Odd work hours, a twilight saga in the making

TIME SENSE

Odd work hours, a twilight saga in the making

Given the 21st century style of working odd hours”, professionals need to replan their lifestyle, writes Reethika Azariah Kuruvilla.

One life, one world, but most certainly not one time zone. Globalization has undoubtedly made our world much smaller and introduced a concept that was alien to most industries other than hospitals, factories, and courier services – the 24-hour office. Work spaces remain occupied throughout the day with different people at the same computer on rotational shifts.

The 21st century careers around the globe demand the sort of dedication which means you almost like a doctor, on-call, practically every hour of the day.

Not everybody has the opportunity to work at a government office where work finishes at 5pm every day and you can start clearing your desk a whole half hour earlier. The Economist talks of companies like Unilever which allow employees to work from anywhere for flexible number of hours just so long as they get the job done (they apparently discourage travel too).

In most places, a complete working shift could range anywhere from 8 to 12 hours at any given time slot. Of course, there are those of us, whom society might politely label as “just homemakers” where the actual work day stretches the whole 24 hours that include running a home and sometimes working part-time too.

There are still a luckier few like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook since 2008, who has apparently left office at 5:30 pm every day since she started a family in 2005. Schumpeter, nearly a year ago, talked of a meeting with a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer who packed her work into fewer hours as opposed to male colleagues who took longer lunch breaks and stayed later hours, but ended up quitting because her firm felt she lacked commitment for not putting in enough ‘face time’.

While no industry seems exempt to the crazy work hour schedule, jobs are more extreme and exhausting the world over. Running your own business is not as clear-cut a job either. This means you are on-call everyday (even through weekends) and taking a call at 10 pm from a potential client might make all the difference to your annual turnover as well. Theresa Joseph says things are never as easy as they seem.
 As owner of a graphic design firm, staying on top of things with clients as well as home is a lot like ‘juggling too many things all together, especially with an infant in the family.’

Staying awake at odd hours and trying to keep a half-decent sleep cycle and social life is not as tough, however, as it may seem at first though. The trick is simple and the path to eternal survival of that work schedule is five-fold:

Streamline

Restructure your day around the approximate number of hours you spend at work. If you tend to work night shifts every fortnight, ensure that you rearrange your life to accommodate when you need to leave for office.  For instance, if your shift is 10 pm to 6 am, make sure you get to sleep as soon as you get home in the morning or two hours after a heavy brunch so that you wake up refreshed and ready for another night at work.

Socialise

Arrange to meet friends and other human beings on your days off from work. Working long hours and odd days doesn’t necessarily mean you join the Cullen family at Twilight and stop meeting people when you’re not at work.

Stay healthy

Take proper breaks at regular intervals and eat healthier meals. Avoid skipping meals as tempting as it may seem when you need to get more work done in shorter timeframes. Easier said than done, though quick energy boosts of chocolate and caffeine might ‘give you wings’, they could also leave you tired and stressed out at the end of the day. Better meals equal better energy levels and productivity, both at work and home. Joining a gym or yoga class after work hours certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

Start prioritising

Take regular breaks from work or at the very least enjoy your moments with family and friends when you do have the time. Life, at its very longest moments, is still too short to be spent on the phone when you’re building Lego castles with your toddler. Make every moment count – try and prioritize your life so that you can put your phone on ‘silent’ mode every evening when you get home. Force yourself not to spend unnecessary time on your laptop or on your smart phone (even if it is to check your fourth cousin’s status update on a social networking site. Spend quality time with people who truly matter to you. 

Suspire

Most importantly, don’t forget to breathe. In the middle of an unusually rushed day when you seem to be running from the moment you woke up, take a moment off for that single deep breath to pause your spinning world. You don’t really need to visit an oxygen bar to figure out that a good breath of fresh air not only increases your concentration power and memory but gets you more alert as well. Take a break from sitting at your desk to get a breath of fresh air every time you feel like there’s too much to be done and so little time.

What makes a difference, however, is not the number of hours your employers ask you to spend at work, but the number of hours you choose to put in yourself. Outsourcing has worked wonders all over the globe; avoid doing everything yourself and start delegating, whether a cup of tea that your spouse can make or a quick report that a member of your team at work can generate instead of you. Ultimately, it is the quality of time spent that sets you apart from the rest, rather than the quantity.

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