Employees · Time management

What are the hours that I should expect from my employees as a small business owner?

Ioannis MSc IT professional

March 24th, 2017

The classic 9-5 day job is starting to be a thing of the past, with more and more companies starting to offer full dinner services on-location.

As a small business owner, what hours can I reasonably expect of employees? What sort of structure should those hours be enforced with? Thanks for the comments in advance.

Andrew Gassen Senior Product Manager at Pivotal Labs

March 25th, 2017

The 9-5 day job is starting to be a thing of the past, but in many successful companies, it's being replaced with flexible hours and fewer hours, not more hours. "Enforcing" more hours on your team is a bad idea. The tech company I work at is worth over 3 billion dollars and we have hard limits on hours: it caps at 40. No weekend work, no work after 5:30pm. It creates happy employees and an environment where outcomes are valued more than output.


I'd rethink your question to try to understand what you're looking to get out of your employees. Are you not delivering as fast as you'd like? More hours doesn't solve that. Are you wanting to build a better culture? More hours certainly doesn't solve that. When you identify the real problem you want to solve, other options will start to become visible.

Ron Warshawsky Founder and CEO of Enteros. Years of successful experience in startup business and database technology.

Last updated on March 24th, 2017

While in many companies people put lots of extra hours (and even expected by the management to do so) , it can get you in trouble in the US.


Large corporation can get away with it, as even in the case of a few lawsuits, they can quickly settle, pay some small extra money and be done with it, while benefiting from hundreds and thousands of employees who stay silent.


As a small business owner you can not do the same. Dealing even with the single employment lawsuit will be very expensive and time consuming.


You should consult employment attorney to properly structure your offer letters, agreements, employee handbook, etc, etc to have overtime in place.

David VomLehn Why would you prefer a computer that breaks?

March 24th, 2017

Two questions:

  • What do you need?
  • What are you willing to pay for it?

In terms of what you need, a few of a very large number of possible questions:

  • How many hours will you need to get the business of the business done? Customer facing positions may need to cover, collectively, 10-12 hours/day.
  • How many hours do you want per person? Up to point, more hours per person is generally good for employees and it also distributes the per person costs. Yet, you can sometimes fill two half-time positions more easily than one full-time position.
  • How much do people need to work together? In some positions, people don't depend heavily on getting information or assemblies at a particular time. In others, they do. These dictate the times when people have to be available to each other at the same time.
  • There are trade-offs between hiring more people and having existing people work more hours. If the standard work week is 35 hours, you can ask for five more hours without having to pay overtime. On the other hand, hiring is hard and slow, so paying overtime to workers that normally work a 40-hour week may be the best way to handle a short-term shortage of workers.
  • There is a choice between exempt and hourly positions. I'm not sure I can do justice to the trade offs.
  • On-site versus off-site: there isn't a substitute for face-to-face time, especially when building or learning a corporate culture. Yes, off-site time can be more productive and many employees like having the option even if they rarely use it.

Perks are a whole other question. By offering food on-campus, Google cuts down the commute to local restaurants--perhaps saving 10 minutes/employee/day--and also gets the benefit of increasing the chance of cross-pollination between employees who would not otherwise have chance to bump into each other. The downside is not simply the cost, but also the question of avoiding employees tiring of the offerings. Google has about a zillion cafes/restaurants specializing in different cuisines but a small business will not be able to do this.


A suggestion: ask people in your potential employee pool what they thing. For example, ask people working for competitors, or for related or similar businesses.