Advantages of Working 40 Hours a Week — And Not Exceeding It

For one moment, if you can grab that job contract you got from your last employer, time at work must have been stated. You need to be punctual at 9am and working hours should end at 6pm. However, there’s that tiny provision that holds the key to making you commit putting those extra hours of work when the need arises. As a newcomer who do not wish trouble, or desperate to get a new job, you may easily take it as just one of the “challenges” at work.

Moving forward six months at this job, you may start feeling there’s something not right. You are among the last to leave, occasionally shutting down the lights and locking the office. When leaving office before 10pm isn’t feasible, you order take out pizza or take a short trip to a nearby fastfood before resuming work. The office cleaner and roving security personnel already sees you as a symbol of hard work.

But why should we ditch the lifestyle of working in excess of 40 hours every week?

1. Work 40 hours and maintain work-life balance.
By working 40 hours a week — translated as coming in promptly at 8 and leaving at 5 — means you have plenty of time for things other than work. Play basketball, do an evening run, have a hearty meal, watch an anticipated movie without leaving the theaters too late.

2. Work 40 hours and exceeding it makes you less productive.
It was found out that working beyond 40 hours a week got more work done. But this is only within the first few weeks. Afterwards, employees exposed to this type of environment soon took a dip in productivity as fatigue, depression, chronic stress, and anxiety. So from working 60 hours a week to not working the following week, tasks have piled up. The vicious cycle continues as the worker who took a medical absence get overwhelmed by backlogs as she returns to work.

3. Work 40 hours and help generate jobs.
Working 40 hours a week not only keeps one’s sanity intact and maintain high productivity levels. It also opens up opportunities for others to work in the same field without sacrificing human resources (by employing one person to do jobs normally intended for two or three people) in the name of this abused term called cost cutting.

4. Work 40 hours and exceeding it makes you less healthy.
It has been well-chronicled that spending excessive hours of work can lead to health risks. More time for work means less rest and short hours of sleep which could lead to diabetes due to lack of insulin produced. Stress at work contributes to suppressed immune system and hypertension. It has been estimated that work-related stress (PDF) affects at least 40 million workers in 15 countries of the European Union, costing 20 billion euros annually.

5. Work 40 hours because there are things too priceless to give up (by putting more hours at work).
Time is passing and if you take it for granted, there are dire consequences. The moment your child’s first few words were spoken. The moment your date was anxiously waiting for a 9pm movie appointment. The moment you’re supposed to be with friends in what could be your last party together. Work will always be there tomorrow, but golden opportunities may no longer be there.

6. Work 40 hours and stay happy.
When Henry Ford made that bold move to double workers’ salary and cut shift hours in 1914, it was criticized at first by a manufacturers group. But when the move helped the company experience boom time, competitors were quick to adopt the scheme. One thing it taught was that “if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day,” as Sara Robinson puts it.

It’s funny that 40-hour work week has become more of a perk rather than a supposed mandatory time to contribute to employers. That is why when CNN published an article praising Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg for leaving office at 5:30pm every low-level employee would have said “I wish I was a manager..” or every manager would have said “I wish my company’s as big as Facebook”. It’s like reading the news about a honest cab driver returning valuables left by a passenger when it should have been a standard procedure (and therefore not newsworthy at all).

So when you’re done with work, leaving the office first shouldn’t be a political issue among colleagues. Nobody should be apologizing for leaving work at reasonable hour. If anything, workers staying late should be apologizing because they manifest they are less effective — by taking too much work they cannot handle on normal working hours — not to mention extra use of resources like machines and electricity.

Life at UIC Computer Center

Right after graduating at UIC, I was in a hurry to get a job and put aside plans of going abroad. I know experience is a great teacher so I decided to stay put and look for jobs within the city.

In my fourth year, I had an on the job training at Rhine Marketing, a local dealer of computers and accessories. Together with Raul R. and Rizza R., we fix broken motherboards, assemble computer sets and carry stocks from the warehouse to the showroom. It was a good learning experience but tend to pull me away from what I wanted to do; I prefer to become a programmer than to be a technician. Needless to say, I didn’t consider applying for a position in the company.

