when no openings match. I suppose Zappos is just encouraging candidates to be more proactive.

  13. CT

    I wonder what the new Zappos’ model will do for their diversity in hiring as it’s been pretty well shown that white men do a much better job of networking into new positions than women and other racial minorities.

    1. Mike C.

      Especially if the current network is already predominately white and male. It’s a self reinforcing cycle.

  14. Anonalicious

    I would love a 6 hour work-day but in a 24/7 industry like healthcare, that just wouldn’t fly.

  15. Jamie

    I have a question about the methodology of the Swedish thing.

    If they know they are in a study there is an incentive for the 8 hour people to consciously not out-produce the 6 hour control group…and for the 6 hour control group to be crazy productive. Because knowing a decision will be made based on this will drive their behavior.

    So if those results show equal or greater productivity amongst the 6 hour control group that doesn’t mean it will hold over long term after it’s no longer in evaluation mode. That’s like comparing regular study habits to those during finals. Apples and oranges.

    And as great as a 6 hour work day would be, in theory, if that becomes the new norm for full time then there will need to be additional hires in a lot of industries because some run lean enough that no one can do a full time work loan in 6 hours. More people employed is great, but that drives the cost of goods and services up as well because of the added burden of labor dollars. Can’t ignore the downside of what this will do the cost of living in the economy for everyone.

    And if a job can be routinely and regularly fully completed in 6 hours, why isn’t it a part time job? I’m not talking about a light week or two, or scheduling things so employees can get some time off – all for that – but really if a job can be done fully and well in 6 hours it seems like it should either be restructured to have enough work for a full day or it should already be a part time job.

    I understand why people want this shortened work week, but from an economic perspective I don’t see how it’s tenable without causing radical spikes in inflation and businesses going under due to the added burden of more employees (as I’m assuming the week is still full time so it’s not just straight pay but benefits for people as well.) You will have higher employment in some companies and others going out of business and their former workers flooding the ranks of the unemployed.

    Most businesses aren’t Fortune 500 or with huge profit margins. This economy is built on the backs of small and SMBs who are running a pretty tight PL line and couldn’t take the hit having to add even a quarter to the workforce.

    The math isn’t working for me.

    1. HR “Gumption”

      Jaime, I trust your math much more than that Swedish goulash.
      Truth is, much of our economy needs butts in the seat or feet on the floor.

    2. arjay

      No, no math! Just dancing around with my fingers in my ears, singing, “La, la, la, la, la, I get to go home two hours earlier!”

        1. Jamie

          That’s not good – turn it off immediately and get it into a bag of dry rice right away if you don’t have silica packets. Gallon freezer bags are great – cover on all sides with rice and let it absorb the water.

          If very wet may need a couple of days in rice – change rice daily if that’s the case.

          But if it was hyperbole then disregard – consider it a PSA for anyone with tablets who spills in the future. :)

    3. Anonsie

      You’re right about the methods but I’m not sure there’s a better way to do a preliminary test, either. Try it in a subset for a period, roll it out if it looks good and then monitor to make sure it really is working, go backwards if not. I wouldn’t guess that enough people would fraudulently inflate/deflate their work to try to skew it in favor of the 6 hour day to really ruin the data, though, especially considering how many people probably vehemently hate the idea of having less time.

      For the part time bit, though, what they’re testing against is the evidence that the longer hours are hindering productivity directly, the supposition being that perhaps those two hours of an 8 hour day is useless to the point of turning a 6 hour day into full time. Which makes sense to try to me since, really, a 40 hour full time week isn’t standard because we’ve extensively assessed to be the best way or anything. It’s just a cultural standard.

      1. Anonsie

        the supposition being that perhaps those two hours of an 8 hour day is useless to the point of turning a 6 hour day into full time

        What the heck did I write. I am trying to say that they are trying to see if there’s only really 6 hours of work but it turns into 8 due to fatigue, so why not check to see if 6 hours being the norm for full time gets the same productivity plus happier/healthier/more energetic employees.

    4. Trillian

      Yay, someone else thought about methodology, because my first thought was “I hope you’ve got a good methodologist.”

      Even with random assignment, they cannot keep anyone blinded to assignment, with the exception, possibly, of an independent panel of outcome assessors. (And what are their outcome measures, anyway?) How are they going to standardize tasks to ensure comparability? How are they going to adjust for dropouts, because people don’t like their assignment or for other reasons – it’s likely to be nondifferential – ie, related to the group they were assigned to? Or of contamination, if some people in one office are assigned to one group and some to another – even without the psychological factors, if someone in the 8-hour group has a question and someone in the 6-hour group has gone for the day, then the productivity of the person in the 8-hour group is going to take a hit.

      One possibility might be a crossover study with cluster randomization, so that whole groups are on the same schedule together, and everyone gets randomly assigned blocks of 8 hour days and 6 hour days. That way, there isn’t a perceived inequity between people within a group, since everyone gets both schedules for an equal length of time, and there isn’t the effect in their work – the cluster design accepts that people will influence each other. (It has been used to study the effect of in-hospital interventions to improve uptake of breast-feeding – whole hospitals were randomized to intervention or standard approach). The cross-over part means that people can act as their own control, as well as having the group comparison.

