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How many hours do you require of employees?

How many hours do you require of employees?

How many hours do you require of employees?

I own and manage a ten person engineering firm.  On the average, I work 60 hours a week at the office.  My wife usually only sees me at work (she works there as well as my accountant).  For those of you with engineering employees, how many hours do you require them to work?  I feel that asking 50 hours a week from my employees is not too much; what do you think?

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I guess it depends on whether you pay them accordingly for the additional time verses what they can get paid across town for 40 hours/week.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Short duration of overtime is expected of employees to meet major deadlines, say two to four weeks no more than twice a year.  Expecting a constant 50 hour work week is too much regardless of overtime pay.  Hours spent beyond 40 hour work week are generally less productive.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

They are employees.  They are not partners, shareholders, or indentured servants. If you need more time from them, the only right thing to do is pay them for their time.

Your employees share none of the risk of business ownership.  I doubt that any of them share any significant chance of additional reward, either.

The illegal conscription of non-managerial salaried professionals to work unpaid overtime went on for many years. Judicial review of the existing laws showed that engineers were not exempt, even though the practice was widespread (universal?).  It was only recently that laws were changed to make this abuse legal, reclassifying engineers as "creative professionals" or some rot like that.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

When I interviewed my present company, Mr. Big asked how many hours per week I currently worked.  I told him:

"I average about 50 now."  He gave a kind of smug, approving smile.

I quickly added, "And that's too much.  I worked 100-hour weeks in graduate school, and that cured me of long hours for anybody except myself.  I am looking for a 40-hour job, and am willing to do a little more to get things done.  If you're expecting people to work those kinds of hours, it tells me that you don't have enough people."

They hired me anyway, and are paying me a very decent salary.

So far with this company I have willingly put in some outrageous hours for a couple of crisis situations.  It wasn't pleasant, I did it anyway, and the situation was caused by Management's inability to act effectively.  I communicated to management that this is the fastest way to make me leave the company.  So far, this kind of silly nonsense has stopped, and I'm still here.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

There are employees who can produce 4 hours worth of work on an 8 hour Saturday (costing you 12 hours in wages) and others who can produce 10 hours worth of work in a regular 8 hour work day.  As an employer, identify the second kind and do whatever you can to keep them.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

40 hours is plenty time to get the job done.
If not, then more people need to be hired or someone needs to work more efficiently.

I don't expect any of my employees to regularly work more than 40 hours per week. Other than finishing a project or working on an emergency, no one should be expected to work more without compensation.

I respect my employees and I respect their time; I choose not to steal it.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

The problem with the 50 hrs/week deal is that if an employee wants to exercise regularly or take clases it's more difficult and maybe impossible depending on their other obligations.

How do your medical and retirement benifets stack up as an offset to no growth in the direction of their choice.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I wasn't asking about if I'm paying a project manager enough; I was asking how many hours do you expect from him on staff?  

TygerDawg, asking for more time from an employee may not mean that I need more people; it can also mean that I don't make enough income on the hours he works to produce a net margin.  He could be being paid more than he is producing at the salary I give him.  Assuming that the salaries I pay are in line with other project managers' salaries, how many hours a week would you expect from him (for ex. at $60,000)?  Also, I'm located in Fly-over country.

TheTick, what in your opinion is a significant chance of an additional award?  Is sharing 19% of the net profits of the company between eight employees each year significant enough?

Thank you for all input!


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

"On the average, I work 60 hours a week at the office. My wife usually only sees me at work . . . "

Get a life!

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

  Are you a business owner?  Do you not know that business owners on the average, work much more than their employees?  Did you know that CPAs also work these hours during a number of important months a year?  In a small firm such as mine, the owner may clean the bathrooms, shovel the walks, fix the furnace, take the mail to the post office, and various other things that the other employees wouldn't deem worthy of their time.  If I paid everyone else to do these overhead costs, the expenses would close the doors, the taxes would snow me under, and I would have to work for someone else.  There ARE reasons to work as the boss...