Ironically, the day before our graduation, I had my first interview at Powertech, a local dealer of Apple and Macintosh machines. Cecile A., my classmate and childhood friend already works there so that felt a bit reassuring. As a fresh graduate — formally the following day — not much was expected of me as a major contributor. Instead I’ll find myself clawing into the nuances of Apple machines and operating system, which I used for the first time. The role I applied for was after-sales support, which means I will be involved in troubleshooting, software installation and demo to clients and prospects. My experience at Rhine probably got me into the interview. But honestly, I didn’t consider this application to be a priority simply because I wanted to do something else.

Maricar inspects the CHED training room construction adjacent to Comcen office.
After the graduation ceremony was held at Davao Convention and Trade Center, classmates organized a celebratory party to be held in Kidapawan, where Bibiano T., Vincent G., and Elmer D. were willing hosts. There were drinks, guitar and recollection of And before we could get into our plans, I got a call from UIC Computer Center, UIC’s, well, computer center, where I also submitted my application during the last week of the school year. I took the bus the following morning back to Davao and hope to make the interview as soon as I arrive.

The interviewer was Engr Randy G., an engineer who used to teach in our department but never became my instructor. With his straight talking demeanor, a candidate caught off-guard by his occasional philosophical questions would possibly be left speechless and give up. But if you keep your cool, he’ll lighten up and even start to display sense of humor. At my interview, I was tense, but held on to finish the interrogation. He was then joined by Noel L., the systems administrator and Jovy C., the senior programmer, whose personality when it comes to interviewing people is quite similar to Paula Abdul at American Idol.

Before this version was out online,
I got to build and manage the UIC website.
A couple of weeks later, I got the go signal I got admitted to my first ever full-time job. My previous credential was the half semester stint at Rhine, as I never had any part-time work, and failed at all attempts to get summer jobs. I soon found out I was admitted along with Michael C., my family relative and batch mate at UIC, Edison E., another batch mate, Brendon R., who graduated ahead of us, and a Cecilbeth ‘Pie’ I., a Computer Science graduate from Ateneo de Davao. With the addition of five of us, suddenly the UIC Computer Center’s population doubled.

Other members of the team are Maricar R., a presentations guru proceeding with her Masters degree and Tammy R., demure yet reliable Über-Programmer who occupy the corner spot.

I was then assigned to program the Teacher’s Behavioral Inventory, a landmark project I maintained up to the time I left UIC Computer Center. As the users of this program are staff of the Guidance Center, I occasionally spend time going to their offices to explain the progress of the program, fix their printer or engage in short chat. During the process, I got to meet new friends, same as from Cashier, Registrar, Grade School, Library and the RVM sisters.

Although our positions ranged from programmer to network administrator, we were given a few teaching loads to help the understaffed Computer Science department. I taught Calculus, Algebra and computer subjects. Some semesters I need to cross to the Bonifacio campus to teach EDP to Commerce students. While programming was relatively relaxing of a job — except deadlines and code review sessions — teaching was a tough job. Sometimes I have to skip lunch to prepare test questions or checking test papers. Another challenging aspect of it is when I am in a class in a mixed bag of brilliant and below average students. In any way, I am bound to make someone fall into boredom or extreme agitation. The worst part of it is when I have to fail students for not making the grade. I was once approached by a mother of a student who pleaded I pass her son; I was moved but was firm in my earlier decision.

Camera-shy yet trigger-happy, Brendon R. is the catalyst of a humorous stay at UIC Computer Center.
I spent three years at UIC before moving to Manila, and eventually settling down in Hong Kong.

Among the most memorable times I had at UIC Computer Center are:

a. Brendon’s jokes. Believe it or not, this is the one I miss the most. Whether it’s towards Ate Jovy, Comp Sci teacher Liza Ruth F., or with the laboratory folks Albert B, and Jerry T, we could never get enough of Brendon’s antics. Notable ones I can remember: You killed my teacher!, a common story plot of a kung fu film; Brendon’s father asking the family to close their eyes while saying graces before meals: Lord, please open our eyes.

b. Travels disguised as recollections. Because I officially belong to UIC Computer Center, that makes me a part of the Non-teaching Personnel even if I have a few teaching units. This means I join the rest of UIC Comcen ‘peeps’ in annual recollections often held far away — for maximum retreat experience. In my brief stay with NTP, we traveled to Cebu and Guimaras/Boracay. Those trips might have triggered my passion in traveling to different places.

c. Meeting new friends. Just the same as described above, being the all-around technician in the whole university is bound to get rewarded with new friends. It also built my confidence in meeting people, which was useful in fighting stage fright I encounter once in a while during my Computer Science classes. With these friends at work, I rarely get out of place during gatherings like acquaintance parties, Christmas parties, NTP meetings and casual encounters at the corridor.

