Time, Tickets and Video Games

It’s 9:07pm on a Tuesday night. I’m sat on the sofa in my living room. My wife’s gone to bed to read. It’s now my time for the TV. 💪

I fire up the Xbox. Shove my copy of Fallout 76—don’t @ me—into the disc drive like the old school badass that I am, and wait patiently for the 65GB update to download and install.

I wait and wait. Staring intently at the progress bar.

1% complete

Ah shit! This is gonna take a while.

As I pull out my laptop and fire up Ulysses to draft this here story, I’m reminded of a question a candidate asked in one of our Slack chats recently.

So what are your hours like?

It took me by surprise at the time.

It wasn’t shocking per se. But it certainly stopped me in my tracks. It made me think about my approach to work/life balance.

Truth be told, I didn’t really know how to answer it. And as the download bar sat at 2% I think again.

Shit! What are my hours like?!

My initial response to the question was something quite uninspiring. If it had been misunderstood, it could have seemed excessive or even a little bit worrying for a prospective hire.

pretty much 8am-10pm (or 11pm)

14 hours does seem like a lot.

It’s a pretty accurate reflection of when I open my laptop in the morning, and when I put it down for the last time at the end of the day.

Though I’m in no way expected to clock in 14 hours. And realistically, there’s no chance that I do.

You see, I’m not “working” the whole time.

I take breaks to eat, or watch TV. An hour to take the dog for a walk in the afternoon. Random coffee breaks as and when I feel the need. I spend time with my wife. Or sat waiting for stupidly fucking large game updates to download and install.

3% complete. FUUUUUUU 😫

Redefining the 40 hour week

I find it kinda funny that in our application form we ask for working hours.

I’d offered more or less the exact timeframe that would constitute my waking hours minus a couple hours at each end for waking up/Gym/washing/relaxing.

The truth is we don’t have fixed hours. It seems arbitrary. And impossible to achieve as a remote team. 🤷🏻‍♂️

We use the question as an indicator of whether there would be any crossover between applicants and the rest of the team. It’s also a good way to see how many hours people think they should be working.

What I’ve found is that many people used the space to detail their exact working pattern.

You get the “9-5 Monday to Friday” crowd.

The “I wanna spread my 40 hours across 7 days” people.

And the occasional “I wanna work 3-4 hours a day, but could clock in a couple on the weekend”.

Seeing people take such a rigid approach to remote working hours is an alien concept to me. And it’s kind of upsetting, since it spits in the face of the freedoms available to remote workers.

The truth is, I don’t really know what my work hours are.

My work and life are intertwined in such a way that it never feels like “work”…or perhaps it never feels like life 😳

5% complete 😭

When I think about it, that’s one of my favourite things about working remotely. The blurring of the lines between work and life.

So hearing people talking about putting in their 40 hours a week, limiting their work to the 9-5, or “the grind” makes me really sad.

Don’t get me wrong, downtime is super important. Like I said, spending time with the people you love, and making time for yourself are paramount to a good work life balance.

But to me, making a clear divide between work and life means compromises are made somewhere. When you want to separate them, there is always a preference.

Balance is Better than Burnout

My update’s lingering around 8%.

It’s been that way for the past 10 minutes.

My maths sucks, but even I now realise the update is unlikely to happen tonight.

I wait though. Cause I’m feeling pretty rough—a typical summer cold—and don’t really wanna go to the gym in the morning. Maybe if I stay up a little longer I can oversleep 😏

I jump back into Intercom hoping for a little distraction. I’d heard the ping of a new message heralding the opportunity to waste a little more update time while doing something useful.

It’s a quick ticket though. Typical. 🙄

yeah we can do that, here’s an article in our docs 👍

I usually relish these kinds of tickets since they’re quick to resolve. Yet here I am hoping for something that’ll make the next couple hours fly by. Something I can sink my teeth into.

10% complete. And we’re into double figures!

I don’t normally work like this. To be honest, it’s rare I really take any time to play video games. Even rarer since we began hiring more prominently and caused a backlog of work.

During the standard workday my time is more dedicated. Though it feels like a kind of arbitrary remnant of my time spent in traditional offices.

It’s day time, so you must work.

That kinda mentality is bullshit when you think about it. Particularly when working remotely. Being strapped to your desk for 8 hours with a few short breaks dotted through the day seems like a one way ticket to fatiguesville.

Burnout here I come! 🔥

It might seem weird me talking about the standard office workday causing burnout. But let’s face it, if you’re not phoning it in everyday you’re working 8 hours straight.

Sure, I might be checking support tickets at 9pm, but I’m also chilling on my sofa. I’ve spent an hour and a half taking the dog out. Another few hours eating, spending time with my wife, at the gym.

Personal errands are no longer confined to the 1 hour lunch break window.

15% completed

There’s a Point in Here Somewhere

I guess the point is that since starting my remote journey 4 years ago, my hours have gone through a significant overhaul.

Sure, to some answering a ticket at 10:30pm on a Tuesday night might seem hellish. And I get that.

But I love what I do. And when you love what you do, it’s easy to make it part of your life.

For me, making work a part of life avoids the constant balancing act. The constant conflict between work and life that causes so many to wonder where the fuck their good years went.

It’s not for everyone. Some of us are suited to the clear distinction between work and life. Shit, my wife is one of them!

Maybe the trick to a happy work life is deciding to work the way you work best and being uncompromising in that fact.

In the end, if you do good work does it matter if you do it in an 8 hour day or spread across 15 hours dotted around life? 🤷🏻‍♂️

17% completed. Fuck it. I’ll play tomorrow!