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I worked as a janitor through college. Now here I am, owning my own business, and I'm moping the floor and scrubbing the toilets... Good thing I'm experienced in that area...



RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Profit sharing is a good incentive to give employees a feeling of ownership and help spur productivity.  However, it is not guaranteed, and (in my experience) not truly an equitable trade for one's precious time.

The fact remains that employees are not owners, and it is not realistic to expect employees to be driven by the same motivations as an owner.  Learn to recognize what motivates individual employees.  The whip is a poor choice.  So is guilt.  Even money has its limits.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I've encountered employees intentionally working slowly to justify their low hourly rate.

Not everyone is motivated enough to open an engineering office no matter how small.  I give you full credit for having enough confidence to do so.  This position comes with much perks as well as risks and responsibilities.  Employees don't have to share any of these responsibilities.  Their only duty is to perform well enough to make you some profit and justify the paycheck you give them.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

"Is sharing 19% of the net profits of the company between eight employees each year significant enough?"

I don't know... how much of an incentive is an extra $2 in an employee's pocket a month?  How about $2k?  If the net profit is significant, then 2.5% per employee can be an impressive incentive (to some), but if the net profit is minimal why should they bust their ass for you?

I'm at work before 8 and typically don't leave until 6:30-7 (as well as being a business owner on the side).  I'm working these hours temporarily because the company needs the extra work to finish a project (several months long), but I would never choose to work such long hours day in and day out.  As a business owner, I put in 60-80/week before I went back to the 8-5 deal for someone else, but I would never expect an employee to even come close to those kind of hours unless they were a partner.

Profit shring only gets you so much loyalty, and a burned out employee can easily tank an entire team.

Dan - Owner

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

ref, there's no pat answer to this.  I think everyone is trying to give you insight.

When younger I worked at a company whose unwritten rule was "do what it takes", meaning long hours.  The unspoken corollary to that was "if you don't have any thing to do, then take off".  Fortunately, the work was amazingly fun and the co-workers were fantastic.  Many late nights were spent.  I didn't care that the salary was a bit less than I could have gotten at a less-fun job.  I have fond memories of me & my co-worker looking at each other one afternoon, bored with nothing to do.  We left at 230PM and spent the rest of the afternoon plowing through a couple of 12-packs.  It was the kind of job where I couldn't wait to wake up in the morning because it meant I got to go to work.

I saw another organization, manufacturing, that was team-based and incentive-based.  The assembly lines were all highly engineered, orchestrated, and timed.  The people were actually running from station to station.  It turned out that the incentive was 25%-30% of their base annual salary.  All the laggards had been kicked off the respective teams by the team members.  Those people were standing in line waiting for the gates to open every morning.

Then again I've seen places run by managers who looked at spreadsheets, but had no notion of the context of the numbers, nor of the way of producing those numbers or increasing/decreasing the numbers.  Those were the places that laid down the edict of "## hours minimum expected per week".  It was a hell-hole:  unmotivated managers, poorly motivated troops, everybody spending their intelligence and talents trying to figure out ways to beat the system.  

If you want the silver bullet answer, I'd say it is this:  pay a fair (or better) salary for the time worked.  Through culture, lay down the expectations of the number of hours that is acceptable to be successful in your business.  Eliminate waste everywhere to reduce overhead costs.  Do your job as a manager to create a positive workplace that allows talent to take root and flourish.  And do your job as a manager and cull under-performing team members.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

If an employer wants me to work 50hrs/week on a regular basis then they will have to find some way to reward me for my extra time. Also, engineering is supposed to be about people coming up with new ideas to solve old problems in a more efficient manner. Such a creative process shouldn't be contingent upon having to work a particular number of hours.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

are they paid hourly?

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

What if you move away from the hourly concept entirely? Manage people by results and hitting their goals. Long hours burns people out and stunts creativity and efficiency.  

