Thursday, May 19, 2005

The "9/80" workweek

From Anonymous:

It is troubling to see mention of redress for Todd Kaupilla in the same context
as reversion to the "9/80" workweek.

The "9/80" workweek was a gigantic waste of taxpayer money, and eliminating it
was one of the few sensible things that happened under Nanos.
"9/80" was originally put in place under John Browne in the late 90's to fend
off unionization efforts, which disappeared anyway for unrelated reasons.

It was a misconceived policy from the start. Such policies are only sensible
when productivity is directly proportional to time spent on the job, namely
in a production-line environment. It is not remotely appropriate for a
scientific enterprise, and it was subject to rampant abuse from the start.
We all know how easy it was to find parking on Fridays, with all lots suddenly
much less than half full every single Friday. But the abuse was not only that
many workers chose to take off every Friday, but that many never even worked
the required time during the rest of the week. A typical policy was to arrive
and leave at the same hours as before, but claim to "work through lunch"
to make up that extra hour. But it doesn't really work that way either
for scientists or for support staff.
In many divisions, it was called more accurately the "8/60" workweek.

The "9/80" policy if strictly adhered to is also an anti-family policy,
since extended daycare coverage isn't necessarily available,
and the extra hour away from parents for smaller children is not
compensated by the alternate Fridays. The "9/80" policy is wasteful
in other ways: for projects that needed daily coverage, it frequently meant
having to hire two workers instead of one, an unnecessary redundancy
just to have every Friday covered. And much paperwork requires multiple
signatures, so even if fully half were available on Fridays still nothing
could go through, and consequently it was taken for granted that a large
fraction of the lab would automatically shut down on Fridays.

It is true that substantial amounts of taxpayer money were squandered in
last year's ill-conceived shutdown. But even more taxpayer money was squandered
before that in the years that an ill-conceived "9/80" was the default.

Todd Kaupilla was a hard worker who appears to have been unjustly fired
because the former lab director needed a smokescreen for his lack of informed
decision-making. The 9/80 workweek was a scam and waste of taxpayer money.
Mentioning the need for reevaluation of Todd Kaupilla's firing in the same
context as restoration of the "9/80" workweek is a disservice to his memory.

Comments:
I don't know what group you worked in, but the 9/80 in my group found people there at 7:00 in the morning till 9:00 at night.

Now, AN (After Nanos) you can usually find someone there 8:15 - 5:00.
 
I'm growing very weary of hearing the whiners about the 9/80 work week.
It was abused. You can live without it. There are far more important things
that need fixing. On this one issue, I truly have to say: "Get Over It!"
 
I guess views of the 9/80 workweek differ depending on where you are. Where I was, we had 9/80, and people just continued to come in on their "off fridays" anyway. We got a lot of work done on our "friday off" because there were no meetings then; you could just come in and put in your 9-10 hours and not get interrupted.

Of course, we're computer people; we work from home, on travel, in airports, and so on. Again, it may be different in different places. I don't think any single person or organization can make a statement that covers the whole Lab. LANL is just too big for such generalizations: it makes no sense to make claims that cover every single Lab employee.

Of course, if you saw lots of "9/80 abuse" in your organization, maybe that points to a problem in your organization.

The joke in my group was "9/80" mean you got to put in your 80 hours/week just as before.
LANL gets a lot of benefit, that they are not even aware of, from folks who put in after-work and weekend hours and don't expect to get paid for it.

That said, I guess I can take it or leave it. I was on 9/80, but the only real effect it had on me was that I took my occasional "B friday" to run errands that could not be run on weekends.
 
Fine. Just don't get me started on "day care" whiners.
 
"Get Over It!"
Believe me, I hope that will be the case. I have serious health problems. I traveled to ABQ for treatments on my "B" Fridays off. Now I use 25 days of sick or LWOP on these Fridays. Why ABQ? My oncologist practices there. I really appreciated the 9/80 schedule. No one abused this benefit in my organization. So, 10:10:21 post again when you or a member of your family is facing a crisis. I want to see how well you handle things.
 
I didn't use the 9/80 except in the summer-
Never saw anyone take 'extra' fridays, but some probably didn't consistently do the 9 hour days. They may have made up for it with flex time, however.

I loved the quiet office days, so I would be happy with a return to 'No Meeting' fridays.
 
I found the 9/80 a mixed bag. It allowed me some Fridays to take care of business out of town and it allowed me to do some program development I would not have found time for otherwise.

