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Turning Off

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The nice thing about being a workshifter is you only have to work half days–the question is,lightswitch.jpg which 12 hours.

It’s odd that so many employers worry about their remote employees goofing off, instead of just focusing on results, when, in fact, everyone I talk to has opposite problem–overworking and turning it off at the end of the day.

I read an interesting study on Saturday–yeah, Saturday, the day most people are out having fun. The study, conducted by WorldatWork and The Future of Work, was about how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes it hard for managers to allow hourly wage employees to workshift. Introduced in 1939, the FSLA was enacted in an effort to, among other things, keep employers from underpaying and overworking employees. In the context of workshifting, the problem is that the Act requires managers to monitor their hourly worker’s schedules. Did they take their break at 10 a.m.? Did they work overtime? What about those “after hours” Crackberry messages, emails, etc. They all count toward the workday.

So as I sat here on Sunday, yeah, Sunday–the day of rest, thinking about what to write for this blog, I wondered who’s watching out for me. Certainly not my boss. She’s the kind of slave driver that inspired the FLSA to begin with. She has me working 10 hour days. “Just finish one more email” she whispers to me at 8 p.m. And I don’t remember any time-and-a-half in my paycheck. Heck, I don’t even remember a paycheck.

I’ve interviewed dozens of workshifters with a similar stories. One guy told me it got so bad that he finally resorted to leaving his home office, driving around the block, and returning home to mark the end of his day.  

Any thoughts out there for how you turn it off?

Photo by: Dhaval Shah

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  • zgrossbart.myopenid.com

    I have trouble turning off because my computer isn’t just where I work. I use it to stay in touch with friends and family, keep informed about world events, and watch the Simpsons after a long work day. In order to disconnect I’ve built a virtual wall between my work life and personal life. I keep separate email addresses and instant message accounts. I watch two different sets of blogs. I’ve also considered keeping a separate phone line. That way I can turn off my work life without turning off my life.

  • chicagoan.myopenid.com

    When I workshifted every day (’97-’02) I used to have to use a similar trick to get started each morning – the switchover betweeen “goofing around and personal stuff” and “working.” I would go out for a twenty minute drive around my town, collect my thoughts, maybe pick up breakfast if I hadn’t felt like making any. Then I would come back and ‘start work.’

  • listerkate

    I like virtual wall concept, but my problem is that if I’m sitting in front of the computer on a day off, just like I do on all the other days, it still feels like I’m at work. I have tons of photos I’d like to work on for fun, for example, but I know if I do, I’ll either a) get sucked into some kind of work; or b) get up at the end of the day and feel like it’s been just another work day.
    Sometimes I take the portable and work somewhere else–even just the living room, but I’m a dual 24″ screen snob so that never lasts very long.
    Keep those cards and letters coming. I love hearing your ideas.

  • http://www.amandaalexander.com Amanda Alexander

    Great post, Kate – made me chuckle! Two thoughts to add…
    The first thought – As workshifters and entrepeneurs, there will ALWAYS be “just one more thing” that we could do. The work will never be done. Obvious, but sometimes if we just recognise that fact, it can help us to to define a boundary, an end to the 12 hour+ working day whose edges seep, seep seep into the other 12 hours.
    The second is this – decide at some point in your working day, “I’m done for the day”. Simple, but so effective.
    It really works for me (sometimes!)