Have your people turn in their time accurately....if they were looking out the window for an hour, put down "looking out the window". That way you can accurately gage costs and help set their goals where they need to be to keep the company profitable.

As whyun said, some people are more efficient than others. If my people can get 8 hrs of work done in 2, they shouldn't have to sit there for the other 6 just so that I think everyone is working as hard as I am.

referee, if you look in the mirror or did a time study on yourself, I think you will find that your 60 hr week isn't all that efficient either.

I try to instill a culture where we get everything done in 40 hrs (standard work days). If we aren't, then we need to
1) get more efficient / organized
2) raise our rates
3) hire people

Work is not everything and that extra 42 days a year that you are working (20 hrs x 50 weeks / 24) takes a toll and is a hidden cost to your business.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

"My wife usually only sees me at work (she works there as well as my accountant)."  

Reading between the lines I thought that your accountant may be seeing more of your wife than you do. Perhaps a comma should be in there somewhere, or perhaps not.....  


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

"I feel that asking 50 hours a week from my employees is not too much; what do you think?"

Get in another business. We got enough in this business that want to rob people.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

You ask "Are you a business owner?"  Yes.  I've had a consulting business for 17+ years and have done very well and have enjoyed it very much.  But if I ever had to work an AVERAGE of 60 hours a week it would not be worth.  Life is too short and work/money is only a small part of it.  Just my "2 cents"


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

This is great food for thought but I'm concerned over the quantity/quality issue.  We bill our clients by the hour; the comment "if you can't get your work done in forty hours, hire more people" is a red flag that says, hey, you are either not being efficient enough, or that you are not estimating how long a project will actually take.  Our clients give deadlines; a State Roadmove will happen, whether we are ready for it with our engineering or not. If the employee takes 6 hours to do 2 hours of work, but billing the client the 6 hours because that is what he reports on his timesheet, not the surfing the Internet etc. then that is the problem!

Oh and my wife IS my accountant! I know Exactly how much time I take to do things - she tells me how much, all the time ... sort of ADD ...

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

If you're billing your clients per hour, then pay your employees over/comp time.  Any extra hour of production by them converts directly into more money in your pocket, and they need to directly benefit as well.  End of year bonuses are nice, but they are too far removed from the actual performance to have the same behavioral impact.  Stimulus-response needs to be close in time to get the best results.

As for the 6 hours to do 2 hours of work.  Well..., that guy needs a talk.  If he/she doesn't improve after the talk, then it's time to show him/her the door.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Do you have the 50 hours written down in your company policy and point to your employees that requirement before you hire them? if they find out about your 50-hour rule after the facts, you've got engineers searching the Sunday adds.
If you go that route (50-hour), the word will spread that you are a sweat shop, and when that happens, you will have a tough time finding engineers, especially during good times.

I, once took a pay cut to leave a place like yours.

Another time, I interviewed with a firm that had 44 hours minimum requirement in their company policy (talk about guts). Luckily, I asked for a copy after the interview.
These guys were desperate for a senior Engineer to come in, I turned them down cold and I did not tell them the real reason neither.

Once, I worked for a man whose wife was the secretary, boy, did I hate working there? you couldn't go to the bathroom without the wife knowing about it. Squaw should do accounting at home.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I am not a business owner. From an employee's perspective, a standard 50 hour work week would not go over well with myself even if you paid me time and a half. At a certain point, time is just worth way more than the extra money you get from working overtime. On the other hand, if you are proposing 50 hours every once in a while just to get a job out the door, then that is reasonable and expected.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

There is an old axiom that goes "Workers don't cause unions, companies do."   

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?


Something to consider, if any of your employees can document that you expect 50 hour weeks out of them you may be setting on a land mine.  That proof may be witnesses to a conversation or even a copy of this thread.  
Some state laws would make it easier than in others.
What they can do is sue you for all the back wages you "owe" them. It looks like ( from what you said here ) it would pretty easy for them to prove they were hired for 40 Hrs, worked 50 ( as a) matter of policy - not casually) and paid 40.
Once they hire a lawyer all your records oan be supeoned. If they find a pattern of you consistently underbidding jobs and completing them with "free" time you may wind up paying more than back wages.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?


