Krista's Coding Corner

17.06.2012

Offtopic: Office hours

There seems to be a huge downplay over office hours. And I really can’t understand why.

Okay, I have to say, that I happen to work for a really wonderful company that is really flexible. My only restrictions come from my clients and their needs. When I studied –and worked in the same time- I did the work when I had the time. If something needed to be no immediately, I was sending email from lectures or sneaking out the lecture room to make some calls. But most of the time it was ok that I worked on the evenings or when I had a day off from university. I met my clients when there were no lectures. It is normally really easy to suggest a time frame that works well with you and the client can then pick a time suitable for them.

So, I didn’t use office hours and it worked well. BUT I was working most of the “spare time” I had. This was of course my own choice. It was nice for a while but I know that if I had done that for many years, I would have gotten really tired. When you are young, and you know it is only temporarily, you can stretch into wondrous measurements without much of a struggle.

Now I have a sort of office hours as I work in my client’s premises and they need me to be there when everyone else is also present. For I have a pleasant customer, there is no strict rules and there is flexibility in the working hours. Still I come to the work place in pretty much the same time, ± 10 minutes. I feel that it is easy for me to know when to be at work and when I do get off. I know exactly when to switch into relaxation mode.

Slightly flexible office hours are great because if you oversleep or miss a bus or something –it is ok. No hassle over being a bit late. Also if you need to go and maybe get some personal chores done during regular office hours, it is ok to take a break. I think that is real flexibility.

But with flexibility and freedom there always comes responsibility. If something has to be dealt with, then it has to be dealt. If it means that I have to be at work at 7:00am, then so be it. Flexibility goes for both directions. And to make all of our work easier, we have this sometimes unsaid rule of real office hours: you should be able to get in touch with a person let’s say from 9-15. If everyone is doing their work when ever, can you really get in touch when it is critical?

Our culture now dictates that things can be dealt every day from about 9-15. If you are lucky, sooner also but at least you can be sure that at 9 tomorrow, you can be dealing with our issues. It is a huge relief and you don’t need to worry or wonder when you are able to get help from someone. Timetables make life easier and less stressful. When something is in the calendar, you know you don’t have to worry about it as it is being dealt with –not now but you know exactly when. And office hours are like invisible calendar entries. (And is it really necessary to make an appointment, especially if it takes only a few minutes of other person's time?).

Now, people might be saying that “of course you work when needed, you just work in smaller time frames all the time and do what you wish to do in the between”. Nice idea but is it really smart to be bound with your work all the time? Is it really possible that when you are having a swim in a swimming hall, you can answer your phone immediately when the call comes? I don’t think so.

I think it is really important that you don’t have to be on our toes all the time. That you can relax and not abruptly take a call. Think that you are reading a bedtime story to your child and phone rings. Are you really saying to your child that sorry, I have to deal with this? One time it might be okay, but not all the time. It isn’t fair for the child.

I hardly think that there are such people that can immediately switch from work mode to the relaxing mode. Most of the people aren’t that good at context switching. Normally you still go through your head over what happened and do you need to do something else.

If you don’t ever relax... I don’t think you can give a good contribution at work. Tired people aren’t innovative, enthusiastic or good at learning new. We have many studies over the learning thing at least. Work and spare time should be in balance. Then we also have balanced workers. And balanced workers are good workers that can benefit the company for many many years. If we just suck all the juices out of the person in couple of years, we either need to get new one to replace him or we will have less productive and advancing worker. Even though we do live in quarterly economics, if couple of quarters are good but then it gets bad, is that really anyone’s advantage?

This has (probably) nothing to with the topic but is the Nokia-case something we want? A company that is successful for a while and... well... then not. It doesn’t serve the stock holders or the employees. No one wins. Not even the competitors as collapse of one company creates a lot of hassle and unnecessary stress as they are also dealing with changing environment and new rules – they are now worrying with many other things than just their own work.

PS. In the long run it mostly makes the relaxation easier if there are specific places where you work. That is why doing work from home can be a bad thing. Or at least have a home office which door you can close and lock after you are finished. It makes the context switch easier and you are not wasting your free time with work related thoughts.

PPS. Are you living for work or working to live? And you do want to have something else also in your life than work? I don’t think that is too much to ask…

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