Weekends. A 48-hour alarm that reminds us that we need to get back to meeting the minimum requirements for a sustained existence when it stops ringing. In simpler words — a necessary break from the monotony of routine.
Shifting to a work-from-home scenario was quite a disruption where without any secondary help we had to quickly rearrange our time to fit in not just our office work but also household chores like cooking and cleaning. Another reason why this shift felt exhausting was that the line between stopping work at the end of a day and the beginning of personal time was getting blurred.
Even in a regular routine, breaks during the week came in several shapes and sizes — the act of getting ready, commuting to work and back, maybe dinner plans with friends once in a while, etc. With the lockdown in effect, all these rituals came to a halt with immediate effect.
Feeling the Change
The subconscious breaks that would be processed by our minds were replaced by about 2–3 hours of more work time. Hence, on an average we were working more hours than usual, which also extended later into the night because of an under-processed thought* of 24×7 availability (*also deadlines). On the other hand, for many who would have to commute for longer hours, ended up saving on a lot of time and were able to get more done during the course of the day. In addition to that, with 6-day working weeks, the burnout was much sooner and the exhaustion at the end of the day barely left any time for the self.
This got me thinking of the possibility of adding speed breakers in this race to meet deadlines, such that the energy levels wouldn’t crash by the time it was the end of the week. Maybe, they could be slowed down to save up enough energy to then gear up for an enjoyable weekend.
When the Mousies Became the Lab Rats
Our team decided to try different combinations of days to figure out what could work best for us. We started with Sundays and Thursdays as the weekend duo. Thursdays, because it was almost in the middle of the week and also the time when some people felt the fatigue seeping in. After a month of trying this, we went on to Saturdays and Sundays shaping the weekend. There were also a couple of weeks where the 6-days of work was maintained and the team had the freedom of taking a day off based on how drained they felt. After a couple of months of trying these out, the Mousies pooled in their thoughts and feelings around the different combinations.
Thursdays and Sundays
During this time, some teams were working on client projects with tight deadlines while the others were on more relaxed projects. Those on the client projects chose to work on the Thursdays and take the Saturdays off because it hindered their pace of work. An abrupt break would throw them off track making it harder to get back in the flow. However, the other teams did manage to take advantage of the mid-week treat by recharging themselves. Another downside was that one too many personal projects would be planned for the day such that nothing would be accomplished by the end of it. There was also the feeling of the day passing by too quickly. (But then again, are there ever enough days?)
Days off as per convenience
As reassuring an offer this was, it also led to a lot of guilt and overthinking. Each member could empathise with the workload of the other and taking an unregulated day off felt selfish because of the deadlines that still had to be met and hence, difficult to make the most of. Hence, to compensate, it resulted in more half-days being taken than an entire day.
Saturdays and Sundays
As per convention and convenience, this combination did work better than the others. While Saturday would be spent mostly cooling off, Sunday would be reserved for personal tasks or vice versa. Point being — there was a fallback day available if chores and weekend-activities were not completed on the other. There was also some solace in knowing that there was an additional day to prepare for the tasks in the week that were to follow. In terms of work, this was also best suited as most clients also take a break on the same days.
What is the Verdict?
The working schedule is greatly influenced by projects, clients and their deadlines. In the field that we work in, it is essential to engage in client collaboration and feedback and hence, by custom-making our own working days and days-off, it might prove to be counter productive, as it would result in losing out on at least a day’s work. Having said that, one system could also influence other smaller systems at a larger scale much like banks, where they uniquely function on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, and all other bodies work with or around them.
Maybe we could imagine ourselves like fish in the sea with the ‘tasks-to-check-off’ acting as the force of the current. After reaching the destination i.e. the end of the week, there is some comfort in knowing that everybody made it together — some more drained than the others, yet together. And that probably makes it a shoal lot better.
Author: Mudita Agarwal