Speaking as an employee, if I had a choice between 2 similar jobs, one that had me work 40 hrs & the other 50, which one do you think that I would take? In such a situation, you would end up with the kinds of employees that no one else wants and work for you because they have no choice. You can imagine the quality of the resulting work. Of course if you are better than your competitors in other ways, then the higher hours that you require could be a wash, from the point of the employees.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

if i'm working 50, then i have to be getting well compensated.  

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I agree with swivel63. It is not even worth it for me to work 50/week while getting paid time and a half for overtime. It would definitely be worth it to work a steady 50 while being a partner/owner of a firm.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

It must be a europe thing, but for me working 40 hours a week is asking too much. 50 hours per week would exceed the european directive on working time http://www.incomesdata.co.uk/information/worktimedirective.htm (limited to 48 hours per week, on average) and thus would be illegal in the European Union. Generally in the UK it's typical to work a 37.5 hour week, but then it's also common not to pay staff for overtime. A clear incentive to spend more time at home, if ever there was one.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?


I think expecting them to work more than 40 hours a week is unreasonable. They are employees.

I think having a job description stating that the position requires 50 hours a week, and that they will be paid 50 hours a week every week (regardless of how many hours they are actually required to work each individual week) is another matter. If they have to commit to 50 hours a week, they should be paid that - sort of like if you don't show up at the dentist, they still charge you.

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
Have you read FAQ731-376 to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Lets look at it this way:
50-hours/week represent 500 hours a year (assuming the you give 2 weeks vacation).
That is 12.5 weeks, 3 months of free work. This means that one must work 15 months to earn a 12 month salary.
10 hours/week represent 25% of salary. For most people, this is a mortgage.

That's a Raw deal in anyone's book.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

This American obsession with hours is ridiculous and in some cases counterproductive. An engineer is a professional, not a shift worker, and as such it is the output that is important and not the hours spent.

As stated previously, those who put in the long hours do not necessarily produce the results, and vice versa. By all means set the expectations high in terms of productivity and then treat your workers with enough respect to let them decide how many extra hours they need to put in to achieve these goals.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

The obsession is only exceeded by the employer's obsession with hours.  Need more productivity?  Mandate more hours.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

The obsession with hours seems to be part of the "spreadsheet management" philosophy of the last 10 years- Excel can track all these nice numbers and that leads to things like "hours" as a measurement of productivity.  There is no "quality of productivity" measured by keeping track of hours.  Management is losing the art of "management by walking around" and truly reviewing the actual productivity and quality of what a person puts out.  I'm one of those arrogant engineers that thinks I can do "10 hours worth of quality work in 8 hours", based on looking at what others in the office around me accomplish in the same time periods.  Do I get rewarded for that?  Hard to say.  Human nature tends to expand the work to fit the hours, and it takes experience and education to know how to get efficient and accomplish more in less time.  It also takes experience managers to recognize the value of quality work over simply "hours".

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I would not remain with a company that required extra hours with no or little extra pay. I have and do put in a little extra time for the occasional "must have now" situations, but they can never be the norm.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I agree in principle with what others here have said.  Having worked for an enginering firm that paid straight over-time for any hours over 40, I can confidently speak of my experiences.

I have known people, hard (and good) workers, who left this company because they realized that that the way this company work wasn't right.  There were (and to my knowledge still are) people at that company who work less than the 40 hours per week (that is considered by all as full-time) but still bill 40.  Then my friend(s) who actually work over 40 had told me that management really scrutenized their over-time (paid as straight time anyway).  Therefore, it was (much) easier to work 30-35 hours and bill 40 than it was to work 45-50 (and bill 45-50) hours.  This is a problem (IMHO) with paying engineers over-time.  This problem is only really compounded upon when at least one of two circumtances is true; and those are that management routinely (i.e. business model) expects its salaried employees to work overtime and/or that your hourly employees aren't really "professionals" and will "milk" hours out of a job just to get paid.

