I’ve touched on the subject of working hours before but wanted to expand a bit. And yes, it’s not the usual technical fare but it does relate so bear with me.
I’ve never been chronologically conventional. While the rest of the world seems to be on this 7 AM to 5 PM sort of schedule, my body has always been locked into more of a 10 AM to 2 AM sort of thing. That doesn’t work well with, well, work. Not the typical American way of working anyway. But it does suit pathologically creative types, I’ve noticed.
The closest I’ve come to a conventional career that worked for me time-wise was a couple of years ago at Nokia. My last year there I supported global operations, which meant spanning many timezones. At first it was rough. I was in the traditional US workday cycle, and playing catch-up with China every morning. Which meant putting off North and South America. And Europe, which worked while I slept, was really left out.
After enough of this I was feeling pressured. Even trapped a bit. A job that should have been cool and even exciting was making me crazy.
I think the transition was gradual, but at some point I found myself getting up really early, making some coffee and looking into the European issues. Never a dull moment, especially in Russia where distribution centers actually waged cold war with their customers. And there were plenty of 3 AM strategy and user acceptance meetings amongst us superusers, coders and business analysts.
Once Europe was put to bed the Americas were next. Dealing with South American logistics was rarely boring. When you actually have Hijacking as a service defect, you know you’re in a very different world.
Most of the hot Americas items needed to be addressed in the morning, which left noon to early afternoon as a nice time for configuration work, process improvement, meetings with my boss when he wasn’t too busy traveling. Then afterwards, a nice break. I could run errands, eat supper early, putter around the yard.
Oh, that’s right– I forgot to mention I had transitioned to 3 if not more days per week working from home.
Around 8 PM, it was time to address the huge, busy Asian operations. So I’d log back in and spend a couple of hours on South Korea, India, Singapore, China… and that was my workday. My wife thought I was nuts, my boss took a while to accept it too, but the really weird thing is that this worked for me. Literally. I had finally found a job that fit itself to my odd biorhythms instead of the other way around.
Currently I’m back to a more conventional workweek, and rarely labor from home– with the exception of weekend change migration conference calls that start criminally early on Sunday mornings and can run over 9 hours easily. But it’s not the same. These weekend events are hard to fit into a recoverable rhythm.
The only thing in common is that my workweek is wrapped around my customers’ needs. I just have different customers now. But I guess I’m still partially stuck in a cycle that hasn’t been relevant for almost two years now. Knowing that though, means fixing it.
The needs of the neoconventional customer now are no longer bound to traditional definitions of thinks like workweeks and even reporting periods. We want to be more true to our own internal cycles than any imposed upon us by others. We are dynamic, flexible.
Employers for the most part still have yet to catch up to current reality. Their collective outlook, forced over past decades into shorter and shorter timeframes, now seems aimed backwards. That’s going to have to change.
Time can be a clamp, a vise of rigid plates that callously and relentlessly presses us into unnatural shapes. Squeezing the life and liveliness out of us. But it can also be this great big elastic bounce house for those who learn to manage it instead of being managed. It’s up to us to find the right opportunities. We have all the time in the world.