Tuesday, August 5, 2008

4x10 vs. 5x8

Within the last month, my schedule changed from a five-day to a four-day work week. I still get my 40 hours, but I get it in four 10-hour chunks, split between Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. It's been an interesting experience. It has pros and cons. Overall, though, I like it.

PRO: The biggest thing in favor of my four-day week is having Wednesdays off. I love it. Even apart from all the stuff I can (theoretically) get done with a whole weekday, every week, for personal time, I love the prospect of not having to do anything. That break in the middle of the week has an awesome effect on the other four days. Suddenly Tuesday is like a little Friday. Every work-day is either the first day back, fresh and rested, or the last day before a one- or two-day "weekend." No longer do I have those moments (typically around Thursday morning, after staying up too late on Wednesday night) when I wonder whether any amount of caffeine can get me through the rest of the week. And my cats hardly know what to do with me hanging around all day on Wednesday.

CON: On the other hand, it's a good thing I have all day Wednesday to do personal stuff, because I don't have any time to do it the other weekdays. What with the commute and all, I go to work before anything opens and get home after 9-5 businesses close. I do live near a post office that's open until 7 p.m., which has become increasingly important now that I no longer drive by the closed-by-four branch at 2:45 every day. More and more of my work days have ended with a feeling of being on a "mission" to fight through all the traffic and get home in time for a last-minute post office run. All my other errands have to wait "until next Wednesday," which can sometimes be a bummer.

PRO: I'm saving 20% of the fuel I would ordinarly burn driving to and from work each week - which, at an hour each way, is a significant amount. The soaring cost of gas was, in fact, the "trigger" for this new arrangement. I may be imagining it, but I think I can already feel some economic relief. Basically I'm down to two fill-'er-ups per week, rather than five per fortnight. Plus I get two hours, net, of my life back every week: two hours snatched from under the windshield and redeemed for a better use.

CON: By the end of a ten-hour work day I am often so famished (even after my regular noon lunch break) that I can't wait to get home for dinner. Instead, I stop way too often at one of the diabolical number of restaurants between work and home, where the amount of money I spend more than offsets the gas savings. When I said I "feel" some economic relief, perhaps I should have said "taste" instead. The effects on my weight and general health have not been good. Until this new work schedule started, I had been doing very well, eating meals at home, economizing on groceries, balancing my diet, losing a little weight (I think). Plus, I got more exercise, since I had more time to blow between getting home and going to bed - and more daylight in which to take a walk up and down the park.

PRO: My old work schedule put me at a disadvantage when it came to coordinating my work with people outside the office. 6:30 to 2:30 was a nice shift, enabling me to get home early enough to do banking, posting, wrangling with government offices, etc., and providing a couple of quiet hours in the morning undisturbed by constantly-ringing phones. On the other hand, it also meant that when I needed to deal with somebody by phone, I had to wait until 2-3 hours into my shift before dialing; and if they needed to reach me, they needed to do it by quite early in the afternoon. The situation was made worse by many 8-5 workers taking an hour off for lunch, reducing our "window of opportunity" for reaching each other to about five hours a day, give or take an hour or two for a difference in time zone. The results were a lot of protracted games of "voicemail tag" and unreturned messages. Now that I'm still going at 4:30, I miss fewer return calls, and work involving parties at remote locations flows more smoothly.

CON: If they call for me on Wednesday, they're S.O.L.

PRO: The outfit where I work has another office minutes away from where I live. (Don't look at me like that. I was working there when I moved here.) In the old, 6:30-2:30 days, I frequently had to make detours on my way home to drop things off or pick things up at the city office. I didn't mind doing this once or twice a week, but some weeks I had to go there four or five times, and that got really old. No one believes me when I whined that the traffic is so bad (it involves a "street-not-thru" sign, a congested freeway exit, and a nearly-impossible-to-make left turn that can only be replaced by six right turns and a good half-mile's detour) that stopping at the office in the afternoon can add a half-hour to my homeward route. OK, maybe some of that 30 minutes comes from gabbing with the folks at the office. But even so, my new schedule gives me the perfect excuse to limit visits to the city office to once a week: they close before I could get there.

CON: On the other hand, this means I have work errands to do on my day off. Oh, well. It gives me a reason to shave and put my shirt on before 5:00 p.m., which is good, because I have a weekly church service at 6:45. Sometimes, though, the constraint against getting back to town before 6-ish becomes a hardship. There have already been times when it was hard to "wait till next Wednesday." And the traffic gets worse every minute past my previous quitting time. I seem to spend more time every week parked on and around I-270 between I-64 and I-44. And once, when I was let out "early" at 2:45 to make some high-priority errands in the city, I discovered that it can actually take two (2) hours to make the trip. It was 4:40 by the time I made it to a place that was closing at 5:00. Admittedly, an accident near the Daniel Boone Bridge had something to do with the delay; but that wasn't the only traffic slow-down I dealt with. I reckon that if I had left work at 2:30, I could have gotten downtown by 4!

Do the PRO's balance the CON's? More than, in my opinion. I have begun planning to do things on Wednesdays that I never would have considered attempting, piecemeal, in 2-hour installments on weekdays after work. I have milked some dining-out pleasure out of my savings in gas mileage. And I now have not one, but two days a week to make up my sleep deficit from being too wired by caffeine to get to sleep by a sane hour (like 9 p.m.). The caffeine thing isn't the fault of 4-10 - though the temptation to use it extends farther into the afternoon than it used to. I can work 4 days a week on 5 hours of sleep each night, provided that I get a good lie-on on Wednesday and Saturday.

So all in all, the four-day work week works for me. What about the cons? Well, it's called a "work"-week for a reason.

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