Thursday, May 1, 2008

How many hours in a workday?

I'm back in Minneapolis for a few days, with sunny skies and warm breezes bringing the trees into first bud.  'up early, I've got some quiet time to read and write.  In the corner of the room, the morning news is showcasing Istanbul and grilling Barak Obama.  Closer to home, I am thinking about time with a friend, last night, who is spending a long weekend opening his cabin, repairing the dock, putting his boat in the water.  Fishermen always know, so it must be spring.

I like working in the uncluttered quiet of the morning.  I feel more creative and can draw together thoughts across more general ideas. It's a time for sipping coffee and watching the streets wake up, morning light and listening to the early birds.  There's usually a couple of hours available for reading, writing, and reflecting before heading in to work at 8:30.

By afternoon, I'm more convergent, bearing down on writing and data analysis, focused and able to close things out.  I deliberately leave by 5:30 to force an exercise break and some food shopping, avoiding entanglement in US conference calls, and my evening beyond 8 becomes my quieter time again.

In contrast, here in the US, where core work hours are nine to four, serious people are expected to be in by 7:30 and stay past 6.  Today, for example, meetings are scheduled at 8, and activities stretch through seminars and lab work to a dinner meeting at 7.  I don't think this is unusual among US companies, but it isn't productive either.  Flow doesn't sustain over that period, and everyone's energy flags by late afternoon.

But, even as I write that, I fondly remember the "four-ten" work week that I had when I first moved to Seattle.  The company hours were 7:30 to 6, Monday through Thursday, with a three day weekend.  I loved it: there was time to finish larger projects during the days, and time to enjoy the weekends more fully.

No, any "twenty four / seven" Blackberry lifestyle would be completely unacceptable.  I refuse to carry a PDA, and don't feel any compulsion to log into the corporate system to answer business e-mails on the weekend.

It seems like one consequence of moving work out of the office will be a focus on results achieved rather than hours present.  Patterns of workday hours may change as well.  Artists and writers fit their workday to their creative periods and projects; consultants and some technical and scientific workers can do the same.  A similar, more flexible fit is certainly something that I'll want to try to achieve in the future.


Textual Healer said...

Someone's diddling you Dave- it's two days of public holiday here! With Liberation day on a Monady and just a Friday in between many people are stretching it out to a five day weekend.

Dave Hampton said...

Drat...everyone in the office assured me that there wouldn't be anyone in all week. The physican with me says that with the addition of the Queen's birthday at midweek, it's simply not a workweek for him or most of the others (but he left town with me anyway...I should have been suspicious)

Dave Hampton said...

I bounced the question of whether this was a holiday week off the Dutch physician I'm traveling with: he still says that this is a legitimate "holiday week", not a vacation week. The schools are not in session this week or next, there are three holidays, and everyone takes the time off.
At least, he claims that nobody is taking vacation time in order to be away.