April 26, 2011

History of working hours

Back in the day, even the women were hotter.
Working time is the period of time that an individual spends at paid occupational labor. Many countries have regulations for a duration of work week, and for example in Finland the maximum hours of work week is 40. In 2008 Finnish people worked 40,3 hours a week which means that supposedly we love working overtime. Still we work less than Europeans in average (41,8 hours a week in 2008). Austrians work 44 hours a week and Irish for only 40 hours a week. Well, this seems decent, right? Let's look some figures outside Europe - Chinese work for 2200 hours a year, Japanese around 2000 hours. Now I'm going to make a guess how this will affect these countries. China will have (and probably already has) a lot of problems with depression and stress. Japanese already has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and this is mainly because of depression and social pressure.

For long time anthropologists thought that hunter-gathering of our ancestors was a full day job. Actually these people worked less than five hours a day, while dividing the day to approximately 2 hour periods of gathering food or hunting game. "Nine-to-five" mindset wasn't invented until this fucker called George F. Johnson announced  that no American should have to work more than 40 hours per week. At the industrial age there was no regulation on work week and it could be anything from 2 hours to 16 hours per day. So why this system doesn't work anymore? Work has changed. Less and less people are working at mass industry, doing repetitive jobs at the assembly line. Today you have to be CREATIVE. This is so essential at the IT sector that it's sad when executives and managers don't realize this. You can't force creativity. 

I would like to see a person who writes good code 40 hours a week. These freaks probably exist, but I've never met anyone. I don't know how good point examples from movies make, but I'll use them anyway. In 'Social Network' by Fincher, Facebook was invented over time. It was not big fucking 'Eureka!' moment after tedious sitting at desk, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. All those ideas came from real life situations.

I really think that we should re-think the idea of work week and use hunter-gatherers as a good example. Work when you feel like it, have a break - be it long or short, and keep on working when you feel like it. Of course you must have some kind of deadlines but make them flexible. No one will die if your software is launched one week late. 

Check out docStout's blogs too, he writes a good (better!) blog about the same things. His blog can be found here.




  1. It's sad but you are right, we are paid to pretend to work, since bosses still think that spending all day at the office is more productive that finishing your duties and maybe going home earlier.

  2. I agree to an extent. There are certain people that would actually work better under a more flexible system. However I also know that there's a LOT of people who would try to take advantage of the flexibility and end up working less too. It's all about mentality, but in this current age, companies, corporations and your every day boss are supposed to hire the right mentality. If things were done right, it would work in excellence.

  3. that's why i always dream about being a rockstar or an sportman celebrity, i fucking hate work, and work hours, just the thought of doing it till im 60 years old drives me mad

    is worth to spend all your life working? and then what?... fucking system hahahaha

  4. Thank you for the link, and for the compliment. I believe that there is a lot of social control built into the "You must sit here, dressed like this at these hours and perform these tasks" that is completely independent of any sort of real productivity.

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  6. Very interesting facts here, nice to read

  7. i figure the more hours people work, the less time those adults have to be outside ruining the world. work is like school for adults, and everyone knows that schools are prisons for children.

  8. There is great article in Wikipedia about working hours.


    "Since the 1960s, the consensus among anthropologists, historians and sociologists has been that early hunter-gatherer societies enjoyed more leisure time than is permitted by capitalist and agrarian societies;[1][2] For instance, one camp of !Kung Bushmen was estimated to work two-and-a-half days per week, at around 6 hours a day.[3] Aggregated comparisons show that on average the working day was less than five hours.[1]

    Subsequent studies in 1970s examined the Machiguenga of the Upper Amazon and the Kayapo of Northern Brazil. These studies expanded the definition of work beyond purely hunting-gathering activities, but the overall average across the hunter-gatherer societies he studied was still below 4.86, while the maximum was below 8 hours.[1] Popular perception is still aligned with the old academic consensus.[2]"

    Development of agrarian societies and capitalism means that large part of population have become slaves if we think that being slave means less free time actually a lot less that what used to be human normal condition before agrarian societies and capitalism.

  9. hey, that's a really interesting article!


  10. After writing code for about 5 hours I'm burnt out and need a long reddit break! I can only stay in the zone for so long.

  11. Good post, I definitely agree with you on the forcing of creativity!

  12. Definitely an interesting read. Thanks for sharing!

    Keep 'em coming as always :)