For a period in graduate school, I would work from 8 until 7, generally without lunch, in something I thought was approximating a 12 hour day. I don’t know what it is about working that much, but it’s exhausting and soul draining and not fun. The people around me, who didn’t work that much, were generally in more pleasant moods, which was probably what kept me from going E.J- Corey-student on my ass.
At some point in my PhD I revolted, mostly against myself, but it was also against the precept that someone who works 12 hours is 33% more productive than someone who works 8. No scientific studies have suggested that longer hours help and many of them show a deterioration in both quantity and quality of work being preformed. My boss at the time worked regular family-hours of 9-6, so that’s what I started working and not only was the quality of my work better, but I was spending less time doing it.
In other words, as I laid off on the hours, my focus became more clear. I started to take walks on my beautiful campus during the day to think about my chemistry and my future. I had, at that point, cut the string with my adviser and was doing my own thing, more or less. I was also competently managing my own group of undergraduates who were, finally, performing like chemists. I had one summer in which 5 papers worth of data were mined from this technique – the fruits of one still going through the CommuNazi European Journal of Chemistry review process. I also worked closely with a younger graduate student in a very fruitful effort.
I don’t really know what I would do if I had a research group of my own. I’d venture to guess that I wouldn’t restrict student hours but I’d be very sensitive about my students’ happiness in lab. Unhappy but exceptional people will still produce the results you need (maybe not the results you expect) but who has a group filled with exceptional people? Now having been a part of multiple research groups from a range of (granted, high quality) departments, I can say that most people have groups comprised of at least one retard that requires a baby leash to keep them from destroying the lab. The admission process is a funny indicator of who will be successful (but that’s a whole different post).
I know some advisers would cringe at that idea, some demanding a minimum of 10 hours per day plus weekends (and I came in either a Saturday or a Sunday the whole time I was there) but… why? There’s no data to support that working those hours will be productive. There’s plenty to show that they go bug nuts fucking crazy and burn out and quit.