Comcen peeps Brendon, Noel, Michael, Jovy, Tammy -- and a candid me -- at Cebu airport waiting for flight home.
d. Teachers Day. When Engr Jun J. joined the Comcen peeps, we were dragged into becoming dancing teachers. One unforgettable experience was when Michael, Brendon, Jonathan and Jun danced to the tune of Time After Time by Inoj.

e. Comcen outings. Not only we go out as part of non-teaching personnel, but Sir Randy — often known as Bossing — organizes the team for a quick break during summer. We usually spend overnight at a beach resort not necessarily to swim but to deliberate on things I thought were not even necessary. (To this day, I still fail to see the importance of revising a group’s mission and vision every year.) But other than that, it’s great.

f. Starcraft sessions Richard B and Jerry F, who joined Comcen a year after us to fill the void left by Edison and Pie, were even more casual and light-hearted jokes became a more prevalent topic during meetings. It was during their time that I was hooked to Starcraft for the first time. Day time or night time, we conspired to play the game during lunch breaks, after office hours, and even stayed almost midnight to finish a session. Brendon, Michael, Jonathan and I were hooked to the game.

g. Learning experience. Needless to say, my stay at UIC Computer Center was a great learning experience. It was like extending my five year Computer Engineering career with three more. Although I didn’t get to focus on one specialty nor finish the TBI program, I got out of the door more confident to talk about my skills. Connectiong BNC cables for enrollment, building my first website, running a Novell Netware network structure, fixing and assembling computers for the computer laboratory, Norton Commander and Windows 95 were among those I learned in addition to my daily tasks.

After 38 months, I said goodbye to UIC Computer Center to find what life out there has in store for me.

But no worries, we still found time to communicate and even meet in person once in a while.

P.S. 1 – Engr. Randy G., became one of our principal wedding sponsors.

P.S. 2 – My wife wanted to attend Computer Science at UIC but instead enrolled at Ateneo. If she studied at UIC, she would possibly become my student and I don’t know how destiny would be redefined. We got to meet only when we both were working in Hong Kong.

New Asian Correspondent Website

I have been writing for Asian Correspondent Since October 2009. After being “discovered” from my old “Living in Hong Kong” blog, I was invited to become one of the online magazine’s blogger / writer. I am not a prolific writer, at least in my own outrageous standards, but I am not surprised I was asked to write for AC. Part of the agreement I entered into is that the decent traffic to my Hong Kong blog will have to be redirected to the website. Fair enough, I would rather want to consolidate all visitors to one website than maintain two websites that compete against each other.

The first version of the website doesn’t look pretty though. Inside and outside, I wish there was much more thought put on how we as writers make use of the content management system. More importantly, our end users should be able to get the message where they want to read it. Until the makeover (See “New site” image below) was done, it was the worst blogging platform I have used. I could only stare and appreciate at Global Post, the site I wish Asian Correspondent’s design would draw inspiration from.

I came across different sorts of problems: auto generating URLs that leave spaces between words, poor placement of images, redundant social media icons, and so on. The whole experience was a bit challenging, but somehow, after a year of writing, I got used to the interface. When we were notified that the website is undergoing a design overhaul, I felt relieved the poor user experience would soon be over.

This morning, I woke up to find out that the new version of the website has rolled out. It looks good and quite up to what I was expecting to see. I like the neat placement of content, proper margins, font and color selections. Since the platform uses WordPress, I am quite familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. I have yet to explore what other features are included but so far, the guys behind Hybrid News, the creator of Asian Corresponded did a good choice of partnering with Pallian Creative.

