Working 9 am – 5 pm five days a week really makes me think about my schedule and what a stark contrast my current one is to my schedule during the school year. I have transformed from a typical college kid—staying up pretty late, whether its doing homework or other “extracurriculars,” and dreading waking up in the morning—to a veritable old woman, feeling semi comatose as 10:30 pm rolls around. But luckily some things never change, because I still dread waking up early; I wasn’t meant to function at 7 am. During the school year, we stop and start all day and most of the night too, listening in class for a couple hours or completing a problem set, and then we break for awhile, maybe take a nap, eat some typical college kid food, or go talk with suitemates (or ideally, all of the above) before going back to another hour or two of work. Though we don’t always like it, this kind of lifestyle affords us something that I am beginning to really value: making my own schedule.
I am a very routine-oriented person, but this 9-5 thing and me are not jiving. I may not like the initial shock of waking up at 7 am every morning, but once I’m up, I’m ready to get things accomplished, so I like going into work early in the morning. However, there are certain days where my attention span just isn’t there, and I know it. If it were the school year, I’d shut my book with a sigh and head to the gym to regroup. I can’t do that in an office. I am forced to stay at my desk and try my hardest to pay attention, though this usually turns into me shopping online (hey, at least I’m honest!). And every day by 3 pm, I have already mentally checked out.
It is just that time of day for me where I stop functioning at a high level, and I need to take a break. I’m sure after reading this, it sounds like I am barely ever productive, but I promise I am. When I’m on, I’m on. But when I’m not, I’m really not. If I could make my own hours, or rather, operate on a schedule that adheres more to productivity than it does to a fixed work day, I would get to work early, potentially go home for lunch (impossible with a one hour commute, unfortunately), perhaps work for another hour or two then head to the gym. I tend to be much more productive in the evening, so I would ideally pick back up around this time, and after a couple hours I would then finish out my evening with a chocolate turtle and good magazine.
But as I lay out my ideal schedule in my head, watching myself really maximize my time during the day without feeling guilty about wasting company time (like I am right now…), the sharp needle of reality pricks my little dream bubble: I am an intern, and this just isn’t how it works. And yet I don’t feel guilty, because I’ve seen others around the office do the same. I pass by cubicles on my way to the water cooler or to grab a handful of pretzels, and someone is looking at facebook, or shopping online. At first, this filled me with a sense of belonging. I’m not alone! But my second thought was, this is such a waste of time! If I’m not being productive, I would rather go be unproductive at home.
Companies like Google allow this kind of mentality. You are given a set of tasks that you are expected to complete by a certain time, and you do them, and you better do them well. The rest is yours to decide. You could bring your dog to the office, you could take a break at some point in the day to go to the gym; there is even in-house day care. While these may sound like hugely expensive perks, I would imagine that they really help maintain a high level of productivity. This general business model where employees utilize time as they see fit is called ROWE (Results Only Work Environment).
According to several studies, the average worker “wastes” anywhere from 16 hours to multiple days in a week. And because of that, we are forced to work longer hours. I am going to go ahead and say I wasn’t meant for that! I’m not sure anybody really is. Granted, I do know a few people who have said they enjoy an office job and working 9 – 5 (should I just assume they’re robots?), but the bulk of people who I talk to really hate it, even if they love their job.
This makes me want to do one of four things: become a writer and work at home, marry rich, find a place to work that uses the ROWE method or start my own business so that I can go to the gym at 3 pm simply because I want to.
Read the New York Times article that talks about this stuff too. It makes me wonder if perhaps the American working world is transitioning into a new era. Given that I just spent a good chunk of company time writing this, I certainly hope so!!