On the other hand, it was often hard to get support from some quarters when I needed it, or to find management for approval. Yes, the DGL was there when the GL was gone unless they were on travel and an acting GL was unwilling to risk a decision...

I think it *was* punishment as well as an attempt to show Nanos was "running a tight ship" for them to take it away.

I can do without it. And yes, it does look pretty bad when that is all anyone can talk about.
 
I'm with you, 5/19/2005 10:16:54 PM. I'm sick to death of hearing from the two-TSM "the lab owes us free day-care" whiners.
 
9/80s were suspended as a punitive measure by Nanos. It would follow that we are no longer being punished---->9/80s should be restored.
 
9/80 enabled me to continue to work my 9-10 hour days but take a day off once in a while without feeling guilty. I came in on about half of my "days off" anyway. I also volunteered at my kids' school on my days off, something I haven't done since it was taken away.

To correct a couple of misconceptions:

* - 9/80 was started by Browne as a morale booster, during the year that we were hit by everything at once (Wen Ho, missing disks, Cerro Grande Fire).

* - In the opinion of everybody I talk with, taking it away was punitive.

* - I don't like the day care whiners either, but they usually don't want free day care. They want any day care. There are waiting lists around town, not many options for good day care, prices are high, etc.

Neither of these topics should be paramount right now, of course. But a smart director would see the opportunity here to score an easy victory and increase morale. And Kuckuck may be smart in this regard: I saw a mention of this in recent LIM notes.
 
For the record:
The 9/80 was instituted as a perk to help attract and retain staff during the red-hot tech economy era. I saw the caliber of candidates the lab was attracting before the 9/80 and it wasn't the usual cream-of-the-crop because industry was dangling all sorts of incentives. I believe restoration of the 9/80 would improve attraction and retention of staff.

Also for the record: It wasn't abused in my group.
 
In my judgment, someone loses credibility when they accuse an entire organization of mass fraud over anecdotal "evidence" like a quick eyeball of the parking lot. I've never used alternate work week, but the people around me who did frequently came in every Friday, and still worked at least the required nine hours every other day. The sacrifice of all that "free" overtime that resulted from abolishing the 9/80 is a great loss to the nation.

Additionally, the original author's logic is flawed in connecting the 9/80 to Time & Effort fraud. It is no harder to cheat the system now than it was before. But this place isn't about punching a time clock. If you aren't producing tangible results, it's going to show up pretty fast. One must wonder how all the lost productivity in the author's organization isn't being noticed.
 
For the record:
The 9/80 was instituted as a perk to help attract and retain staff during the red-hot tech economy era. I saw the caliber of candidates the lab was attracting before the 9/80 and it wasn't the usual cream-of-the-crop because industry was dangling all sorts of incentives. I believe restoration of the 9/80 would improve attraction and retention of staff.

Also for the record: It wasn't abused in my group.
 
Several hypotheses as to the origin of the 9/80 work week. Let me add one more. It was my understanding that DOE demanded it, because that was what they were doing. John Browne had to give in to their superior wisdom. [/sarcasm]
 
To poster 10:33, I am very sorry to hear about your need for cancer
treatments. However, a respectable organization would find a way to
work around your need for treatments. If your current GL is not helping
you with this effort, you have my sympathies and prayers. However,
need for medical treatments should not be a reason to bring back 9/80.
Handling medical issues in a caring fashion should be the job of any
company that considers itself to be ethical. Perhaps LANL has some
problems in this area?

I can see by the large number of pro-9/80 posts that have already
piled up on this issue that it seems to mean a lot to some people.
However, I feel that it's time to drop this issue for now. There are
far more pressing issues about to come up on our horizon. If you can't
get over the loss of 9/80, then how in the world are you going to deal
with the drastic changes that will be coming with the new contract
change-over? It's time to put things in proper perspective.
 
Restoring 9/80 isn't going to fix the lab. I don't think anyone I know who is planning to retire has said that they would reconsider their choice if they got every other Friday off. The abuse of the 9/80 schedule, coupled with the fact that even when not abused, it rendered administrative tasks difficult, if not impossible to accomplish EVERY Friday, means that it's really not worth bringing back.

I personally believe morale will improve when the scientists feel appreciated (and not used), respected, and supported by group level management and above. As TSMs, we're doing all of the heavy lifting and real work, and our management is doing nothing but scrambling to save their own jobs and create work for us that justifies their existence. 9/80 won't fix that. Deeper changes that go beyond the surface will.