  16. Stephanie

    Whoa, Zappos only hired 1.5% of its applicants? (From the WSJ article.)

    What seems odd is that there has to be a job description (even an informal one) somewhere. At some point, a hiring manager is going to say “I need a marketer/programmer/UX designer with X, Y, and Z.” I guess the job requirements just come up later in the process?

  17. James M

    My take on the whole “generosity” think is that there are givers, takers, and reciprocators. Givers and takers occupy the extremes of the continuum, with the overwhelming majority of people being reciprocators most of the time.

    Reciprocators expect to receive compensation when they give and expect to repay gifts they receive. Sure, anyone can shift over time (get off my lawn!), but spending 5 minutes on either end doesn’t make someone a giver or a taker.

    Tactical generosity is just preemptive reciprocity.

    1. Jamie

      Tactical generosity is just preemptive reciprocity.

      I want to stitch that on a sampler – well said!

  18. Hummingbird

    #3

    Ideal world: This discussion would be absolutely true.

    Real world: At least in my workplace, the selfish one gets whatever she wants. It makes the rest of us seem even more selfish because we have to fight to get what we want (shifts, days off, more hours, etc.).

    Sorry. I’m somewhat jaded by that experience, and it will probably takes years to shake it off.

  19. Amaryllis

    My work day is 6 hours (plus an hour lunch), with the understanding that I sometimes work from home in the evenings or weekends as necessary or if I just want to get some light tasks done before the next day. If there is a case where I have to stay late, I will, but I much prefer leaving at 3pm to beat traffic. I also am reachable by email or phone.

    Perhaps it would be different if I had an office, but sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day and having to deal with the noise around me is maddening. I used to work from 8-5 and from what I can remember, people start to get batty around 4pm, counting down the minutes. there was a real lull in productivity around 4pm.

    There are a few of us in our office who have flexible schedules like this – we have set hours but they are not standard 8-5 to 9-6, with possible after hours work as necessary. For the majority of my coworkers, though, they do work regular hours (well, they don’t actually work for the entire 8 hours – maybe like 5 hours plus 3 hours futzing around).

  20. Cath in Canada

    You know, I think I’d much rather work more hours per day, for fewer days per week.

    My husband and I have talked about this a few times, because our work schedules are so different: I have a regular 9-6, M-F office job with paid vacation days; he works really long hours when he has a job (at least 10 hours per day, often 12 or even 13 hours, usually 6 days a week), but then he has weeks or even months off in between jobs (and still makes at least 50% more than me each year, grrr!).

    Naturally, each of us thinks the other has the better deal! My argument is that any day when you have to go to work – even if it’s just for a few hours – is a day that isn’t your own. You can’t necessarily get up when you want, wear what you want, do what you want, eat when you want, and you come home with a good portion of your quality focused thinking time already expended.

    I have a job that I really like, and I still feel this way… if I could do 4 x 10 hours a week, rather than 5 x 8, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But maybe it’s just the grass being greener.

    1. Jamie

      I would do 4×10 in a second – I already do over 10 now with rare exceptions. But even if I didn’t – absolutely I’d do 4×10. Heck I’d do 12×3 and 4. 3.5 day weekend every week?

      Sign me up.

    2. GeekChic

      I work 4×9 now and have through two organizations (regular workday is 7 hours where I am). It is indeed wondrous.

      I’m also in IT so it is doable even in jobs that are traditionally seen as having long hours no matter what. I do get asked for overtime on occasion but it is a rare occasion because my organization actually staffs appropriately. And because overtime is expensive for the organization.

  21. Sharm

    I want to find these organizations where you guys are working 4x10s, or shorter work days! This just doesn’t seem like a reality anywhere I look. I used to have a 35 hour work week (9-5 with lunch), and now I have to laugh at the thought; it’s all 8-5, and no one ever seems to take a lunch, so that’s a bump up to 45 hours of work while getting paid for 40. Grr.

    1. Stephanie

      I was at a federal agency when I had the option to work 4x10s (I chose not to because 10-hour days of that job were pretty exhausting). I think the federal government pushes it–other friends at federal agencies worked similarly compressed schedules. Of course, this depends on your particular job.

      I interviewed at a semiconductor fab and it had a four on-three off schedule (you worked like 12 four-hour days and had three days off).

    2. Cassie

      Our county government pushes for 9-80 or 4-40 – a lot of people like these options because it means having to commute one less day, which is a big plus for those who work downtown or take the bus. At my sister’s workplace, they can only have Mondays or Fridays for their day off, but at other workplaces, they can choose one of the other days in the week.

      Even though I don’t think I’d participate, I do like the flexibility it gives employees. Compared this to my workplace where the standard is 5-40 (and if it were up to the manager in our dept, it would be a strict 8am-5pm for everyone).

Comments are closed.