So if you are a business owner, which of the previous two is the lessor of two evils for you?

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I agree withSteveinOH.  You've got to remember, you are providing a service to a client.  The way I have read some of the responses, the engineers seem to be thinking they are doing a favor by showing up and working their 40 hours a week.

It's a 2 way street and it all has to work together.  The employer must see to it that his committments to his client's are realistic and can be accommplished in the time frames set out for his employees (i.e. 40 hour work weeks).  If they are then it is not too much to expect that his workers meet the schedule regardless how many hours they are in the office.  We all know that the 8 hours you are in the office are not 100% effecient.

Greg Lamberson
Consultant - Upstream Energy
Website: www.oil-gas-consulting.com

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

But if the employer is relying on a 50 hour week when he puts the bid in then that rational sounding argument fails at the first hurdle.


Greg Locock

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?


Is the employer relying on a single 50 hour week or continuous 50 hour weeks.  I am presently salaried (i.e. no overtime paid), but I would voluntarily work more hours in a week a few weeks a year as major project deadlines approached.  I however would NOT work 50 hours week-in week-out, unless of course I had some sort of ownership stake in the company (then I would probably work way more than 50).

So when an employer (or owner) is putting in a bid, they need to be aware of what their staff is willing to work.  Engineering is a somewhat smaller field (i.e. more specialized) and as such word of mouth travels quickly.  People hear about the firms that have crazy or unrealistic expectations - and people (at least who I know) usually try to avoid those firms.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I've got no problem (in theory) with crunch-time 50 hour weeks, but if the bid is scheduled on the basis of 50 hour weeks throughout the program then that is an unfair expectation, unless the employees are being paid overtime, or signed on with a 20% higher base rate than normal.

I actually find 50 hour weeks remarkably useless even in crunch-time except for the most drudge-like tasks at work.


Greg Locock

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

One of the reasons I left my last job is extra hours expected EVERY WEEK with no extra pay or comp. time.  

I had numerous job offers- and my old employer struggles to find engineers.

The funny thing is that the owner isn't even an engineer.  I figure it must be hard to have an engineering firm without engineers.  (He had only one full-time engineer and one part-time ready to retire when I left.)

I was told the old sob story of "I can't make a profit if engineers won't work for me for free."  Anyone who says that and is honest about it will go out of business.  My generation doesn't tolerate long hours with no compensation, and we can get jobs in other industries if we have to.  For salaries around 40k/yr. for entry civil engineers I would be better off with the summer internships with the Nebraska Dept. of Roads that I had during college than the salary and 50 hr./wk. after college.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Routinely having to give 50 hours a week is too much for me, unless perhaps my pay is approximately 25% higher than for people doing the same job for 40 hours a week.  The odd 50+ hour week at 'crunch' time is OK but more than a few times a year gets old.

Now expecting people to work 40 billable hours and hence probably needing to be in the office a little longer is a different matter.  To me my 40 hours includes things like trips to the stationary cupboard, staff meetings, reasonable toilet trips etc and yet often these aren't 'billable'.  My 40 hours doesn't include personal phone calls, surfing the net, excessively long non work conversations with colleagues etc so I do these things on my lunch and/or 'work' a few extra hours to compensate.

In the UK I was salaried (officially no overtime) for 37 hours and regularly worked a few extra.  In my last year there they had so much extra work that a few of us were actually paid for doing extra work.  Initially it was an end of year bonus and when they still had too much work it was actually formalized overtime at time & half.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I pay my employees based on a 45-50 hour work week but only expect 40 hours.  Basically I pay a premium and offer the excellent benefits (full family medical, dental and vision, 6% matching 401K, and the employees get 25% of the profits without the risk) and I attract the best engineers in my area.  This allows me to charge a premium for our service but our clients know they are getting the best and are willing to pay for it.  This allows us to have high profit margins and spend time with our families which should be priority #1 with everyone.   Keep working your employees 50 hours a week and I will take your best ones from you.  Our work week ends at noon on Friday and the cell phones are turned off until Monday morning.   