And I would like to emphasize that the blame is NOT solely at division/directorate levels and above. Some groups have thoroughly incompetent managers who are doing absolutely nothing to make their TSMs feel that they have any reason to stay around. The high-level management DOES have issues, but don't ignore the management that is closest to the troops.
 
In response to the earlier comment that abuse was measured solely by anecdotal evidence. I agree - it's virtually impossible to measure true 'abuse', but I think I could round up a crowd that would fill the main auditorium with people that found getting simple, administrative tasks done on Fridays from divisions like (alphabetized) CCN, HR, Library, S. I don't think it was a matter of abuse, but a matter of managers not balancing which Fridays people were around versus not. If one could claim then that these managers were smart and said "50% can be gone each Friday", I don't understand then how it was possible for EVERY Friday to be a difficult day with more than 50% of the admin people missing.

I regret that I don't have "hard evidence" (at the time I didn't feel the need to log my frustration), but I doubt that there are many out there that would claim otherwise.
 
If you're judging staffing levels by experiences of frustration, you fall victim to many pitfalls. It probably takes no more than 10% downtime for people to complain that a service is "never available." It seems the 9/80 schedule has become the bugaboo for every inconvenience.

It's easy to see how attendance on B Fridays could drop below 50% without any fraud involved. You take the maybe 40% who were on that schedule, combined with the people who are on sick leave, vacation, official travel, in transit between Lab sites, in training, in meetings, etc. and it adds up fast. There's no reason you couldn't have flexible scheduling with constraints instead of the one-size-fits-all approach that's currently ruining morale (and hence productivity). Since my background is in industry, not government, I find this rigidity over scheduling incomprehensible: just one more irrelevancy that people mistake for substance.

(Speaking as someone who will stay 5/40 regardless)
 
I agree with the first commnentor (Anonymous @ 5/19/2005 09:53:04 PM): Nanos turned me into a blue collar worker.
 
Regarding the day care issue: Indeed, free day care is an unreasonable benefit to expect.

That said, day care for LANL employees is a special problem, much more difficult than at other locations. There is a limited number of day care providers and they seem to be in collusion on price and service. I know of one day care provider that "closes" at 5:00 PM. After that, it is $5 per minute. I know of one lady who had a minor vehicle accident and was one hour late picking up the child; it cost her $300! The business practices of the Los Alamos day care providers are clearly predatory.

The other problem is dealing with a sick child. You can't (shouldn't) take a sick kid to the day care center, so you have to stay home. This is a leading source of absences on the part of our female employees.

My solution to this is for LANL management to get with the local day care providers and have a frank discussion on how things need to be changed in order that LANL does NOT institute day care. Such a LANL day care would be operated at a cost competetive with what the local day care providers charge. So, either they shape up or we will put them out of business.
 
Regarding the 9/80 workweek, first, it is my underatanding that some branches of the DOE have it.

Second, yes, we did not manage it all that well. We could have done better and I believe that we know what to do:
1. Management needs to control who is on the A, B, and 5/40 schedules to assure that services are provided 5 days per week.
2. Supervisors need to make sure that attendance is not abused.

One needs to keep in mind that the isolated location of LANL makes it often necessary to take a full-day of vacation or sick leave to deal with matters that can be dealt with on the lunch hour or on the way from work at other places (such as SNL in ABQ). In particular, with the two-tiered vacation accrual, the recently-hired employees are significantly burdened by this.
 
If staff would have acted like professionals it would have been a non-issue. It is extremely sad to see the wide spread abuse. What does that say of LANL staff?
 
"Restoring 9/80 isn't going to fix the lab." True, but I don't recall anyone saying that it was. The question is: will restoring 9/80 make *some* things better? I think that, on balance, the answer is yes, for reasons exposed in this thread (geographic isolation of the community, etc). This can be true even in the face of some negatives (difficulty in staffing key functions, possible abuse -- although I agree that I don't think the latter was as widespread as some would say) as long as the gains are sufficient. It should at least be seriously explored.

In the spirit of helping this blog to be constructive rather than merely cathartic, I hereby pose a challenge to readers from the "outside." The negatives to 9/80 aren't unique to Los Alamos, although some of the positives are, and there must be readers with experience with 9/80 elsewhere. How about you tell us how YOUR employer dealt with the negatives? Two outcomes can be imagined: either we will see some creative solutions that will resolve the concerns preventing it from coming back, or we'll see that the "solutions" are so onerous that we'd just as soon stick with 5/40 rather than see them implemented.
 
The most powerful argument for the 8/60 work week is the obvious outcome of the experiment. LANL productivity, if that's the right word, did not change one bit. I propose that we keep diminishing the length of the work week until it makes a difference.
 
