Thanks Bert. You've used govt statistics to validate something I've been saying about our economy for about five years now..there are, quite simply, too many people with too little to do. In this case you site retiries. That's a fact of demographics: war = vacuum of life = baby boom. Add to that the problem of supporting the massive number of unemployed (the U3 number is a joke, look at the U6 number), and global competition - new foreign economies rising daily - and it is truly a wonder that this economy hasn't collapsed. Our hard(er) work is to be credited.
Now, speaking of that...perhaps I should go do some.
Before working at home full time, I'd work at home once in a while but you're right, it was distracting. There is always something to do at home.
There was a time before UBM took over that the publisher of EDN and T&MW, who had become the defacto office boss, declared "If you're not in the office, you're traveling, on vacation, or sick." That meant you were expected to be in the office even during bad winter weather. I refused to make the trip to the office in the snow. That "boss" was let go two months after UBM took over. He had become intolerable.
For the last six months of having an office, I worked at home two days a week. That was a good transition.
When I "worked" from home I found myself to be horribly unproductive. Thus the quotes around the word "worked" above. There were just too many interesting distractions and I hated the never-off status. It was from this that I learned about this self-disciplinary limitation: I need to be in a place of professional work to do professional work. I'm glad to have that now. When I physically leave home in the morning it's like declaring to myself: 'I dedicate this day to productive work'. I greatly respect anyone who can get in that special mental place of productivity while at home. Wow!
As for the 35 hour work week...yeah, I must have totally missed out on that. For me, reading that part of this article is like reading historical fiction. I find myself asking "Are you kidding me!? That actually happened!? When? Where? Noooo...REALLY?" Good for all of you who enjoyed it. I hope your memories are fond.
40 hours? My work place is restricted to 37 hours unless you're an executive in which case hours worked are not recorded. There is a work around this though. We can accrue time off, up to 6 extra days per year (half a day a month).
We also have flexi time so most people can finish their hours at 12 on Friday and go home. I tend to not do this though as I take advantage of the quiet.
There's also the added rules from the EU to take into account which states workers are not allowed to average more than 40 hours over a 17 rolling week period, or something like that.
Martin wrote "Sure, we always work extra hours when a project is due, but do you work extra hours all the time? Do you work at night from home, perhaps after the kids are asleep?"
Yes, it has always been the norm that everyone on the team goes into overdrive in the later stages of a project, to make sure everything gets done on schedule. Late nights, weekends, checking and launching jobs from home using the VPN. It was like the sprint at the end of the marathon.
But something changed along the way. Project schedules got tighter, resources got fewer, and the amount of work to be done became more, not less. So it was no longer the sprint at the end of the marathon, it was just a neverending sprint.
So why do management types get nice quiet offices when the engineers and editors who do all the thinking get dumped into a noisy cubeville?
When I worked in a office, last, there was this sales guy who was so loud that even when we both had (adjacent) offices with walls, I had to relocate to a conference room when I needed to think. His voice came right through the walls. He had this DJ kind of voice. I'm convinced that he really wanted to be a sportscaster but ended up selling ads.
In the previous two buildings, we both had cubes.
Now I work at home and about all I hear is my neighbor's little dog yapping away.
When you consider your productivity compared with even five to ten years ago, you realize that you're producing far more per hour than you once did. But you're still working more hours. What happened? It's called global competition, business downturns, business upturns, and so on.
This all falls under increased productivity, and leaving aside the global competition aspects, it's instrumental to keep the economy growing. Which keeps your investments growing, hopefully assuring you a viable retirement package. If this were not occurring, it's hard to fathom how the economy would be able to support so many more people in retirement now, for the amount in the work force.
Some stats. In 1950, the US Social Security system had to support one retiree with the revenues from 5.1 workers. In 2005, there were only 3.3 workers supporting one retiree. The projection for 2020 is 2.6, and it keeps falling over the years.
So, one unavoidable mechanism, to make this possible, is that each worker must contribute more to the economy. Productivity.
As to working hours, depending on your job, that is not so easy to measure. Certainly, if you are a cashier, or a receptionist, medical practitioner, or any job that deals directly with customers, it's probably easy enough to measure your working hours. Not quite the same for researchers, for example, not to mention school teachers.
The office environment also makes a difference in productivity, which is probably hard to measure. For instance, this much-hyped "open space" type of environment is one sure way of making concentration more difficult, and productivity lower in jobs that require concentration.
I'm always skeptical about these x-hour work week discussions. I'm fairly positive that being glued to your office chair for "40 hours a week" doesn't translate to work being done. If all else remains equal, reducing the work week to 35 hours would reduce productivity, and increasing to 45 hours would increase productivity. However all else is almost never equal. Some days I get a whole lot done, other days, for any number of reasons, less so. Surely it's not just me.