Today everyone in my department was asked to submit their official working hours. Until now, I’ve been blessed with a work environment where nobody really cares when you come and go, as long as you do your eight hours. We’re all adults, here, after all. For instance, I started working here when I was six months pregnant, and my back was killing me by mid-afternoon every day. So I came in around 7 so that I could leave by 3:30 to go home and lie down before my backache really kicked in. Now I’m no morning person, but I figured that until I can find a job where I report once I’m good and ready and not when corporate America says I should be ready, I’m going to be tired during the week regardless of when I start my workday, so I might as well suck it up, be tired earlier, and get to work early so I can leave early. Plus, being six months pregnant, on the 7-3:30 schedule, I could take my lunch early and go for a walk before it hit 100 million degrees out there.
Now that I have baby, though, that 7-3:30 schedule is out of the question (as is getting anywhere on time ever again). I feed her on demand, meaning that I let her sleep when she’s tired and eat when she’s hungry. I don’t wake her to make her adjust to my schedule – I think that sucks for adults, so I’m certainly not going to do it to a two month old. Some mornings she wakes around 5. Others, not until 7. Not only is it unrealistic for me to get here at 7:00, it’s also impossible for me to predict how any given morning will go as far as her waking & eating, not to mention the impossibility of predicting how much little sleep I’ll get on any given night. As a result, I’ve been really enjoying the ability to show up when I can, work my 8 hours, and go home. I mean, c’mon people. It’s not like I’m showing up at the crack of 9 because I’ve been on a bender and I’m hung over. Usually, anyway.
I still attempt to get here as soon as possible in the mornings so I can hang out with my girl, but it just doesn’t always work out. The earliest I’ve been able to get here since I came back to work is 8:00. So I decided to bite the bullet and “commit” (nominally, anyway) to an 8-4:30 schedule. This is going to suck. I’ve always resented needing to conform to a fixed corporate schedule. That mean that I arrive at work inevitably under-rested and cranky, with a brain that’s not yet firing on all cylinders, spending hours staring at my work instead of doing work until I can get my brain and body up to the task at hand. More importantly, though, it also negates the fact that alot of the “work” that I do is thinking. Mulling over how better to communicate some idea. Or problem-solving how to do something really cool on a budget tighter than your 1983 Wranglers. And that stuff doesn’t happen just on company time, nor on some set schedule. Like most of the other creative types I know, work happens when your mind and body are rested and rejuvenated caffeinated. The best work environment I’ve ever had was one where I could write when I was inspired to write and on my own schedule. As long as the task gets done, who the hell cares if it happens between 8 and 5? Would the world end if I finish some project at 3 a.m. and sleep til 10? Creative workers need the mindspace to contemplate, think, and take time away from a task so that they can come back to it once inspiration strikes. Yet employers try to enforce this whole 8-5 Monday-Friday cookie-cutter thing regardless of whether you’re on a factory line or writing.
For those of you who think that the notion of letting workers set their own schedules doesn’t work, see for yourself: Jason Fried’s TED talk says it way better than I can.