I have worked a 9/80 schedule at a large public utility and for a DoD contractor. The system that I observed to work well was when EVERYONE observed the same Friday off. There was a 3 day weekend every other week. The Friday off was just like a Saturday. There was never an issue of having a light staff on the Friday worked.
 
Yes, folks in the DOE complex still enjoy the 9/80 schedule. Bechtel Nevada being one and the DOE local area office being another.
 
It would be good policy to reinstitute a FLEX schedule back into LANL. Doesn't have to be 9-80's. A flexible schedule would help those who need an extra day off here and there to deal with doctors appointments, family issues or whatever.

p.s. TA-55 personnel work 4-10's and get every Friday off.
 
Let me clarify the 4-10 schedules at 55. The group and Division offices still have to be staffed Monday-Friday 8-5; however, most personnel who work in the plant utilize the flex-time option.
 
The 9/80 work week was also used at Sandia last I heard. I, personally, never used it because it was just to complicated to figure out which schedule to be on and what would happen on holidays etc.

That said, the abusers I observed, also abused the 5/40 before and after the 9/80. Management simply refused to deal with them. I might add that that manager did nothing to make sure there was coverage on each Friday.

This guy collected his big pay check, attended endless meetings, bragged about all his connections and engaged in numerous turf wars. The work did not get done because he assigned the plum jobs to the non-workers. Clearly, he was quite fond of them.
 
The 9/80 work week was also used at Sandia last I heard. I, personally, never used it because it was just to complicated to figure out which schedule to be on and what would happen on holidays etc.

That said, the abusers I observed, also abused the 5/40 before and after the 9/80. Management simply refused to deal with them. I might add that that manager did nothing to make sure there was coverage on each Friday.

This guy collected his big pay check, attended endless meetings, bragged about all his connections and engaged in numerous turf wars. The work did not get done because he assigned the plum jobs to the non-workers. Clearly, he was quite fond of them. It is hard to imagine why.
 
I agree that there are far more serious problems than the 9/80 but I think employees see it as a symptom of a larger problem -- scapegoating. There was no connection between the 9/80 and the security incident, but management, apparently right up to Foley, decided to punish all employees for the trouble others had gotten the lab into.
And frankly, it is related to Todd Kauppila's case, because Todd, was the victim of scapegoating for a truly broken security system which he did not have the authority to fix.
Scapegoating is the sign of a very sick institution. It isn't just the 9/80 it is the insanity of management people are upset about. Employees consider what is happening to them to be completely unrelated to their actions and frankly, they are right.
 
God bless the whiners. Without them we would probably never have any improvements at all.
And God bless the families who would like to have a childcare facility for their children. Every other DOE facility has one, what is Los Alamos, the leper colony?
This is one more example of LANL's raging anti-family policies.
 
Kudos to 5/19/05 9:48 who had the gumption to say the 9/80 plan was a waste of taxpayer money and often abused. I chose to stick with the standard five-day, 40 hours per week option. So, I was around Monday through Friday every week. Based upon my observations each week and knowing the habits of many co-workers, I concluded that quite a few people abused the 9/80 plan and fudged their timesheets. Staffing on most Fridays was often inadequate, leading to some occasional productivity problems and poor response to inquiries and requests from LANL sponsors. 5/19/05 10:10 said it best: "Get Over It!"
 
I've worked 6/72s, 4/40s, 9/80s, and 5/40s in my career. The ten hour days of the 4/40 were too long and you spent every Friday trying to catch up with home and family chores.

The 9/80 is a reasonable compromise and works well (and did work well until Nanos decided to punish the staff). Each year I would look at the calendar and declare myself a "B", as it seemed to provide the most long four day weekends when wrapped with a holiday Monday following. I was given the choice, and I chose the B schedule to maximize my long weekends.

I would say that productivity today, under the 5/40 schedule is MUCH LOWER than it was under the 9/80 schedule because of morale issues.

There are many employees who deeply resent Nano's punishment of us all by killing the 9/80 and are waging an underground warfare of low productivity. My guess is that a more enlightened management will improve things, and one of the best messages they can send that the era of Admiral Butt-Boy is over is to reinstate the 9/80 as an option. If you prefer the 5/40, fine, stay on it - but leave the rest of us the option.
 
As a manager, I support the return to a 9/80 schedule. I did manage my organization and balanced the off days. The result was better coverage on Monday - Thursday with a great day to get caught up on "thinking" tasks on Fridays. The "Meet-Less" Friday idea is WONDERFUL. We have way too many meetings already sapping productive time out of our schedules. One less day a week for meetings would represent a quantum increase in my personal productivity -- and morale.
 
