Is The “Endless Workday” Really That Bad?
3:00 pm, July 5th | by Grace Rasmus
O, the never-ending workday! Workers may be leaving the office at 5, but they’re still plugged in way past normal business hours, checking emails, answering calls, etc. It is something almost everyone does, but it’s been hailed as a bad thing. (Some even go so far to say it is ruining everything for everyone.)
Certain types of jobs, however, don’t lend themselves to this kind of behavior. If you’re a bartender, for example, there’s no real way to take your work home with you. Once you leave your place of work, you’re done. Other working situations are quite the opposite and require most — if not all of your work — to be done from home.
I happen to have worked in all three situations: one where all the work was done on-site, one where most of my work was done from home, and one with a combination of the two. Each situation had its advantages and disadvantages.
My completely on-site job was on a marketing team for an iPhone app. Yes, I was one of those annoying people trying to hand you flyers on the street. (It was much more fun than it sounds, though, and everyone should be nicer to those people.) There was no real way for me to take this job home — if my shift was from 11am-2pm, there was no way I could take care of some of it before work to lighten my load that day. But that also meant that once I was done with my shift, I was totally done, and the rest of the day was mine to do whatever I pleased.
I’ve also had a job in which 99% of my work was done at home. I was simultaneously taking classes, so this seemed like a great setup because at-home work gave me the flexibility I needed to be both an employee and a student. This seemed to me like the college student’s equivalent of “having it all” – balancing school, work, and a social life. However, this setup wasn’t all that (people still say that, right?): too much flexibility can be a bad thing for someone with poor time management skills like myself, so I would often find myself in a situation in which I had to choose between preparing for a lecture and doing a task for work. My work assignments would usually win out since my boss was holding me directly accountable (and paying me), unlike my professors. This sacrifice of academics made me realize that I needed more structure in my workday. I often wished that my job was in a more “traditional” office setting so I would know exactly when I was supposed to be doing work and when I wasn’t.
My third job, a summer internship, was a combination of in-office work and at-home work. I was expected to complete certain tasks throughout the week, but only showed up at the office for a few hours, three days a week. The amount of work given to me was more than what could be accomplished during my office time alone, so I took about half of my work home with me each week.
Although it was only part-time, I feel like this last setup is the closest I’ve been to the never-ending workday and, as it turns out, I actually liked this situation the best out of the three. If I wanted to leave the office early one day, I could plan ahead and do lots of work the night before. If I wanted to free up my evenings, I could do an extra push at the office to take care of most of my tasks there. I could do the harder tasks in the office so I could focus more and the lighter tasks could be done at home, in my bed. It gave me the flexibility to choose when to do tasks, but not too much flexibility that I could abuse it.
Keep in mind that I’ve only had these experiences in relatively low-stress jobs with no real familial obligations to attend to at home. But, from my experience, the never-ending workday doesn’t seem all that bad. I think it can be better than the alternatives when worked correctly. Case in point: I wrote most of this article during my commute to work so I could have one fewer thing to take care of at the office today; I’m grateful that technology has given me this option.