Are You Still Taking The Weekend Off?
Lunch is for wimps – Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
Ah, the good old days, when we all used to work for big companies, sometimes for life. We’d get up early on Monday morning, make coffee, make breakfast, shower, shave, grab a shirt, suit, and tie, then get in our cars and drive to work. We’d sit in traffic for an hour or so, listening to drive-time radio, typically “shock jocks” like Howard Stern, multipersonality morning shows, or the news, so that there was something to talk about during breaks, lunch and whenever we had a spare moment. We’d find a parking spot, walk into the office, say hi to the receptionist as we walked in, go to our cube, drop off our briefcase, and then go to the kitchen to pour ourselves a bad coffee. We made a pot or asked someone who knew how if it wasn’t made. After gabbing with our co-workers for a while, we’d gravitate back to our cubes, sat down, and booted up our desktop computers. We’d look around our cube, covered with photos of places we’ve been, places we’d like to go, postcards from people we knew who went to places we’d like to go, and sit and wait for our computer to boot up. Once it booted up, we’d be squinting at our tiny slow monitors.
The next 8 hours were hours of long drudgery, taking and making calls on that office phone, documents, memos, paper, printers, fax machines, office gossip, coffee breaks, smoke breaks, lunch breaks, more coffee breaks, more smoke breaks, finally waiting for that golden hour of 5 pm to show up. Those who had a train to catch sometimes left earlier. We then packed up our stuff, walked out, said goodbye to the late shift receptionist (if there was still one), got back into our car, unbuttoned the top button on our shirts, loosened our ties, and fought the traffic home listening to more drive-time radio. We got home, took off our suits, hung them up, threw the shirt in the laundry, grabbed a beer, sat down, grabbed the remote, and vegged out in front of the TV, relaxing for the hard, stressful day we just had. At some point, I made or ordered dinner (pizza, Chinese), ate it, had another beer, watched Seinfeld, then went to bed, or fell asleep on the couch when it got late.
This was day after day until, of course, the weekend. The days we could do whatever we wanted. We woke up when we wanted, we showered and dressed when we wanted. We did what we wanted. We didn’t think or do anything about work at all. We were totally focused on being relaxed, sometimes just doing nothing. The weekends were awesome! Loverboy even immortalized this life. Yes, we spent 4o hours of our week working and 16 hours of our week just chilling out.
That was then. This is now.
Today, on a Monday, we get up when we need to. If we have an early meeting, we roll out of bed, put our artisanal Blue Bottle coffee on, fire up our laptops, which are connected to dual 24-inch widescreen displays, plug in our headphones and log into Skype. We check our email to see if the meeting is still on, then go grab a cup of coffee brewed by our Technivorm Moccamaster. We fire up the Webex conference, connect with others over the phone, share our screens, and use SaaS products like Salesforce, Asana, Any. do, G-Suite, and Hangouts to get work done. Once the meeting is over, we sign off. If we have free time, we get some more work done, run, grab another coffee, shower, read a book, write in our journal or blog, grab some breakfast, and maybe have more meetings whenever we need to. We basically can do whatever we want, within the limits of any meetings we’d need to have, whenever we want.
If we had to go to a doctor’s appointment, do some shopping, or run errands, we could do it ourselves or send out an Instacart or TaskRabbit request. If we had a meeting to go to in person, we could use Uber and hold conference calls and share screens over Webex over our tethered connection while in the car, or share interesting stories with the driver, who may even trigger some interesting thoughts, connections, ideas, and innovation. Or we could go to the nearest co-working space, where we can share stories and tips on work and life, stop to read a book or two or listen to an audiobook. We work from home, we work from work, we work from anywhere. We can even work while we travel the world.
Before, we had to fit our life around our work. It was a monolithic block of time and place we had to travel to and from. We wasted tons of time and money getting ready, getting dressed, paying for nice clothes that we were forced to wear, paying for cars, paying for gas, and paying in time. We worked for the weekend and for the holidays. We spent our days working and saving, so we could eventually do what we wanted.
In the late 2000’s I ran a startup with two partners, one of which has just bought a boat. One day, when the boat was ready from its refurbishment in Sausalito, we both went up to pick up the boat in the middle of a weekday because we had the time as a small startup.
As we walked past the rows and rows of boats, all sitting there idle and empty, we talked about how most people work really hard all their lives in order to make enough money to be able to retire finally, and then, after a huge amount of their lifetime had already passed, be finally able to do what they wanted. They worked really hard for a long time, and then if they lived that long, they could finally do what they wanted.
I thought about how sad it was that so many people were doing that same thing, all working hard for that distant reward. Why weren’t they living a rewarding life during our work?
I recalled my dad, who passed away two years after he finally retired, who worked long and hard all his life, running restaurants and a full-time job simultaneously. I hoped he’d had time to enjoy his life in the in-between spaces.
But I digress.
The world of work today is, or can be, completely different if you choose it to be. Instead of a monolithic block of work that we fit our life around, we can, if we choose to, fit our work into our lives. If we run our own businesses or work for a flexible enough company, and there are more and more of those out there every day, we can gain back control over our lives. We can do what we want when we want, as long as the work gets done. Every day becomes a weekend day, interspersed with blocks of work, some tiny (30-second response to an email while you are waiting in line for a latte), some huge (4-hour block of time sitting in a co-working space with your noise-canceling headphones on, writing up that report or doing that presentation), so why restrict it to the “real” weekend?
Why not simply just live (and work) every day, like it’s any other day?