Philweb Memories

In not so distant past, I was one ambitious monkey attempting to dive into cyber space at the dawn of the Web. By the time I was officially enrolled in the industry, the unraveling of dotcom bust already took place a dozen timezones behind. But I was glad it happened that way. Otherwise, I could be cultivating a career quite different from what I have now.

After finishing Computer Engineering at UIC, working there wasn’t exactly my plan. However, maybe because I thought it was the safest route to start a career, I’d further my learning by doing BOTH teaching and programming or I was eager to recoup the educational investment I made with my alma mater (yes, I thought about it), it wasn’t a difficult decision to extend my stay at the University.

But after three years, I thought it was enough. So by June 2000, I left UIC at the time when the new school year is starting. (School calendar in the Philippine education system starts in June.) I remembered talking to the school president S. Ma Assumpta David and trying to be firm with my decision. I thought she respected it and didn’t offer to persuade me to stay.

Two weeks of homestay and curtailed income passed before I got a confirmation I was offered a job in Cagayan de Oro City, a good six hour bus ride from Davao City — along the way passing by the house of my future wife. I have relatives in the city where I could stay. And I thought that my journey of hundreds (or thousands of miles) should begin with this step, no matter if it’s more than just a single one.

Thanks to Rizza R., a childhood friend and neighbor who referred me to the job, and an employee leaving the company, I got in. Interestingly, I realized that this reunion marks another milestone between me and Rizza. We went to the same grade school together. We were classmates in high school. And we took the same course in UIC. Now, we’re colleagues. I also came to know a few more in the office. Candice C., Shelley S., Roy Y., Meg V., Kent, D., Alex, Chui O., Edward N., Sir Chavs and Jimmar R. Our office was at Fr. Masterson Avenue, in the third floor of a building called White House because of its immaculate white painting that stands out of the neighborhood.

We’re only about ten people in the office, so it was really an intimate group. We shared lunch together. My aunt Flora prepares packed lunch so I had no problem waking up early and cooking my food. But at times I just want to try what colleagues want to have for lunch. I remember buying mongo at a house located near the office. At work, it’s not unusual to play MP3 from a PC with Winamp; we only got to play what we want to hear. During this time, downloading music through Napster was still prevalent.

In my effort to be with the family every week, I take the Rural Transit bus on Friday nights and arrive in Davao at about 7 in the morning the following day. As I get home, I hit the bed immediately and wake up at about 11, just in time for lunch. I know I had only a few hours left before I pack my things and make the return trip to Cagayan de Oro. By Sunday afternoon, I am already at Ecoland terminal waiting for my bus to leave Davao.

After work, we sometimes hang out at a friend’s house or we ate dinner together. We played Starcraft a lot! I guess we had a lot of plans that time, like going to the beach or other type of adventure. Unfortunately, they didn’t materialize because I was recalled to the Manila office. I thought the move was killjoy. But I realized this was the reason I left UIC.

Cagayan de Oro was a favorite city of mine. As a kid, we go for summer vacation prelude to the exciting Bohol adventure. For some reason I remember urging my mother if I could study high school there. But the idea was frowned upon, and now I can’t imagine why I made that absurd request. Apart from meeting my relatives (mother’s side), my job in Cagayan de Oro also gave me the opportunity to meet my aunt Sylvia a few years before she died of cancer.

In the office we built this e-commerce suite called e-Padala. I thought the system was promising (Oracle database and competent Meg V. as DBA) but the execution was poor. Procedures were lax at best (not scalable, no strict coding practice and a nightmare system to take over, from an incoming I was asked to move to Manila to finish things.

While it wasn’t my first time to go to Manila, I was still mesmerized by its size. I was with Meg and Sir Deck P. reassigned in Philweb in the posh Enterprise Tower in Makati. Staring at tall buildings was overwhelming — not that they’re taller than Hong Kong skyscrapers — and you’d feel you’re a small dot in a big organization. No longer the easy going lifestyle I enjoyed at the White House. In Manila, you have to hurry up. Even if our office is just one jeepney — or a ticycle if you wake up a bit late — ride away.

