The Truth About Why I'm Working on a Weekend

It's 9:30 AM on a Saturday morning.

I'm sipping a cup of coffee — thank you, Alan! My funny pup is snuggled up close by. I've got a MacBook Air in my lap and my spacephone at arm's length. And, I'm working on work.

facepalm

It started out innocently enough.

I opened my personal Gmail to inbox zero it out.

I putzed around on Twitter, and read (okay, mostly skimmed) this epic product marketing blog post by Oli Gardner.

Then the muscle memory kicked in.

I passively poked around at the Searchies for a few FullStory segments.

I checked some outgoing email stats in Mandrill.

That triggered my memory about a support case that I'd been keeping an eye on… I wonder if that customer ever got that login issue completely resolved?

And, before I knew it, I was spinning up a Google Sheet and updating the tracking parameters in email template links.

When I got done updating all those tracking params, I remembered that I had an open Clubhouse card, so I went ahead and pinned the Google Sheet to the card, reflexively tagging my teammate.

oh fudge

'Cause, here's the thing about working on the weekends or unreasonably outside of business hours:

It's okay to work weird hours as long as you don't drag anyone else online with you.

When we send active communications to colleagues (like tagging them with a notification or emailing them directly) outside of agreed-upon operating hours, we send signals that we value our own conveniences above the personal lives of others.

When I email you on a Sunday night — because it's a convenient time for me and I don't want to forget about something — I put the burden on you to actively choose to ignore my email, should you want to enjoy your time uninterrupted.

If you're in a position of authority over me, it might be easy for you to choose to ignore my message. Notifications = turned off. You'll get to it when you can. Simple as that.

But, for people who are "on call" for emergencies, working on projects with peers, or reporting directly to authorities, the decision to choose to ignore alerts in favor of uninterrupted personal time can cause conflict and anxiety. You have to watch and decide — can this wait until Monday morning? Even the answer is decidely 'Yes,' you might feel like that seen but oustanding question or task is looming over you until you can respond. This looming phenomenon can lower the quality of your time, even if you're choosing not to work.

And, don't even get me started on the toxic nonsense that can happen when employees with competitive goals (think: a team of sales development reps competing for most activities or a team of support agents competing for most tickets closed) start seeing one or more colleages online at all hours.

Or, the toxic nonsense that happens when a leader of a team or project starts strictly requiring that direct reports "get offline, go home" while they visibly churn away at their own work. (I've definitely been guilty of this in the past. Ugh. So sorry. Mucho regrets.)

The optics of working outside of agreed-upon hours are complicated!

Even if we're doing it for our own personal reasons and clearly not expecting it from our peers or reports, being seen working weird hours can set an unintended, subliminal expectation that everyone should be plugged in all the time. And, that kind of work-life fluidity isn't comfortable for everyone.

When I'm working outside of normal business hours, the truth is that one of two things has happened:

  1. I managed my time poorly and I'm trying to catch up, or
  2. I feel energized and I'm in a flow where it's enjoyable and convenient for me to work in that moment

Either way, it's up to me to manage my work and try to minimize the impact of my choice on others.

Here are a two basic tips to help:

  • Had an epiphany in the shower or during yoga and you just have to get it out of your head before you forget? Create a calendar event as a reminder to follow up or complete the task during work-week hours.
  • Gotta crank through your email inbox? Use 'Send Later' from Boomergang for Gmail to write your emails at a time that works for you but send them later at a scheduled time when they'll be less interruptive for your recipients.

boomerang

Now, if only we had 'Send later' for all the @'s on Slack, Chatter, and project management tickets, right?!

Until then, I'm going to be over here making mistakes and practicing with the hopes that over time my actions will match my intention for the respect of other people and their time.

And, if I've accidentally tagged you on a ticket at 10:00 PM on a Tuesday night, I'm so sorry. You hereby have permission to call me on my BS.