I never much cared for the 9/80 because I could never seem to get done what I needed to get done with a 4 day work week. Even though I was on the 9/80 schedule, I came in every Friday anyway. The bad thing about it was that it was hard to get support help on Fridays. If you had something with a short deadline, you were screwed. I could live with it if we went back to it and I can understand how some people really liked it, but I'm not excited about having it.
 
5/19/2005 10:50:32 PM said:
"To correct a couple of misconceptions:
9/80 was started by Browne as a morale booster, during the year that we were
hit by everything at once (Wen Ho, missing disks, Cerro Grande Fire)."

9/80 had nothing to do with those events, since it preceded them. The actual history is as follows: the 9/80 policy was opened for discussion in June 1999 (see http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/pa/News/062599.html), during the period that collective bargaining was under active discussion. It was announced that it would be implemented in Oct 1999 (see http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/pa/News/102599.html), and it was implemented starting on 24 Jan 2000 (see http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/pa/News/011200.html). The Cerro Grande fire wasn't until May 2000, followed by the missing disks incident. The early discussions of the 9/80 policy also long preceded the breaking of the Wen Ho Lee case in the New York Times in Mar 1999. (The ultimate policy was coincidentally implemented during the early part of Lee's solitary confinement from Dec 1999 - Sept 2000, but its effect on his morale at the time is not known.)

The arguments given for 9/80 in this thread primarily involve individual convenience, but miss the point that 9/80 was bad for the institution. LANL become unreliable as a partner, since it was clear to people on the exterior that the lab was essentially shut down on Fridays. There was much frustration in the interior over the dysfunctionality of various lab organizations on Fridays, unpredictable availability of resources, lost productivity, and annoyance over the deteriorated work ethic. One of its many problems was its implementation as an "opt-out" rather than an "opt-in" policy. Perhaps it had no effect on productivity in some areas of the lab, but the institution as a whole is clearly far better off without 9/80.

The other argument given is that the revocation of 9/80 by Nanos was a punitive measure and should therefore be rescinded. This, too, is irrelevant. 9/80 was a bad policy that should never have been implemented in the first place. The institution should regard itself as fortunate that some future positive might have resulted from Nanos' disastrous time as director, whether or not it was his intent.

A final argument given for 9/80 is that it resulted in greater productivity for those who did work Fridays, due to fewer distractions. Organizations for which this is the case should feel encouraged to declare Friday a permanent "meeting-free workday".

Pressing the case for restoration of 9/80 at this time only sends the message that isolated individual benefits at LANL outweigh the collective needs of the institution.
 
The below quote from Paul Robinson regarding the 9/80 is from the thread 'Chaos' predicted for new lab team MIT expert sees rocky transition no matter who runs Los Alamos
By Sue Vorenberg
May 20, 2005

"The 9/80 is firmly entrenched at Sandia, and the people love it," Robinson said. "I believe Sandia is actually more productive because of it.

"One of the biggest benefits we had with that at Sandia is what we called meet-less Fridays. We decided to avoid meetings on Fridays because half the staff was off. People got so much more work done on Fridays - the results were pretty amazing."

Either Foley or Robinson is lying about the 9/80 and productivity, and I doubt that it is Robinson. Either way, the positive effect of the 9/80 on employee morale and recruitment is irrefutable.
 
To 5/20/2005 09:57:27 PM you said "Pressing the case for restoration of 9/80 at this time only sends the message that isolated individual benefits at LANL outweigh the collective needs of the institution."
Your statement precisely contains the argument for why the 9/80 is needed at LANL; "...isolated individual...". Our isolation is exactly why a 9/80 is warranted. LANL employees do not have the business selection and hours typical of most US populations. This isolation is exacerbated by the extremely poor health coverage of UHC. More and more providers are detaching from UHC making it even more difficult to obtain adequate medical treatment from specialists. A 9/80 at least affords a little flexibility towards normalcy for an isolated community with very limited options for shopping and services. Also, I know of many, many exempt employees who worked the 9-12 hours on the regular work days but also voluntarily (and frequently) worked on their off-Friday...I know I did. Our nations tax-payers were actually getting more productivity. Were there abuses in a workforce of thousands; of course. But abuses are tied to lack of individual integrity and lack of adequate oversight in specific instances, not rampant and pervasive conduct. I, too, am starting to like what I am hearing from Paul Robinson.
 
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