Our staff house was located along Estrella Avenue, near Rockwell. It wasn’t big (in fact we were crowding in the rooms), but good enough for newcomers in the city. It has air conditioning unit that’s loud enough to wake you up at night. (I have to say many of my house mates snore in their sleep, so if you’re among last to hit the bed, good luck.) My stay at the Estrella staff house also revealed Metro Manila’s weakness. One of the strongest typhoons in the year left Manila flooded and us unable to leave the staff house. Ironically, as water was everywhere down the street our faucet couldn’t produce a drop of water. We had to rely on bottled water as tap water has become an unreliable source. This reminds me of Davao City, where water flowing out of our tap is safe for drinking and buying bottled water was considered a crazy idea. And we seldom experience waterless faucets too.

In the morning colleagues just rush to the bathroom and head to work in a hurry. Many of us just take our breakfast on the road, or at the fast food area (notably Jollibee) of The Enterprise Tower. For dinner I usually eat at the fastfood at Landmark on my own. This made me miss my mother’s cooking. I was always told that in Manila, every move you make costs money. I guess having this dinner instead of enjoying the company of family members and homemade cooking is part of it. From a predictable life at the UIC campus in May to a new layer of freedom in CDO in July and a chaotic Manila in September, this is the break I’ve been waiting for.

If I accomplished something, it was not seeing the beta version of e-Padala but in landing another job at Zurich Insurance at nearby Citibank Tower. When I told Sir Chavs via instant messaging that I have something to share by the time I return to CDO in October, he already understood I was leaving. I did not only bid farewell to colleagues I only got to work with for two and a half months. I also had to bid goodbye to my aunt Flora and uncle Lito as I packed my clothes and take the evening bus trip to Davao.

Remembering My Clark Experience Part 2

When I was inside the wide sprawling green landscape, I always come to think America is such a rich country that even in territories it can’t call its own, the facilities are above par. Surely, there are areas in the United States that are less appealing than Clark Development. I can see the greeneries of Mimosa Estates where VIPs play their leisurely game of golf. On the far end is an airstrip (or was it the Diosdado Macapagal Airport?)

Finally I came to the described place by Toto, and less than two minutes, he emerged from somewhere and for the first time since graduation, I met my friend. As the interview will happen in the afternoon, we had time to reminisce college days with much fun: being chased by drunken retards at a hangout near the campus, my relentless pursuing of a classmate whom Toto served as a part-time “bridge”, our days programming Assembly Language and welding components from dusk till dawn. (How I wish I get to talk to many of my high school, grade school and college friends at least once a month and have a hearty conversation, than be on my own most of the time in Hong Kong)

He lives in a staffhouse, a neat housing provided by the company to programmers and developers mostly from Manila and other provinces. In contrast to the crowded and chaotic Manila, Clark is where minds of geeks sensitive to noise would probably work best. Even much better than my work place at the time (I was employed at a University located next to Davao City’s biggest wet market). There is a place for basketball, table tennis, plenty of space for football, test driving and anything that requires ample workspace.

While looking at the place, assuming I got the offer and took the job, I imagined how quick will I be able to adjust working away from my family for the first time. First I would have freedom to build up myself. Do the cooking, budget my salary, manage my time, etc. I would have to travel by plane for an hour and half plus three hour bus ride instead of having to ride an hour’s worth of jeepney trip from UIC to home. I’d guess that’s not as bad as those who work in the middle of the desert, separated not just hundreds or thousands of miles away but also four timezones away. Those who come home to their families once every three years. It must have driven me insane.

I should not backtrack. Afterall, before I took the flight I kinda thought I should pursue this, Clark or Singapore.

It’s noontime and I am hungry; the early meal I had in Dau did not help much. I am still wary of eating on roadside canteens. It’s not mainly on sanitation, it’s more on my sensitive stomach. Toto was still on work; he must have took an hour off to meet and talk to me.

The working period is based on honesty. You come on time and you leave on time. No bells to signify it’s time to get your share of meal at the school canteen, nor be reminded that recess is only for grade school and high school students.

A little later, I was called for the interview.

After looking around, I told myself I was more interested in living here, not working. I’d still feel more like a worker if I join the labor masses waiting in queue for a ride to the “sweat shops” and hang out for a drink on Friday nights.

Don’t get me wrong, but entertainment wise, there’s a plethora of drinking pubs in the vicinity. However, as I am not too passionate going out on Friday nights, the facility does not mean too much.