Why not hire a cleaning crew for the office.  Our cleaning crew can clean our office (of 50 people) in less then an hour using 4 staff members. The total cost per cleaning is less the one billable hour yet it would take me way more then the 4 man hours it takes them. Why would I give up $600 in billings to save $100?  Plus I never have to worry about have cleaning supplies around and I did not go to Grad School to clean toilets

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Background: I work for a small civil firm (11 employees) and for the past 2-3 years we've had an overload of work for our size.  So the engineers have been asked to work more hours to compensate. The owner has consistently tried to hire new engineers with little luck.  All the while we keep taking on more and more projects which are adding up to a huge backlog.  The owner sincerely believes that he shouldn't turn down any new jobs because he is concerned about "reverse word-of-mouth" if people begin to hear that we are too busy for new projects.  

My question is this - how do your firms manage this situation?  It seems to me that by accepting every single proposal that comes our way that we are forcing ourselves into being short-handed and stretched too thin.  I am wondering if it is possible, even desirable, to limit the work that you accept, based upon what you can handle and still keep a good rep.  My thinking is that it would actually improve your word-of-mouth if potential clients know that we are committed to providing quality service and won't sacrifice their project for the next one that comes down the line.  I would appreciate any insight from your experiences.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Tell your boss how bad it could be if customers started telling others how long it takes you to finish a project because of the backlog... at some point, your loss of new/current customers begins to outweigh keeping the customer roster growing.

Dan - Owner

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?


This is the typical poor management that I have come to expect in the structural engineering industry.

He should be charging more (say 10%) for his jobs and then demand will drop a little, he will also be able to pay his employees overtime.

Clients arent stupid, if it takes twice as long to get the job back then they can tell the company is overloaded.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

This whole thread hits close to home, but from the otherside of the fence.

How do you all decide or calc ROI of individual staff engineers?  I can imagine a theoretical way, but what do you REALLY do?

I'm a 1 engineer department in a company with 150+ manufacturing employees building a highly custom product.

I'm new on the job and at 7 years experience still farely new to profession.

The comment has been passed around under peoples breath that we don't need an engineer.  At the same time shouted out that manufacturing needs to be delivered an engineered product to build instead of left ot figure it out themselves.

I can't tell if we are horribly understaffed, or if I just suck and they need somebody more skilled.

I feel really, really slow getting things done, and other people are giving me new task assuming the old ones are finished when they aren't.  I'm putting in 50+ hours all year, and enjoy the time, but I'm still not keeping up.  They paid a premium to get me from another company.

How do I figure out how much work is reasonable to ask of me?  How do I set fair goals for myself taking my pay into account?

My Boss has consistently commented that I work too much, and at the same time complained that I'm failing to get things done.

I feel pinched.  I want to know if I'm worth it, and if its worth it to get more help, or if my work really doesn't belong in this company.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Ericat Nordic,

You are conscientious, thorough, try to do the best job possible on all projects,dont like to leave a stone unturned?

If this is you, then you may be trying too hard to do a perfect job every time.

1. If there is only one of you and many of them, stick to the engineering only and delegate any peripheral work back to them.

2. Figure out what needs to be perfect and what items could be less than perfect and still have an acceptable outcome.

3. Try to avoid attending meetings that are of no benefit to you.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Conscientious and thorough?  I don't know.  I really just don't want to do it over again on a saturday three weeks later.  My motives are entirely lazy.

I do have a really hard time bridging the gap between complete analysis, which I don't know how to do, and wild guessing, which I can't defend against naysayers.

I do skip the meetings, coming from a previous company that was 5 days of meetings and 1.5 days of real work, thats a no brainer.

