I cut my work hours by 17% for 2 weeks and learned something important about work/life balance

Wrist watch
I discovered that flexibility matters more to me than having mandatory ‘off’ time. (Not my wrist.) Pixabay

In March, I experimented with cutting back on my work hours to see how it would affect my productivity and well-being.

Instead of working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and reading a work-related book during lunch, I worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and took a half-hour lunch break.

The “rules” of the experiment dictated that when I wasn’t at the office, I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about work. Yet I found that I couldn’t shut off my work brain so easily.

Reading Marie Claire one evening, I spotted an advertisement that sparked an idea for a Business Insider story. And the two times I lunched with coworkers, we talked almost exclusively about articles we were working on.

Fortunately, the fact that I couldn’t separate work and “life,” whatever that means, didn’t bother me. I like my job, so I generally don’t mind thinking or talking about it.

What this experiment taught me is that I personally don’t need mandatory non-working time. I’d rather have some flexibility in terms of when I work — so that if I feel like spending an evening brainstorming story ideas I can, and if I finish my work by 5:30 p.m. and feel like leaving, I can do that, too.

To be honest though, working a more flexible schedule makes me feel incredibly guilty.

On the occasion that I do leave at 5:30 or so, I assume that my coworkers and friends perceive me as a slacker. But if I spend time coming up with article ideas or talking about article ideas outside my 9-6 schedule, I’m worried people will think I’m a workaholic, or that I just plain don’t have a life!

At the end of the day though, you’ve got to do what works for you and your team. Figure out an arrangement with your manager that best suits your work style and try not to concern yourself about what other people will think or say.

It’s something I’m personally going to work on in the next few months — wish me luck.

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