Harry Quiambao was in the office when I came in. I did not look too interviewee looking with my casual outfit and he did not mind it. We talked more about psychologically challenging topics rather than skill measurement. It was because I would be talking to the project managers in a panel discussion.

There were three people asking a variety of technical questions from interest in the web to the upcoming Millenium Bug problem. I told them I want to be part of history as an aspiring Cobol programmer trying to code as time shrinks to the last 8 months or so before Y2K was thought to jam air traffic, disrupt banking systems and render remote controls useless.

It was a rhetoric I used to jokingly impress them which I thought I never succeeded; I was told two months later that hiring has frozen because the company never got the deal with a big government project.

Remembering Clark Experience Part I

It was late February or early March in 1999, I can’t remember the exact date. But thanks to my old reliable buddy Ronald, I get to post one of the memorable past as a jobhunter. It was the time when I also got the chance to travel far from home (the farthest yet at that time).

I wanted to be independent and challenged myself to be one. At 23, I must be prepared for it. (Listens to the song “Paalam: ..biente dos años na ako, kaya ko na mamuhay ng solo“). After all, what can a 29 year old do that a 21 year old can’t. At ComCen, I got an e-mail from a certain Harry Quiambao asking me to come to SVI’s Clark Office for a personal interview.

With Toto’s invitation I was ready to go to Central Luzon’s Angeles City, a place whose physical structure1s still bring memories of the American servicemen’s heyday in the 80’s.

I took Air Philippines flight for Manila with just my brother’s small backpack and wild imaginations in my mind. Knowing Manila’s chaotic, frenetic pace, I must be in for some adventure.

I was partial to being an adventurist, as some would-be thrill seekers had experiences: getting robbed, had pockets picked or were duped. Home to many rude taxi drivers and inconsiderate citizens, a less witty visitor can often find himself duped, misled or worse, robbed. In contrary, Davao’s taxi drivers are mostly corteous that I can’t imagine how others still end up killed by robbers.

But to be fair with the other side of Manila, the place is haven for many things: variety of food, thrill rides, bargains, almost endless gigs in the metropolis and beautiful people.

Fellow college batchmate Raul has been working with BIR and later SUN Microsystems is often the caretaker of his “provincemate” visitors. I had to be amazed how he handles things in this city where traffic is a menace, tap water is rarely safe for drinking (when available from the faucet) and typhoons are never experienced in Davao. He manages to stay on the road late at night and wakes up early in the morning to beat the morning rush hour.

It was my first stay in Manila since our Tour ’96 – the happiest days of my life. Being a newcomer once more, I get to see many things I only see on television: the MRT, jeepneys plying to places already familiar in the silver screen: Cubao, Quiapo, Kalentong and University Belt, people speaking the natural Tagalog accent; Davao’s coños still sound too crude when speaking the National Language.

Raul’s staffhouse is a microcosm of modern Manila’s yuppy lifestyle: a housemate stuck on the phone, managing to wave hi to us; another one was in front of the television while poring over the latest tech gadget. There are clothes beside the refrigerator and the kitchen’s little table was neatly divided into sections where each of the occupant places his proprietory bread, strawberry jam, cans of corned beef and a few Pringles tubes. They sleep late and wake up early on weekdays and I guess they stay in bed until 11am or later on Saturdays.

The next day I will be in Angeles aboard Victory Liner in which I will make a stop in Dau and take a jeepney to Clark Gate. After I woke up early in his beeper’s ring, Raul and I did not spend an hour before going out of the house before 7am. I felt awkward as I am not used to skip breakfast. After Raul wished me well for the trip and interview, I was mixed with nostalgia and nervousness inside the bus. It was just three years ago when I was with the noisy college friends who couldn’t care what the world would say as long as we have fun on this very road. I was anxious of getting the job and giving myself a break to the real world of laborers, where morning’s are more challenging than singing the same alma mater song I first sang some seven years ago.

The road was less bumpy and the ride was comfortable. When I reached the mouth of the wide CDC compound, I had no idea how I can come in as the guards required company ideas of tenant companies. I pretended to be one and got away. The bus ride featured a rather patriotic song of Gary Valenciano about Pampanga.