Everything we do can be less then perfect, as long as we aim on the safe for humans side.  But I'm greedy and don't like to bleed money from wasted time and wasted materials.

Your first point is interesting,  There is not much engineering only work here.  But the traditional engineering task that come up scare me the most.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure where to go to learn how to do elementary things my degree and my resume imply I should already know.  So your right, my fidelity is off its mark, but I don't know what to do about it.

To answer the original post from Referree.  IF you want me here 50 hours a week, you better have something more interesting for me to do then what I could do with the free time on my own.  Money is transparent, and equity in a company that makes me tired and frustrated is hardly an incentive.  When I left the last company I took a large stock portfolio with me.  I dumped it as fast as the checks would cash, just owning the stock made me stressed.  There is something pavloff there that doesn't show up on a spread sheet.

So, back to my first question?  I'm empowered to hire someone if they will pay for themselves.  Whats a practical way to figure out if its worth it?

Thanks for listening


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Do a SWOT analysis of where you are. Three ideas:

Hire a kid, fresh from uni. For six months he'll be completely useless, and will absorb more time than he saves. It'll pay off.

You must work with a fabricator or technician or maintenance guy? Make him your sidekick. He already knows a lot of the practical side, and twice I've had the pleasusre of seeing an hourly paid guy zoom up into (and through) the technical ranks, directly due to a bit of patience and trust and encouragement from me.

Hire an experienced CAD guy. Ideally 44.3-57.6 years old, with an interest in your industry, and a history of designing/building stuff in his own time.

Incidentally don't feel too guilty about having to learn stuff. That's the only thing that makes work interesting.


Greg Locock

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RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I would expect a staff engineer to work all the nhours in his or her employment contract.

If that’s 30, 40, 50 or more then they should work that number of hours.

Whatever number of hours are expected should be reflected in the employment contract and in the wages or compensation paid.

Personally I like working, 60 to 80 hour weeks are no big deal for me. (once had over 3,000 billable hours in 9 months) However I work in the field away from home and usually don’t have much of a life on the job site locations. When I’m working at home 40 to 50 is the norm.

All I want to do is get the job done so I can go home and be better positioned for getting the next one. While this philosophy works for me as a one man consulting firm, it was also the philosophy that I used when an employee.

And yes I was paid for all the hours in both situations.

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

EricatNordic, your a forum all your own, there's a lot to tease out from your comments. You've gone into your job with a buzz for the challenge and the hours/financial responsibility is in second place. And at the cross road, which way should you go. I understand that. A lot of the comments here are very practical, hard experience and culturally-based. When I say that, you are talking about the baby boomers who are still broke and resentful of the long hours on the treadmill to nowhere.

Trust your own instinct. It will be a different world for the next generation. I believe my professional challenge is to make engineering an exciting proposition as a career. I think there is still a world of change yet to come anyone obsessed with hours will not be winners. I only have to remember how I came to the profession in the days of slide rules, razor blades on film, calligraphy competitions and lunchtime boozing, crikey did we work crazy hours! We loved it, it was the team. Compared to todays endless silent sea of computers, hermetically sealed cubicles and sanitised water, the 40 hours are a struggle!

Your question, is when have you arrived? When can you step off and just do straight time? You never will arrive and you will never do straight time, you're not a clock worker, you're goal-driven. Your experiences are invaluable and will go a long way to learning how to develop people.

When I engage engineers, I emphasise the training, the expectations and the development work. Money and hours are secondary. If these are the key requirements with little interest in the greater issues then it is not the best match.
Referee, I have learned now that as much as engineering problems are still interesting, I have to spend more time with people and team-building. Focus on a vision and sell it. Pay them for for the hours regardless and measure the productivity, work with them to increase the value using their ideas, not yours. If they own the solution, they'll look after it. With my team of engineers they learn I work for them, not them for me and they know it. People are your greatest assets, they'll take care of the hours, if you have a vision.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I dont know what the policy is on here of naming specific companies.  I guess since I don't know (can someone tell me please) I will refrain.  But I recently talked to a guy at a bigtime (everyones heard of them) software company and he said that the 80 hour workweek is pretty regular.  I really don't believe him.  No human can sustain that and stay efficient and SANE in doing so.

