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Wellbeing / Work life balance

Flexible working hours: Do work days ever end?

I was stupid. I made a promise to my partner that I would finish work by five o’clock. Every day. Gone were my flexible working hours.

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What kind of soloist commits to finishing work at one designated time? Surely, the whole point of becoming a soloist is to luxuriate in those flexible working hours? Do a bit of work at eleven at night. Have a dabble at two in the morning.

But no, I agreed that the plug would be pulled at 5 o’clock. Sharp.

My partner had good reasons for arm-wrestling me into this crazy pledge.

I was often found tapping away at my computer until dinner. Sometimes after dinner. Sometimes before, after and during dinner. I have to admit, chilli sauce splatters were accumulating on my keyboard.

But the main problem was that by bedtime I was completely wired. I would stare at the ceiling with eyes like dinner plates, my mind still buzzing with ideas, problems, solutions… then back to ideas again.

I began dreaming of angry monsters (unhappy clients) more often than smiling marshmallow angels (satisfied clients). Not a good sign.

Meanwhile, Jeff lay asleep next to me, breathing in and out with the metered deliberation of a seasoned scuba diver. That is, until my restless mumblings woke him up.

"I have clear, energised times. I also have foggy, soporific times. When the clarity is going to occur is anyone’s guess."

So, I complied with his 5 pm rule, for both our sakes.

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But there was a problem. I have clear, energised times. I also have foggy, soporific times. When the clarity is going to occur is anyone’s guess. Some days I work well in the mornings but not in the afternoons, or visa versa. Evenings are just as sporadic.

The last few days, my burst of clarity has been kicking in around 5.30 pm. Hardly ideal when I knock off at 5 o’clock! I suspect my rebellious biorhythms noticed the enforced finishing time and decided to challenge it with both barrels.

An urgent time management meeting was called. I whipped up an inspired PowerPoint presentation illustrating the seesaw between my ‘foggy brain’ and ‘creative brain’. A shocking graph brought the message home to Jeff: enforced work hours hamper my productivity.

After nodding with considered acceptance, Jeff has agreed to release me from my promise. But only on the condition that I develop (and religiously practice) a ritual that signals to my mind and body that the workday is over, and it’s time to rest and regenerate.

So far I’ve experimented with yoga, meditation, taking a bath, and watching The Footy Show (always guaranteed to lull me into sleep).

The result? Last night I actually fell asleep before Jeff, and I didn’t dream about monsters either. And today? More clarity… and at more convenient times too.

Does the flexible working hours dilemma sound familiar to you? If you’ve got any more ideas to help me switch off, I’d love to hear them!

Megan Hills

is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys helping others be engaging and understood. Through her marketing, publicity and graphic design nous, she can maximise the power of what you want to communicate to the people you want to reach.

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