With that in mind, I have put in a couple 70 hour work weeks here and there.  Most of the time I am around 50.  I am straight time for all of my hours.  If I was salaried and or not compensated for my overtime, I wouldnt care to work the extra time.  But I'm getting paid for it.

I wonder if the standard in the A/E industry is how we do it. They explicitly state that we are expected to work an average of 48 hours /week and pay us straight time (as professionals, engineers) for any OT over 40.  It doesnt work out too bad, I guess..  I mean I know I'm making more than some and less than others and I don't mind putting in the extra time because I figure Im learning more.  But for people with families and other big commitments... There's no way.  I don't really understand expecting 50 hour workweeks from people with no ownership, either.  Not for me... Once I get married etc.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

I own an 8 person engineering firm.  For many years I would work 50-60 hours a week but started growing weary from it.
I only asked an engineer to come in on Saturday twice in 19 years and I paid him for it.

I know who is doing their job and will eliminate the unproductive ones; fortunately I have had pretty good luck finding engineers who put in a good work week.  I always tell them that if they do their best during the week we will not have to work overtime.

Seven years ago I quit the Saturday work and 4 years ago I quit working on Fridays.  Recently I adjusted the engineers schedule so they could have a 3 day weekend on alternate weeks but still keep 80 hours/2 weeks.

It's a difficult balance but I would not expect 50 hours from a salaried employee.


RE: How many hours do you require of employees?


You need to be really careful and check on the state laws in the US. Although highly educated, most engineers fall under the category of non-management workers. That means they technically need to get paid OT for anything over 40 hours (not including set lunch breaks).

For example, if I required engineers to be in the office or on site by 9am every day (M-F) and my employee handbook/agreement says they get an hour for lunch, then they better be out the door by 6pm everyday of the week or cut the week short as soon as they hit 40 hrs or you may be looking at a lawsuit on your hands. States such as NJ require that you keep signed or verifiable timesheets for all non-management employees for just that reason. Even if they are on salary. Salary versus hourly does not hide them from the non-management positions they hold even as skilled workers.

Be safe and check with your state labor laws. I ran a 10 person consulting shop for 7 years and knew exactly what everyone did all day every day for that reason. Now I make sure my coaching clients do the same. Some of them got nailed before I came aboard and didn't understand why. A very big business disruption and hole in your wallet.

Hope that helps.

RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Dunno about state laws, but under federal law, engineers are FLSA exempt.



The Professional exemption is for work that requires an advanced degree and that is original or creative in nature.  Independent judgement and discretion must be excercized in these positions more than 50% of the time.   In addition, certain computer professions may be considered exempt under the Professional exemption when they meet certain criteria and are paid on a salary basis or an hourly basis that is at least $27.63/hr.

And here's New Jersey:


Exempt from the overtime entitlement are executive, administrative, and professional employees; employees engaged in labor on
a farm or relative to raising or care of livestock; and employees of a common carrier of passengers by motorbus.

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RE: How many hours do you require of employees?

Nice job on the research. But keep something important in mind... there is still a lot of room for interpretation and trouble in those law quotes as follows:

Sometimes business owners mistake a technician for an engineer or give a tech the title of "engineer". Either one of those issues spells trouble if requiring OT past 40 hours and not paying for it.

With that said and staying on topic, expecting a true engineering professional to work over 40 hours a week WHEN NEEDED is something to be expected since most work is project related and therefore time dependent.

To regularly expect more than 40 hours of work from someone is not a good practice as a business owner but it should be spelled out in employment docs that it may be necessary to get the job done. It keeps people aware & happy. It doesn't hurt to give paid days off after a job well done that required lots of weekly hours to complete the project.

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